We recently had an opportunity to discuss SharePoint 2010 Records Management with Adam Harmetz, the Lead Program Manager for the SharePoint Document and Records Management engineering team at Microsoft.  Adam is responsible for helping design the next generation of SharePoint investments in collaboration and content management, including records management and compliance.

SPRM: Adam, thanks for speaking with us today.

Adam: Pleasure to be talking with you today, Don.  We unveiled the records management features of SharePoint 2010 at the SharePoint conference this past October, so I’m really eager to be spreading the word!

SPRM: Great, let’s get started.  So tell us, how does the records management functionality in SharePoint 2010 compare to the features you provided in MOSS 07?

Adam:  There is an engineering team here in Redmond who has been working on SharePoint 2010 Records Management functionality and I think you’ll see SharePoint 2010 as a breakout release for records management.  There are a set of new features that directly respond to customer feedback and also keep in mind the design principles of flexibility for the records manager and ease of use for the end user.

Even though we are adding a bunch of new functionality, SharePoint 2010 builds off the multi-release vision of 2007. We want people to bet on SharePoint for content management and records management for the long term, so we keep our big bucket of investment areas for RM – recordization, eDiscovery, auditing and reporting, and retention – the same across releases.

All in all, the process of declaring and managing records – recordization – is probably the area you’ll see us talk about the most because it introduces a new method of records management that really allows the records manager to have more control over the entire document lifecycle.  We call the feature in-place records management and, in a nutshell, it removes the need for an archive.  SharePoint documents, web pages, and list items (really any SharePoint object!) can be declared a record and left in place without being archived to a Records Center or any external repository.  The records manager has control over what happens once something is declared a record – the system can block further editing and deleting of the record, a different retention schedule can apply, and workflows can take special actions on records specifically.  

We think it’s a powerful tool for a records manager to start having more control over the collaborative SharePoint repositories that already exist and often times it’ll be used in conjunction with a traditional SharePoint Records Center. 

SPRM: Do you see SharePoint 2010 Records Center competing with the other major Records Management applications as a stand-alone, enterprise records repository?

Adam: Absolutely – SharePoint 2010’s ability to scale to massive numbers of records and its hierarchical file plan enable it to compete head to head with any records management system.

However, I would actually push back against the question as being only one piece in a larger puzzle.  Even if a customer has the perfect records management repository deployed, how much of the records management problem have they solved?  We all know that records management starts at content creation and the real power of SharePoint 2010 is its ability to help manage content from cradle to grave.

From an engineering team perspective, we made sure all the components of records management work throughout the entire SharePoint stack (so you can do retention on blog posts or declare a wiki page an in place record, for instance).  So the power of our suite-based approach to ECM – where web content management, social computing, collaboration, compliance, and search all work together on the same platform – is a critical component of your ECM success story and I’d always recommend to customers that they think about the problem more broadly.

 SPRM: One of the most frequent complaints we’ve heard about the SharePoint 2007 Records Center was its extremely flat file plan.  Will SharePoint 2010 allow us to apply unique expiration rules beyond the Record Library level (i.e. on folders and sub-folders)? 

Adam:  I think you’ll see we directly addressed this piece of feedback in 2010 and even went further than most people expect.

You can have a full, hierarchical file plan and define a retention schedule at any element in that hierarchy.  Those nodes that don’t define a unique retention schedule will inherit the schedule from their parent folder or library.

We didn’t stop there, though.  While we were designing out this “traditional archive feature,” we really took a hard look at how easy it would be for end users to file into such file plans.  We even had our team of usability experts run some lab tests on the scenario.  Turns out (not surprisingly) that it’s pretty hard – you are putting a serious burden on the end user to try to navigate such a large file plan. 

So you’ll see a new feature in 2010 that helps with this.  It’s called the Content Organizer and it removes the need for the end user to know anything about your organization’s file plan.  Instead, the user fills out metadata about the item and the content is automatically routed to the right place based upon rules that a records manager can create ahead of time.

SPRM: Another concern we’ve heard often is the lack of a unique and persistent record identifier in MOSS 07.  Does SharePoint 2010 provide some way to uniquely identify record? 

Adam: Yep, any document in SharePoint 2010 can get a unique Document ID.  This ID can be configured to be globally unique across the entire enterprise and it’ll stay with the document no matter where it travels in SharePoint.  For instance, the system will assign a Document ID to a document when it’s created in the collaborative space.  Then, when that document is archived to a Records Center years later, it’ll keep the same document identifier so it’s easy to have a paper trail showing one version of the truth.

SPRM: Terrific.  That will be a really useful feature.

Let’s talk about scalability.  Real or imagined, our readers often expressed concern about SharePoint 2007 Records Center scalability.  Does SharePoint 2010 Records Center do anything to address that issue?

Adam:  We’ve done a bunch of engineering work to increase the scale limits and, at those new limits, make it easy for a records manager or content steward to keep things up and running.  New indexing mechanisms, changes to our database queries, throttling mechanisms, and background processing improvements are just a few of the geeky things that allow us to support tens of millions of records in a SharePoint 2010 Records Center.

For customers that need to scale to the hundreds of millions of records, SharePoint 2010 will support that, too.  We have features that help multiple Record Centers bind together to act like one logical repository.  For instance, the content can be routed from a central hub to any number of child site collections.  So you can do things such as create a new Records Center per fiscal year or business division and automatically route records to the right storage based upon metadata on the item.

SPRM: The Records Router in MOSS 07 was limited to routing documents based on Content Type.  Routing a document to the Records Center based on metadata – something we’ve seen a lot of demand for – required custom coding.  Does SharePoint 2010 do anything to change that?

Adam:  The SharePoint Content Organizer is the answer to your prayers here, Don. 

SPRM: Cool, let’s hear about it.

Adam: All SharePoint 2007 Records Routers will be automatically upgraded to Content Organizers.  The Content Organizer is like the records router – it examines incoming documents and decides where they should be stored (so they can get the right permissions and retention policies).  The Content Organizer, though, goes further than the records router because the organizer can route based upon metadata as well as content type and it can place items in any folder or subfolder in the site.  As I mentioned when I talked about scaling the Records Center a few minutes ago, you can even have your content organizer go cross-site collection.  In effect, it becomes a content load balancer ensuring each site collection is staying the appropriate size.

SPRM: E-discovery features seem to be on the front of everyone’s mind these days.  Does SharePoint 2010 provide any new support for responding to discovery orders?

Adam: The biggest change we’ve made to the eDiscovery feature set this release is breaking it out of the Records Center.  In SharePoint 2010, any SharePoint site can be the subject of an eDiscovery request and we offer customers a choice for preservation of material related the case.  It can be locked down in place or exported to any SharePoint Records Center.  We think it’ll actually be pretty common to create a Records Center per court case, so you can have a central place to coordinate your discovery processes.

SPRM: You’ve just made a lot of lawyers very happy. 

There’s certainly a lot of discussion in the Records Management community about operating in ‘The Cloud’.  Does Microsoft have plans to include SharePoint 2010 Records Management in their cloud-based data sharing model?

Adam: Absolutely, Don.  Microsoft continues to make a big bet on the cloud and we are working right now to support records management in SharePoint Online.  We’ll support records management for SharePoint Online customers when SharePoint Online moves to SharePoint 2010 (scheduled for some time in the 2010 calendar year). 

SPRM: The Microsoft Records Management Team blog has been inactive for awhile.  Is there someplace on the Web where Microsoft will provide our readers up-to-date information about SharePoint 2010 records management?

Adam:  Yep, now that SharePoint 2010 is close to release, you’ll see the engineering team be pretty active in the blogosphere as we talk about the feature set and share tips and tricks with our customers.

As you’ve heard me mention several times in this interview, records management is just one part of our larger Enterprise Content Management vision.  To that end, you’ll see the RM team participating in the central ECM blog this release at http://blogs.msdn.com/ecm

SPRM: Thanks again for your time, Adam.  This has been a big help to our readers.

Adam: Thanks to you and to your readers.   There is so much more to share and discuss and I hope we can continue the conversation.  For instance, we didn’t even get a chance to dive into SharePoint 2010’s metadata and taxonomy infrastructure, which I think will be a key component of any records management strategy.  I hope we can do another set of Q&A in the future.

SPRM: We’d love to do another Q&A and hear about the metadata and taxonomy infrastructure.

Adam: Great, I look forward to it.  In the meantime, if your readers have any questions and feedback on SharePoint 2010 when they try the Beta, please let them know they can e-mail me at aharmetz@microsoft.com.  I can’t promise a response to every request, but I will certainly read all the comments.