OK, enough stalling! It’s time to get our hands dirty and introduce some real features in the new 2007 release of SharePoint (where Records Management is a core capability).
We recognized pretty early in our release cycle that there are two ways to organize an electronic records management system: one way is to create folders for each kind of content or event and the other is to have a well defined set of record types and any piece of content can be declared as a specific type of record, regardless of where it is filed. Because we heard of success with both forms of records keeping, we enabled both. To scope today’s discussion, though, we are going to talk about the latter form: organizing records by Content Type. In our 2007 release, we will allow IT administrators and records managers to define, as part of their file plan, the list of record types that they manage within a repository. This record type uses a more generalize feature called a Content Type within SharePoint.
A content type is just what it sounds like: a meta description of content that can include custom properties a retention policy, and an associated set of workflows / business processes. SharePoint is “media type” & file format agnostic, meaning literally anything can be declared as a record of any type. This means that Office documents, PDFs, TIFFs (scanned images), e-mail, instant message conversations, videos, and physical records can all be classified and stored with the content types you create. By creating content types to manage your various kinds of records, it means that anything called a Contract or a Tax Record or an Employee Performance Review will be treated identically and consistently within our records management system. It also allows you to define and manage the definition of a tax records (for example) in a single place and as you review and make changes to that definition, it will be automatically propagated to your records. Because we believe classification is a critical component to the success of any records management system, we’ve enabled a number of other features like record filing and reporting, that help process your records or help you identify if anything is out of policy. This can happen, for example, if you have content “held” (meaning its retention schedule is suspended) or expired (but not approved for disposition), or filed to the wrong part of the file plan.
So, Content Types are pretty simple, right? But it’s important to point out a major implication they have on records management: Content Types are not a feature of value solely to records managers – many of the capabilities they provide are valuable to end-users and to work-in-progress content. For example, a company may define a “Contract” content type that includes the appropriate required metadata to make it easy to find that contract later, and the appropriate workflows for getting that contract signed off. For that reason, the 2007 release of SharePoint encourages users to specify the “type” of content from the beginning of a content’s life (e.g. from the moment of creation, as shown in the image above). For Records Managers this is terrific news – it means that content in the 2007 release of SharePoint is likely to be classified by end-users long before it is ever declared as a record, so figuring out where each declared record belongs in your file plan becomes much simpler and more consistent.
We chose to introduce content types first, because they are one of the key pieces of technology that controls records. Many of the features that we will be talking about as we go forward, will refer back to content types as the underlying mechanism to manage and process your items uniformly, based on type.
Now for the homework item: within your organization, do you have a well-defined set of records that you manage with an associated retention schedule? If not, I encourage you to start planning this, because regardless of what records management system you ultimately decide to use, this will be a core component.
Lastly, I wanted to ask a question: How do you organize your records? Is your records system organized primarily by folders or by record types? I’d love your feedback on this. Thanks for listening!Jason Cahill, Lead Program Manager