There is a widely-held opinion that SharePoint’s 2013 Records Management out-of-box functionality is not robust enough to manage records at an enterprise level. This blog explodes that myth and exposes the top challenges that can make or break your SharePoint 2013 project.

When people hear about some of the Enterprise Records Management (ERM) projects we are tackling with SharePoint 2013 their first reaction is “SharePoint? Really?” Okay, I get it. But this is not the SharePoint of a few generations ago. Microsoft has invested millions in product R&D, introducing features and security enhancements to ensure SharePoint 2013 really has the chops to go the distance with ERM. And in the past year since its release, SharePoint 2013 has proven itself over and over again to be up to some of the toughest challenges that the enterprise wants to throw at it.

While ERM projects aren’t easy, they do have the potential to return enormous benefit to the organization. This is especially relevant when deciding to use SharePoint as your ERM platform. Since most organizations have already invested in SharePoint in some capacity, it only makes business sense to optimize it to manage records as well.

So how can you ensure you are setting up your SharePoint 2013 ERM project to be successful? Here are some tips that will help guide you:


Automate, Automate, Automate

“If you build it they will come.” ERM is not a “Field of Dreams” but it can be. And similar to the theme of that famous Kevin Costner movie, having people buy-in, use and adopt the new system is pivotal to success. Getting employees to declare records is the key and this usually means shifting employee behaviors. But we all know it is tough to get people to change.  So why make them? One way to help increase project success is to use automation. In some cases employees will not even realize they are conducting Records Management as they go about their day-to-day knowledge worker duties.  This can be accomplished through automated content type records declaration, architecture tweaks and tricks, location based metadata, revised business processes and simplified user friendly education.


Consolidate and Streamline

During ERM implementation planning, management and employees are often overwhelmed by the vast amount of rules, policies and procedures that exist in their organization.  In many cases, large enterprises can have well over 300 retention periods spread across various business units. One critical mistake ERM projects make is trying to recreate all of these rules as they are today instead of using the opportunity to consolidate and streamline. With some analysis and negotiation between groups this inventory can be much more easily managed by reducing and grouping like assets into similar content types and lifecycle rules.


Start at the Source

For many of our clients, SharePoint is already being used and document management has been adopted by their employees. If this is the case, then capitalize on it and begin records management at the start of content creation. Making the process as seamless as possible will remove the burden of record declaration from the employee by creating an automated capture based on content types that have information management rules incorporated. This reduces the amount of content that becomes “orphaned” and provides a superior means of retrieving the content again.

When IT departments, and employees themselves, take the time and effort to cultivate their SharePoint environments by establishing metadata when they upload, create and store content within their SharePoint repositories, this metadata triggers Records Management declarations that are passed along as the content moves through its lifecycle. Content can now be managed in place, preserving its integrity.


Life Cycle Best Practice Tips

Because SharePoint manages information throughout the entire life cycle – some tenets to bear in mind include:

  • It is easier to manage content in place rather than move it out of the current repositories;
  • SharePoint allows content types and taxonomy to do the heavy lifting at the inception stage;
  • SharePoint does not force users to perform additional work to declare a record if content types are created to automatically save as a record;
  • K.I.S.S. principle rules.


Third Party Tools

Third party tools designed to enhance SharePoint introduce new options, broadening capabilities and functionality in your SharePoint ERM environment. These tools can add even more robustness, ensuring that SharePoint is meeting your enterprise grade. Tools such as Collabware, a third-party records management add-in to SharePoint and Navantis’ newly acquired, contract lifecycle management tool, Dolphin greatly enhances the ability to create, surface, dispose and archive unstructured content, with less enterprise risk.


Fear, Communication and a Little Bit of Expert Guidance

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.” King Whitney Jr.

The most obvious impact of any corporate project will be to end users. The introduction of complex ERM systems is often intimidating and overwhelming to employees.  If employees do not see the need or do not understand the reasons for implementing records management they will not participate as expected and required.

A well thought out plan of action using SharePoint as a platform with the addition of the right third-party add-ons and the professional services of experts who have done it all before, can produce a solution that enables an organization to adhere to its regulatory, legal and business records management needs without overburdening employees and records administrators. Being clear about what you want to achieve and following some of the simple guidelines we have introduced here can go a long way to ERM project success.