Can Records Change?

By DANIEL ANTION posted 07-13-2011 07:36


This time, the title is actually a question, and it’s one that we are dealing with right now. We have resolved the issue, but I’m not sure that we fully understand the subject. We resolved it the way companies often resolve things, we played it safe.

If you have read either this blog or my personal SharePoint blog lately, you know that we have been working on a project to support the creation, storage and disposition of our engineering inspection reports. These reports are a primary work-product for us, so we want this solution to be a good one. I am pleased with the work of my team, and I am very happy with the capabilities of SharePoint that we have used to manipulate the myriad pieces in this puzzle. Late last week, one of SharePoint’s awesome capabilities rose in front of us as a major obstacle – Managed Metadata. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but we wanted to copy the managed metadata terms from our collaborative document space along with the final PDF as we placed it in our Records Library. Copying managed metadata in a SharePoint Designer workflow is not easy. I’ll stop short of saying it’s impossible, but it grew to that level in my mind. As it sometimes happens, our problems lead us to a solution that we liked better than our original plan. That’s a long story, and one that isn’t completely written yet. Along the way though, we started scratching our heads over whether or not we even wanted our solution to work. Our dilemma:

If we put the final PDF copy of our report into a Records Library in which the records include managed metadata columns, the value in those columns will change over time. Note: I verified that the managed metadata does continue to reflect value changes, even after a document is declared as a record. The question is should the data change? We are grouped into two schools of thought regarding this question. One school says that changing the metadata is no different than changing the label on a file folder and that the change actually keeps the record more accurate over time. The latter part of this argument is true, one of the managed metadata fields is “operating company” which can change as companies are bought and sold. We use managed metadata specifically to address this issue. As the company name changes, we change the term and add the old name as an alias. The result is great; the name is always current but we can still search on old names.

The second school of thought is based on the fear of having to say “these records can’t be changed after they are created, except for the stuff that does change.” I fall into this group, the group who doesn’t like having to explain things. Having been deposed once while serving as an expert witness, I don’t ever want to be questioned over how immutable records can be changed. I spoke with one of our attorneys about this, and he said: “you could probably make the argument that the business record isn’t actually changing, but if nothing about it changed, then you wouldn’t have to argue at all.” We think we have come up with a pretty slick way to leave the records alone, but still not miss any reports during a search if things like names or companies change. I will write about that solution when we finish building it. In the meantime, I would appreciate your thoughts on this issue, and I invite you to comment below.

#records #ElectronicRecordsManagement #SharePoint #sharepoint #ManagedMetadata