Microsoft closed several major records management gaps with the release of SharePoint 2010. While SharePoint 2013 doesn’t introduce as many net-new features as its predecessor, it does make significant improvements on existing ones. Namely, improved document sets, site level retention policies, and metadata navigation. Among the net-new records management features, eDiscovery is arguably the most amplifying.
In SharePoint 2010, you can already perform in-place and / or centralized records management, along with, automatically generated file plans and enterprise unique document identifiers. As an extension of the standard content type, SharePoint 2010 Document Sets can be used to model groups of documents after the business perception of the data. SharePoint 2010 also includes a multi-stage retention implementation, as well as, metadata navigation.
The release of SharePoint 2013 brings several improvements to these already available features. The Document Set concept now has improved usability and a better API with tighter workflow integrations. The retention implementation has been extended to allow for site level retention configurations. Site level retention policies not only define the retention policies for the content, but also the business rules which indicate when the actual site should close or expire. One of the primary themes of the SharePoint 2013 release has been the improved integration between SharePoint and Exchange / Outlook. Exchange mailboxes, including the new Site Mailbox feature, are now observed by records management.
Microsoft has made significant investments in SharePoint 2013’s eDiscovery features demonstrating an overall commitment to SharePoint’s document management capabilities. The new eDiscovery site installs as a new site, and serves as a central place to view and manage all records management cases. Users define Discovery Sets to scope information, which can then be managed as a single unit – for example, as a case. Users can specify sources for the Discovery Set, including sites, Exchange mailboxes, file shares, and even Lync conversations. FAST search enables real-time results, enabling users to quickly ascertain the size of the Set in terms of the number of documents and the hard disk space required to export. Users may apply filters in the form of keywords, metadata evaluations and date ranges to pare down the set to a target scope. Once a Discovery Set is defined, it can be managed from the eDiscovery Center. Users can export the contents of a set to a network share, team site, or USB. Content may also be exported to the industry standard format, EDRM XML. During an investigation, the entire Discovery Set may be placed on hold. Content placed on hold is exempt from retention policy implementations so that no data is lost over the course of an investigation.
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Although, SharePoint 2013 is a progressive stride in the right direction regarding records management, there are still some notable shortcomings. SharePoint 2013 still does not meet ISO 15489 standards – meaning, out-of-the-box SharePoint 2013 will require a significant amount of additional customizations and configurations to ensure compliance. In addition, reporting remains a bit bereft. There are not passable out-of-the-box reporting mechanisms to surface the state of the overall records management or records center contents. For example, how many documents are coming up on an expiration date. Finally, when a document is ‘destroyed’ in accordance with its retention policy, SharePoint removes the content and the metadata. It may be useful to retain the metadata so that an organization could prove that a document did exist and was destroyed, along with other audit information.
In the end, SharePoint 2013 demonstrates that Microsoft is actively investing in a viable records management solution. For an organization that does not have to adhere to strict records management legislation, SharePoint 2013 presents a robust and feature rich solution.