Q&A: SharePoint Webinar and Whitepaper (Part 4)

This is the fourth post in which I answer questions that were posed, but not answered during the webinar on SharePoint. (Parts 1, 2 and 3 also contain related questions and answers.)

You may listen to the recorded webinar, during which many other questions were answered.

This post has a theme to it – Records Management and SharePoint.  Several questions were asked, all revolving around this issue.  I have grouped them together, hoping that the juxtapositioning of questions and answers will render a result greater than a mere sum of the parts.

So here goes…

Q: What do you consider the difference between document management and records management?

A:  Clearly this question is not a SharePoint specific issue, but a far more basic ECM question.  I imagine it came up in the SharePoint webinar because, SharePoint received better grades for document management functionality than it did for records management.  I can and do provide lengthy training and lectures on such subjects, but this is not the time or place, so let me be brief.  Document management (DM) is basically the ability to provide library services on a file.  It tracks revisions (edits) and maintains an audit trail of what was done by whom to the file.  Additionally most DM systems also provide some approach to search and retrieval, and security. Records management (RM) is a far more formal and structured discipline, governed by a litany of standards and best practices. RM systems support the definition of a classification scheme for categorizing documents into “record types.” Additionally RM tools allow users to, or automate, the declaration of documents as records.  Once declared, the records are secured, and maintained until their declared destruction or archival date is met, and then appropriate action is taken. RM systems can also play a critical role in e-discovery and compliance applications.  Again, SharePoint gets “good” grades on document management, and “poor” grades on records management.  (See earlier post for more detail.)

Q: Why do you think the survey respondents said that SharePoint is not used or only used somewhat in compliance and e-discovery applications?

A:  I believe the answer to this question is implied in the response above.  Put frankly, SharePoint does not provide adequate functionality to address records management and therefore is not heavily used in applications that require this functionality, such as compliance and e-discovery.  Those who are using it “somewhat” are likely using the SharePoint environment as a platform for file sharing – only – and have augmented it with other integrated technologies and processes.

Q: Does a Records Management program assist in deploying SharePoint?

A:  Clearly RM is an area of functionality that most users believe SharePoint does not provide well.  So, in scenarios in which RM level control is  desired or necessary, then yes, the integration of an RM system with SharePoint can be very beneficial, and render a less-risk SharePoint environment.  On the other hand, no, this does not simplify deployment – but rather complicates it.  Integration of additional functionality such as RM, was the number 2 greatest challenge sited by survey takers, second only to adequate personnel and toolsets to execute the integration.

Q: Does SharePoint increase the need for corporations to reignite their records management programs?  What do we tell executives who think that SharePoint is the ultimate, simple solution to complete records management.

A:   SharePoint provides facilitated sharing of files, not necessarily in a secure or controlled environment (read RM.) So yes, in my opinion, an organization should “reignite” its RM programs when deploying SharePoint, at least to ask IF the SharePoint collections warrant records-level ocntrol. If an executive is insisting that SharePoint should “simply be implemented to ultimately solve the records management issues of the organization”, a little and simple education is necessary.  This is a perception problem of what records management is. Have him/her describe what they mean by records management.  If focus is on facilitated sharing – proceed.  If focus is, on the other hand, on compliance, point them to these survey findings and beg that they learn from the experiences of those that went before him/her.

OK that’s it for the RM questions.  In my next post, I will revert back to a rich mixture of issues.  BTW – we are getting close.  Probably 1-2 more SharePoint Q&A posts, so stay tuned…

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