One of the first decisions that many organizations face when using SharePoint (including Office 365) as a Document and Records Management repository is whether to use ‘In Place’ Records Management, or use the Records Centre.
As is often the case in Information Governance, there is no right or wrong answer; each approach to Records Management in SharePoint has pros and cons, and which approach will suit your organisation best will depend on your requirements.
In this blog post, we’ll summarise two options for Records Management in SharePoint, and describe the pros and cons of each.
Option 1: In Place Records Management
With In Place Records Management, documents which are declared as Records remain in the SharePoint Document Library. They do not move to a Records Centre, and as a result appear very similar to how they appeared before declaration - albeit the file icon now has a padlock superimposed on it, and the file itself is now unmodifiable.
Benefits of In Place Records Management:
Easy for users to understand
Version Histories are preserved when documents are declared as records
Permissions are preserved when documents are declared as records.
Audit Logs are preserved when documents are declared as records
Allows large volumes of document/record data to be distributed across multiple sites / site collections.
Drawbacks of In Place Records Management:
Records Management is not a centralised function. It is enabled across the information architecture, and updates to retention policies may need to be applied across multiple site collections, sites and potentially libraries. This can be a time consuming task.
Option 2: Records Centre-based Records Management
With Records Centre-based Records Management, the Records Management functionality is centralised into a dedicated Records Centre. The Records Centre provides the facility for Records Libraries to be created, which contain a centralised Classification Scheme (Fileplan) into which the Records can be filed.
When Documents (held in Team Sites) are declared as Records, they need to be routed to the Records Centre, and filed in an appropriate location / classification / Fileplan location; this is the role of the Content Organiser function within Office 365. The Content Organiser uses pre-defined rules (known as Content Organiser Rules) to determine where incoming documents should be filed in the Fileplan.
Once a document has been filed to the Records Centre, Office 365 can be configured to replace the source document in the Team Site with a link to the newly filed record in the Records Centre. This means that both record classification, and subsequent record access, can be completely abstracted from the Business User, who will be working in Team Sites, not the Records Centre.
At first glance, this appears to be a useful way of implementing Records Management in Office 365, however, there are advantages and disadvantages to be considered.
Advantages of Records Centre-based Records Management
Logical distinction between "Document Management" (Team Sites) and "Records Management" (Records Centres)
Users can be completely abstracted from Records Management Concepts, including Classification and Retention Application.
Records Management is a centralised function. Therefore, the Records Management team can easily and centrally administer updates to Retention Policies – without needing to (manually) propagate that change across multiple Site Collections / Sites / Libraries.
Old Team Sites that are no longer required can be deleted, without compromising any associated records that need to be retained.
Disadvantages of Records Centre-based Records Management
When Documents move from the Team Site to the Records Centre the following key attributes of the document are lost:
Version History – only the last version of the document is captured to the Records Centre; all earlier versions are lost. This may be useful in certain circumstances for certain organisations, however, for many organisations it is not acceptable.
Permissions – permissions on documents moving into the Records Centre are replaced with the permissions inherited from the destination location in the Records Centre. This can lead to an unacceptable opening up, or indeed locking down, of permissions on documents which are declared as records.
Audit History – Audit History on documents moving into the Records Centre is lost.
Content Organiser Rule definition – Routing incoming documents to an appropriate location in the Records Centre Fileplan requires development of Content Organiser Rules. As a rule of thumb, the Content Organiser will require at least as many Content Organiser rules as there are destination locations in the Fileplan. This can be acceptable for organisations taking what is known colloquially as the 'Big Buckets' approach to Records Management (i.e., a small number of Fileplan locations, with large numbers of records held in them).
Shortcut behaviours – when documents are moved from a Team Site to the Records Centre, they are replaced with links in the source Team Site so that users can still access the newly filed Records. However, these links only work from within browsers; third party tools accessing the Team Site will not be able to process these links correctly.
Which of these two approaches to Records Management works best for your Organisation will depend on your Business Requirements. Of course, if you feel that neither of these approaches will fully meet your requirements, there are Third Party products in the market which can help.
If you would like to discuss this Blog post further, or need more advice on enabling Records Management in Office 365 - please feel free to get in contact with Otagem via our Contact Us page!