Microsoft SharePoint has earned a very strong reputation as the enterprise-level document management tool of choice for organizations of all sizes. By some accounts, more than 17,000 organizations use SharePoint today in some capacity. It is in the area of records management, however, where companies are sometimes wary of using the product. I understand this bias. Admittedly, SharePoint has not been completely enterprise-ready in previous versions. There were questions as to the centralized record repository (Records Center), the process to move items to the Records Center, and how to identify records once they are declared.

With SharePoint 2010, the records management system is truly enterprise-ready and should be considered by any organization looking to introduce records management within the enterprise. Microsoft has paid attention to feedback from previous versions and added additional features that make IT managers and Records Managers lives much better.

Although not an exhaustive list, below, you will find 10 very compelling reasons to consider SharePoint as your records management solution.

  1. Little change for end users

    Users like to use systems they know and change is very scary. By using SharePoint’s records management capabilities, the end user extends their current SharePoint knowledge and they will view the new process as training rather than a change of how they fundamentally work. This will mean that adoption will be very high and internal evangelists will emerge.

  2. In-Place Records Management

    The biggest pain with the SharePoint 2007 Records Management solution was the need to have declared records separate from the working documents themselves. This took the form of a dedicated Records Center site that at the worst had very large storage implications and at the best caused confusion around where records live and its associating site structure.

    SharePoint 2010 introduced the concept of In-Place Records Management. With this capability, records can physically live side-by-side working documents. This allows those that have the most context about the records (the end users themselves) to store them in a way that makes sense for them.

    All this said, in some organizations, the Records Center implementation does still make sense. That is why Microsoft kept this capability as part of the new product.

  3. Document management taxonomy can be used for retention

    As part of the In-Place Records Management capability, the document taxonomy (content type structure) can be further leveraged to define retention.

    For example, let’s say you had an "Income Statement" content type that, if defined as a record, has a retention period of "Defined Record + 5 years". With In-Place Records Management, that retention schedule can be defined centrally and applied to the "Income Statement" content type. This way, any income statement record within the enterprise would have that retention period defined.

  4. Record and Non-Record retention capabilities

    In addition to record retention capabilities, there is now the option to enforce non-record retention. This is very important for IT managers who want better control on the size of their SharePoint document growth.

    In SharePoint 2010, by default, records and non-records have the same retention period. This can be configured so that records and non-records have different retentions, though.

    This is one example of how using SharePoint for records management when SharePoint is also used for document management makes a great deal of sense.

  5. Record Findability

    Searching for records, which ones are about to expire, and which records have been declared by Joe Smith is always a challenge. By using SharePoint 2010 for the records management solution, the SharePoint search engine can be used for finding such records. A unique search experience can be created that will allow for a very flexible way to find records within the enterprise.

  6. Increase ROI of SharePoint investment

    If the enterprise is already using SharePoint as its document management solution and is operating under at least the standard license, there is no additional software investment needed. That means that the ROI of the SharePoint investment will increase. In some cases, this is quite substantial (double or triple).

  7. Lock graphic to identify records

    When a document is declared as a record, a small lock will appear on the file type icon to indicate that it is a record. This is handy when looking at a document library to see which items are documents and which are records.

  8. Multiple disposition paths

    Probably the most common disposition path a record would undergo would be permanent deletion to reduce liability. There are cases when a more sophisticated process is needed. By using SharePoint as records management system, you have more options. You can execute a SharePoint workflow, send to the Recycle Bin, start another retention period, etc. All of this can be done without any custom code written.

  9. Out of the Box File Plan reports

    There are several Excel-based file plan reports that can be executed at the document library level. These include information such as how many records are in the library, what type, and the expiration dates. These are very convenient to gain a quick snapshot of information.

  10. Fully customizable environment

    The previous 9 items in this list have focused on the great capabilities and features that come out of the box with the SharePoint Records Management system. In most situations, that will get you 80% of the way there. The other 20% would probably need to be written with custom code. Since SharePoint is a fully-customizable platform as well, your team or a vendor skilled in SharePoint development can create the components that will make the solution perfect for your needs.

    This is a challenge with a pre-packaged solution where you will most likely have to wait for the next release and hope your enhancements are included. Using SharePoint gives you ultimate customization control.

These are just some of the very compelling reasons to use SharePoint as your Records Management solution. If you are just starting your search, look at SharePoint’s capabilities along with the other options out there. If you’ve looked at SharePoint’s capabilities in this space before and passed, look again. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.