It’s Friday before Thanksgiving vacation, so please excuse the 70’s music reference. And also let me start off by saying, no the answer is not “Absolutely nothing!”

In-place Records Management is one of the most highly touted new features for Records Management in SharePoint 2010. Prior to this, in MOSS, if you were doing Records Management in SharePoint, you had to create a central site called a Records Center and send all your records there, away from where they were originally located.

Now in SharePoint 2010, you have the option of declaring them as records and having them remain in their original location, the only difference being that the document is now unchangeable (immutable), undeletable, and may have special retention rules applied to it.

But In-Place Records Management may not be for everyone. It definitely gives you a little more flexibility in how you handle records, but there are also tradeoffs to using In-Place RM over a Record Center. This post will aim to discuss the pros and cons of each approach and when you would choose one over the other.

Note: In my opinion, stick to one or the other instead of trying to do some sort of hybrid approach. Records Management is not for fence-sitters! I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, but  I would be really interested in hearing of a story where an approach like this worked and worked well.

Records Center approach

Like I mentioned earlier, this approach includes sending all records to some sort of centralized location.  There, documents are routed to an appropriate library in the Records Center based on content type or other metadata. All retention rules, destruction processes, etc. are managed centrally here. There are quite a few improvements over the 2010 model of Record Center over MOSS, including the ability to set up multiple Record Centers for your organization, and assigning retention policies based on the library and/or folder instead of just the content type.

The main benefit here is that all your records are centrally organized and collected.  If a Records Manager needs to see all the record types across all business units, (i.e. “All budget spreadsheets across the enterprise.”), having them all located in one place makes this really easy. Likewise, it is much easier to perform reports and searches on all of your records.

The main downside for this approach is that users may need to access the document after it has been declared a record.  While there is still the option of sending the document to the record center and leaving a link behind, the security for the document is now managed at the Record Center level instead of at the original site.

In-Place Records Management approach

In short, the primary upside to this approach is that it is the easiest for the users. Documents are where you left them, even if you can’t edit their contents anymore. Site owners can rest easy because they are still in control of their own content. Everything else (retention, destruction, etc.) is taken care of automatically.

However, the downsides also go back to the lack of centralization in this approach. Not only is it harder to control and run reports on all records across your organization, extra effort is also required to make sure you have consistency in the records management policies as they are applied to all the SharePoint sites in your organization (and there are probably many).

In the end, even though I recommend against trying to utilize both approaches, you will likely have some issues where one approach fits you better, but you still need some of the benefits of the other. This is where configuration and customization (and creativity!) come into play. If you want to implement In-Place records but still want to run reports across all your records, you may need to configure enterprise search to generate the reports you need. Likewise, if you want to implement a Records Center, but want read access to the records to mirror what they were in their original document library, then you may need to come up with a security model that enables that.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!