Posted Tue, 16 Mar 2010
An often overlooked but crucial feature of SharePoint's Records Center (the records management/compliance 'vault' of Microsoft SharePoint) is that it is capable of functioning in a completely 'uncoupled' manner. It is a separate site in the context of a typical SharePoint portal configuration, and it offers only limited 'out of the box' connectivity between the rest of the SharePoint portal/sites and itself.
Microsoft does ship SharePoint with a standardized web service connector allowing the transfer of single documents, one by one, from document libraries throughout the SharePoint farm, into the Records Center. After some planning, this functionality can easily be turned on by making some simple configuration changes. In its most basic form, a "Transfer to Records Center" link can be made available for every document in every document library, requiring users to decide when a document becomes a corporate record and 'manually' transferring it at that time. Based on configurable routing rules, the new record can then be managed by the Records Center to ensure compliance, etc.
At NetDexterity, many of our records management solutions are more complex than this simple scenario. Most typically, they involve creating high value, document centric business process applications in the 'front end' of SharePoint by building specific business rules and context into SharePoint's collaboration functionality. These business processes and their associated metadata can then be leveraged to automatically 'close' files, transfer them to the Records Center, and manage them there according to a matching set of retention rules.
But this kind of EIM implementation on SharePoint also opens the door to connecting a more diverse portfolio of line of business applications, proprietary and legacy systems to the same SharePoint Records Center. Due to the decoupled, modular nature of the Records Center, it is possible to create a number of different web services to receive incoming documents and data, and manage them as corporate records based on business and retention rules. For systems that do not 'naturally' produce documents as part of their everyday activities (e.g. customer or inventory databases), an additional, custom step might have to be added to periodically and deliberately create document sets at predetermined points in the business lifecycle of the data and export them to SharePoint's Records Center.
In this way, SharePoint's records management functionality can truly become a flexible and scalable backbone for an enterprise information management strategy to ensure compliance in a cost-effective manner.