If you want to manage your organization’s documents and records successfully – from cradle to grave – I would encourage you consider implementing an enterprise Information Lifecycle Model. Of all the philosophies and theories about information management I’ve heard, ILM is by far the one that seems the most logical and, based on my experience, the most effective. And this is particularly true with SharePoint deployments.
If ILM is new to you, let me try to explain the concept without getting too bogged down in the details. Essentially, an ILM is a succession of conditions through which information is processed, from creation (or receipt) to final disposition. These conditions are called ‘states’. When a document moves from one state to another, one or more processes occur depending on the particular needs of the organization.
Each organization must determine what different states its information passes through, but a typical lifecycle may look like this:
Temporary > Draft > Final
In this example, when a user opens a document, it would be considered ‘Temporary’. Over time, the user would make several modifications or, possibly, several users would work collaboratively on the document. Eventually, the document would move from Temporary to a ‘Draft’ state. (In SharePoint this would likely be done by changing the value of one of the columns in the document’s content type.)
Changing the state to draft would fire off a couple of processes depending on the organization’s requirements. One of those processes could be routing the document to someone for approval as well as sending the approver an email notice that informs him that he has an approval task to process.
Once the approver OK’s the draft, the document owner can move the state to ‘Final’. This new state would also cause processes to kick off. For instance, the document could be published to a portal or emailed to a partner. And the organization may have a requirement to declare the final document a record, so a process would fire that automatically sends a copy to the Records Center. The point to keep in mind here is that all of these processes were initiated in a way that was completely transparent to the information worker who created the document, so we have the potential to significantly lower the burden on the end user, but still consistently enforce the organization’s policies and standards.