Differences between Enterprise Content Management & Records Management in SharePoint 2013 & Office 365

By Errin O'Connor posted 09-02-2014 07:23


Understanding and Overcoming Records Management Challenges

So many organizations throughout the globe have not implemented successful records management initiatives because of the inherit difficulty applying retention policies to content. Another main issue IT has faced is the difficulty in providing a balanced centralized platform that is easy for users to adopt that will store both official records as well as standard documents and other content.

Other major issues have been the overall poor user adoption of records management solutions due to the lack of training and transparency to users regarding the importance of compliance as well as the high costs of complying with new laws and regulations and the ability to ensure the system can adopt to updated requirements. 

It is key to ensure you are aligning the organization’s existing Active Directory (AD) and security architecture to provide proper and governed access to controlled records to key identified individuals while staying vigilant and you put in place controls for auditing and other possible eDiscovery related custom integration requirements.

There are risks and other possible issues your organization may face by not having a records management and\or enterprise content management strategy in place such as encoring added audit or related court fines or higher out-of-court settlements.

It is key for the entire project team to understand Microsoft SharePoint’s permissions and how they are applied to ensure you understand the granular aspects of the underlying platform,

Determine Your Organization’s File Plan

Many organizations differ on terminology around records management strategies or what the overall file plan will look like once deployed. A SharePoint file plan consists of information such as:

  • Analyze Record Types
  • Designate Record Owners
  • Determine the organization’s Record Coding Schema
  • Review possible events that can occur for the record
  • Formulate the Retention Period
  • Decide on the Archival or Disposition
  • Determine Version Management Policy

It is key to continue to balance your business and functional requirements with the continued planning of theunderlying infrastructure requirements of SharePoint during your records management or enterprise content management initiative.

Differences between Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Records Management (RM)

One area you must ensure you have a clear understanding of is around your organization’s stance on what the differences are between a standard document and an official record and what the official legal criteria is that drives these definitions.

Documents of all types are stored throughout the organization in both SharePoint document libraries as well as in areas such as file shares, laptops and devices in both structured and unstructured manners.

Records tend to be considered evidence of the official activities of the organization and its governing policies. Are you confused yet?

This can be a very grey area at times. I technically define records management as the practice of identifying, classifying, archiving, preserving, and destroying records according to a set of pre-defined standards.

Records usually have strict compliance requirements and related retention, access and destruction policies. This can vary thou based on the type of organization and the local or federal compliance policies that specifically relate to their business.

In the litigious world we live in today, it is best to error on the side of caution as courts can enforce strict penalties on organization’s that are considered to either not have records management program, not have a consistently deployed records management program, or not have a vehicle to performed an audit of your records management program and related eDiscovery plan.

Your organization may have implemented or considered various techniques around converting an existing or “active” documents to a record such as:

  • Manually declaring a document to be a record
  • Creating a workflow that sends a document to a Records Center or centralized records management related site

There has also been another standard for which records management systems are judged which is the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) 5015.2 standard or equivalent which can be reviewed at the following link:

This standard is set for the management of records that will be eventually transferred to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and include government personnel records, standards, directives, manuals and documents that are scheduled for declassification or redacted items.

In countries in the EU, there is a similar standard named MoReq. This is the standard applied across the EU and more information regarding MoReq can be found at the following link:

Common Terminology Used within ECM and RM Initiatives

There are a number of common terms that are used throughout ECM and RM initiatives that include the following:

  1. Metadata: In practical usage as its most commonly described, it means data about data. For SharePoint, it is data that describes or classifies other content or documents in lists, Apps, and libraries. It is also used to categorize people, discussions, communities, or to describe conversations
  2. Enterprise Metadata Management
  • Metadata as an enabler for different functionalities such as navigation, term and search driven pages
  • Used for key capabilities for term store manager to enhance term usage models
  • Drive multilingual capabilities
  • Enables taxonomy APIs exposed via CSOM (i.e. Client Side Object Model) and REST (i.e. Representational State Transfer) for extensibility purposes

3. Taxonomy: Formal hierarchy of terms and tags that are usually centrally administered and defined

4. Folksonomy: Informal list of ad-hoc tags or terms that are built up over time through user defined keywords

5. Ontology: Formal representation of knowledge as a set of concepts within a domain with relationships between those sets of concepts
6. Term Store: Database that houses taxonomies
7. Term Set: Secondary level of a taxonomy
8. Term: Element of the defined taxonomy


SharePoint and Office 365’s SharePoint Online ECM and RM Terminology

There are a number of common terms that are specific to SharePoint 2013 and Office 365’s SharePoint Online used throughout ECM and RM initiatives that include the following:

  • Content Type – A reusable collection of settings and rules applied to a certain category of content in SharePoint
  • Content Type Hub – A site collection which operates as a central source to share content types across the enterprise
  • Content Type Syndication – Publishing content types across multiple sites, site collections, web application and/or farms

EPC Group’s Nationally Recognized Practice Areas

EPC Group leading SharePointOffice 365Infrastructure Design and Business Intelligence Practice areas continue to lead the way in providing our clients with the most up-to-date and relevant information that is tailored to their individual business and functional needs.

Additional "From the Consulting Trenches" strategies and methodologies are covered in EPC Group's new book, "SharePoint 2013 Field Guide: Advice from the Consulting Trenches" covering not only SharePoint 2013, Office 365 and SharePoint Online but Information Management, ECM\RM and overall compliance strategies in this ever changing world of "Hybrid IT."

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