Do you need to manage records in SharePoint? Join Jesse Wilkins in an AIIM 2014 pre-conference session on March 31 and learn how to manage records, ensure compliance, and prepare for civil litigation requests. Here's a brief preview of what you'll learn.
Jesse Wilkins, CIP, CRM, is the Director, Research and Development for AIIM International. He has worked in the information management industry for sixteen years as an end user, vendor, and consultant. His areas of expertise include electronic records management, digital preservation, email management, and social business processes and technologies. He is also the co-author of the AIIM Social Business Roadmap and led the development of the AIIM Email Management Certificate Program, the 2009 update to the AIIM ERM Certificate Program, and the AIIM Social Media Governance Certificate Program. He also manages the Certified Information Professional certification program. @jessewilkins
The file plan is one of the foundations of an effective records program. It is used to classify and categorize records based on unique retention and disposition requirements and, in many cases, security requirements as well. File plans are generally hierarchical and based on the functions and activities of the department or organization.
Before you begin
So how do you create a file plan in SharePoint 2013? There are a couple of important steps that need to happen before even opening SharePoint. First, you have to create a business classification scheme. This documents the activities of the organization at the function/activity/task level as well as the documents that are created or captured as part of them.
Next, you need to conduct an information inventory. In many organizations this is limited to the records of the organization, but non-records need to be managed effectively as well. The inventory will help identify what records and documents are managed effectively, where redundant or outdated information is stored, and where gaps exist as to what should be being created or captured but isn’t.
The last piece of the puzzle is to identify retention requirements. These are typically developed enterprise-wide as part of a comprehensive records program. Retention requirements identify how long particular types of records should be kept and what happens to the records when their retention periods expire. For the file plan, the retention period and triggering dates/events are more important than the ultimate disposition.
Creating the File Plan in SharePoint 2013
There are two main approaches for building a file plan in SharePoint 2013: using folders and using libraries. In either case we’re building hierarchical structures based on the function/activity/record type levels we identified earlier; the difference is first one of scale and second one of user acceptance. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Folder-based file plans. These are much more familiar to users and work particularly well for relatively smaller collections of records. Folders can have retention set at the folder level such that when records are added to the folder they automatically inherit that retention. Folders can be set up with very deep and complex hierarchies – though this may be a drawback as much as a benefit. It does require planning to ensure the organization is not replicating other poorly designed folder structures like those found in the typical network shared drive. And folder structures can be so complex as to run into file path limits – file paths longer than 259 characters cause significant issues in SharePoint.
Library-based file plans. In this approach each library serves as its own records type/records series in SharePoint. Since sites support multiple libraries, the required hierarchical structures can still be developed and users can access records across those libraries subject to access controls. Content types can be developed and assigned to libraries for the creation of new records in a standardized way, and retention can be either based on content types or assigned at the library level for everything in the library. The biggest issue with the library-based file plans is that users may not make the connection between the library and records as intuitively; another issue has to deal with adding multiple documents with the same name to the same library. This is not as much an issue with folders because we can always create folders or subfolders if required.
So which model is right for your organization? Use folders for relatively smaller collections of records where users are more comfortable with that model. Use libraries for larger collections of records and where you can leverage content types for automation. Whichever model you choose, the actual implementation of the file plan in SharePoint 2013 becomes a fairly simple exercise of creating the libraries or folders, setting permissions, and setting up retention policies.
Want to learn more? Jesse will be teaching a pre-conference session on SharePoint 2013 on March 31.