A better solution than the Records Center template (for practical records management in SharePoint).



The MOSS Records Center template is designed to work in the same way old physical record file rooms do. Once documents are no longer active, they are sent to the file room for retention. This is fine for space management needs when these records are not accessed often.   

But when managing electronic records, the main preference is to manage records in place within the ECM repository, not move them to a different repository outside of the context of their business unit taxonomy1.    In addition there is a need to apply retention policies as soon as they are created. In other words, the retention needs to be managed while the documents are still actively being utilized. Because of this there is no practicality in copying an active electronic document to a separate repository just so full records management policies can be applied to the document (especially when they can be applied in the original library).  

 Since the MOSS Records Center expects the record to be copied to another Library when declared, that causes further problems:

    • If you make a copy of the record into a records library, the original is still in the active document library.  Even though the record has a pointer to the original document location, any action on the record (hold or delete) has no effect on the original that still exists in the document library.
    •  Even if you chose to delete the item from the original document library at the time you declared it (through a custom action) you are assuming that no one is interested in reviewing the document in its original context.  That’s not the way electronic records management works. 

Thus we recommend applying Records Management practices within the individual Libraries (as opposed to maintaining a separate Records Center Library for all records.   

 Good news!!

The good news is that MOSS has nearly all of the capabilities to do manage records without implementing record center.

    • You have definable policies for content types.
    • You can maintain a file plan in a custom SharePoint List
    • You can manage the hold and disposition actions using workflow.
    • Auditing is configurable.

Critical Review of the Records Management Features That MOSS Provides

Let’s review the list of Records Management features that are delivered with MOSS (taken from the official Microsoft Records Management Guide) and see how we can address core features without using the Records Center template (see comments in blue).

 A records management system includes the following elements:

  •  A content analysis that describes and categorizes content in the enterprise that may become records, provides source locations, and describes how the content will move to the records management application.  (This feature assumes that you want to copy the item to a target Library.  This is fine if you simply want to archive the record but you now have a duplicate copy to deal with and since there is no built-in action to “freeze” the original document or metadata from alteration you have basically just taken a snapshot).
  • A file plan describing, for each type of record in the enterprise, where they should be retained as records, the policies that apply to them, how they need to be retained, how they should be disposed of, and who is responsible for managing them. (You could easily duplicate this file plan using a custom List with a hierarchical list view serves the same purpose.  If MOSS then use BDC to query to select from list of document libraries that the content type is managed under).
  • A compliance requirements document defining the rules that the organization’s IT systems must adhere to in order to ensure compliance, along with the methods used to ensure the participation of enterprise team members.  (Not delivered in Records Center template).
  • A method for collecting records that are no longer active from all record sources, such as collaboration servers, file servers, and e-mail systems.  (This is one area where the Records Center template may have use, so you could use a formal library as a collection point for externally source content, immediately routing the items to a Records Center Managed Library.  Additionally you could use the records Center “Hold” facility to perform a freeform search on the content and prevent applicable content like e-mails from being disposed in case of litigation, etc.) 
  • A method for auditing records while they are active.  (This is a core MOSS feature…not a feature of the Records Center.  If using WSS you can purchase 3rd party auditing solutions for WSS).
  • A method for capturing records’ metadata and audit histories and retaining them.  (This assumes that you just want to snapshot a copy of the document…back to the problem of two source of the truth…see above).
  • A process for holding records (suspending their disposition) when events such as litigations occur.  (The hold is based on a freeform search, not on managed properties which would produce a more accurate result.  Our approach of using a List View ensures that the hold is based on a single of complex metadata search and that the single source of truth is held rather than just an archived copy).
  • A system for monitoring and reporting on the handling of records to ensure that employees are filing, accessing, and managing them according to defined policies and processes. (Policies and their workflows can be defined in the base document libraries and provide the same result.  Remember MOSS records management does NOT come with built in disposition processing workflows!)  


Providing Better Records Management Features within SharePoint (without using Records Center) 

The only features that the MOSS Records Center site template has (that is not a feature of the based site templates) are the ability to apply legal holds, perform records routing and managing the execution of disposition reports.  We have already seen that records routing is counter-intuitive to most electronic records management.  That leaves Holds and disposition reporting.    

  •  Holds – Can be applied programmatically by a workflow such that the disposition workflow would not honor the expiration of a record with the hold status applied.  Holds can be established by list views that are named as records holds and processed by a “HOLD Management” workflow.  Basic steps would be something like this (not a designed solution…just an example):
    • Create site collection column called Records Hold as single line text with a Choice of “On Hold” “Pending” and default is blank or “Not on Hold”.  Place in “Records Managment” custom column grouping.
    • Allow Records Management to create a Personal List View on the Document Library where a hold is to occur (the filter for the List View being the records that need to be held — based on metadata combinations)
    • Name List View as “HOLD-Case Description-Date”.  HOLD views are processed by the workflow. 
    • Create “HOLD Management” Workflow (Hold command).  All items found within list view(s) are set to “held”.
    • Create “HOLD Management” Workflow (release command).  All items found within list view(s) are set to “released”.

Again, this is just an example.   I like the list view approach because it uses a core feature of SharePoint and it allows transactional holds based on accepted corporate classifiers.  Using “free- form” searches to establish Holds, like the OOB Records Center offers, could cause content to be held that has no bearing on the case.

  • Disposition reports could be generated using SQL Server reporting services or through the workflow and the disposition process managed via a “DISPOSITION Management” workflow. 
    • Disposition workflow would run against a list of content types identified as being managed within a List based file plan at the top-site level. 
    • Report of candidates to be destroyed are summarized by office of record (listed in the file plan) and then by content type (with totals).  An attached spreadsheet contains the metadata for each document.
    • The certificate of destruction is auto-generated based on the file plans information and routed to the office of record delegate, then to legal representative and records manager.  Approved workflow is finalized by Records Manager, the records are deleted or moved (unless “test” switch to set to Yes) and then the spreadsheet and certificate of destruction themselves are archived to the Records Management Control Library.  Optionally the “Hold” exceptions could be also reported back.    


With a little workflow and reporting a custom list and some list views, you can configure SharePoint to provide the core features required for a practical records management solution.



 1         Curtis Robinson Stonebridge:  response to Microsoft Records management Team Site blog – http://blogs.msdn.com/recman/archive/2006/09/12/750034.aspx

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