Records Center Q&A

Thanks to everyone who posted questions about the Records Center or sent them in via the “contact” form. (It’s great to receive such detailed questions – it shows how many people are really interested in the records management capabilities of the next release!)

So before moving on to our next topic (hold orders in the Records Center), this post will try to answer most of the questions we’ve received so far.

What if I don’t want to have separate collaboration and records center sites… can my end-users work directly against the records center?

As we’ve said in various posts to date, we believe that the model of separate collaboration sites vs. record sites provides a significant usability/ adoptability advantage for most organizations implementing a records management program. That said certain organizations may want to institute a program where their end-users are required to (a) directly understand their company’s file plan, (b) file records directly into the file plan, and (c) treat all of the content they work on as records.

Fortunately, the Records Center site in the 2007 release can be configured to support this model as well – thanks to the improvements made in the security model of Windows SharePoint Services. In the 2007 release, users can be granted very specific/restricted rights to objects in the Records Center site – for example, the ability to add new records, but not the ability to modify any existing record (and even without the ability to view existing records if desired). And these rights can be granted selectively across individual document libraries within the Records Center site itself – so you could control which series in the file plan specific users would be able to see / file records into.

So from a capability standpoint, the 2007 release can certainly be used to enable a records management program of this type. But the underlying cultural challenges to getting such a program successfully adopted are still significant, and we’d strongly advise organizations considering this approach to think about how to mitigate those issues before proceeding.

Do the Content Type names used in the collaboration site need to be the same as those in the “Records Center”?

No. Thanks to the record routing list, you are free to have completely different names for Content Types in the Records Center vs. the collaboration sites that declare records. You can use the routing list to define how Content Types in those collaboration sites correspond to those in the Records Center.

This allows you to name Content Types in the collaboration sites in terms that are meaningful to your end-users (e.g. “Quarterly Filing”), while keeping names in the Records Center relevant for records managers (e.g. “SEC-regulated financial report”).

How do non-SharePoint repositories declare records using the Records Center “Web Service”?

The Records Center provides a public Web Service to allow any system to be able to declare records just like SharePoint sites can. (It also provides a public e-mail service --- but we’ll get back to that when we talk about the e-mail records management capabilities in the 2007 release of Microsoft Exchange in our next few posts.) But this raises the question – how does a non-SharePoint site, which doesn’t have a notion of Content Types, declare records?

The answer is that the definition of the Web Service requires only that when a record is declared, that declaration includes a textual property specifying the classification the sender proposes for that record. It’s then up to the Record Center to determine how to route the record, based on that proposed classification (using the information in the routing list).

When a record is declared from a SharePoint site, the name of the Content Type in that site is used as the proposed classification. However, non-SharePoint systems are free to specify the proposed classification for the record as they see fit. And to make it easier for non-SharePoint systems to declare records matching the record series in the Records Center, the Web Service includes additional methods to let those other systems query the Records Center to learn what the current entries in the routing list are.

For anyone interested in the specifics of this Web Service and how it’s used to declare records, we’ve included a code sample demonstrating it in our “Enterprise Content Management Starter Kit”.

Is the Records Center site (or any of the other features introduced to this point) available only for Microsoft Office documents?

Certainly not. We know that the requirements for records management are not specific to a particular file format, and that many records aren’t created or kept as Microsoft Office file formats like .doc, .xls, .ppt, etc. So we made a conscious effort in this release to ensure that our records management features work well for any type of file, including Office files, CAD, PDF, images, you name it.

The only features we’ve talked about so far that are specific to Office files (and require the 2007 release of the Office desktop applications) are:

· Document Information Panel: Without the 2007 Office desktop applications, users will be required to fill in document metadata using the SharePoint browser-based experience, rather than in the context of the authoring application.

· Policy Statement: Only Office files opened in the Office 2007 applications will prominently display to end-users the policy statement for those files.

· Client-side functionality of Labels and barcode policies: You can configure label and barcode policies for any type of item, and Office SharePoint Server 2007 will automatically generate labels & barcodes for those items. However, only Office files opened in the Office 2007 applications will prompt users to include those labels or barcodes in print-outs of those documents.

All of the other features discussed in this blog, including the Records Center site, treat non-Office files on an equal footing to Office files.


Thanks for reading, and please keep the questions coming!

- Ethan Gur-esh, Program Manager.