We recently had an opportunity to sit down with Nick Inglis, Digital Marketing evangelist and resident SharePoint guru at AIIM, for an interesting discussion on all things SharePoint Records and Information Management. Here’s what Nick had to say…
SPRM: Thanks for talking with us today, Nick.
Nick: Thank you so much for having me, Don!
SPRM: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at AIIM.
Nick: I was the SharePoint Program Manager at AIIM which meant that I travelled the world teaching our SharePoint for ECM course and helping organizations get the most from their SharePoint investment from a business standpoint. I’m a tech geek but that’s not what our course is about, it’s made for people who are trying to get the best practices for solving their greatest business challenges. At the beginning of this year I transitioned to AIIM’s Marketing team helping to evangelize the wealth of resources that AIIM has to offer while doing some really cool, cutting edge digital marketing. It’s been a lot of fun.
SPRM: You have as much experience with SharePoint 2010 Records Management as just about anyone I know. What have you discovered over your time working with the product? What do you like about it? What changes would you like to see in future releases?
Nick: SharePoint, like any product, has strengths and weaknesses. Since it is such a broad platform it is sometimes hard for organizations to wrap their heads around all of its complexities across so many areas.
Firstly, I see some really positive changes of recent in how SharePoint is being implemented. Far too often, SharePoint has been put forward as an IT project. SharePoint is not an IT project, it’s a business project that IT should be implementing in conjunction with business input, direction or overall project management. When an implementation is started with that perspective it’s often a much better system. Sorry to my IT friends for that, it’s just the truth.
One thing I’d love to see come to the SharePoint platform is better handling of email as records. Frankly, it’s a clunky process out of the box, whether you’re automating through the use of filters or you’re doing manual declaration of email as records. I worry that a lot of organizations aren’t handling their email properly from a Records Management standpoint and that it will come back to bite them.
I’d love to see some improvements in eDiscovery and Legal Holds. I should be able to quickly lock down a library or list. I should be able to manage my holds more easily. The dashboard should be built around the workflow of a Records Manager and how they implement holds, in 2010 it doesn’t seem as though it is. There are some other products on the market that could be used as models for improvement.
SPRM: Are these products third-party SharePoint add-on solutions that enhance the existing eDiscovery and Legal Holds functionality?
SPRM: Got it…
Nick: Some of my other gripes are much smaller. You can accidentally delete records if you delete a site that contains records within it if you’re doing In Place Records Management, that shouldn’t be possible.
Some future things I’d like to see would include better analysis for records identification, there are other systems which provide automation tools for analysis of content for records identification, I’d like to see that come to SharePoint. I think with the new version of SQL we’ve gotten some snapshots on how Microsoft will improve content analysis within SharePoint, but we won’t know until we get to see something more than the developer preview BETA of SharePoint 2013.
Also, we’ve seen some amazing improvements in the social business functionality of SharePoint. While I applaud those efforts and look forward to seeing where Microsoft takes us with the purchases of Yammer and Skype, these improvements need to be coupled with best practices in the governance of social content. I would love to lock AIIM’s social governance expert, Jesse Wilkins, and the Microsoft employees who are developing the social elements in the same room for a few days just to hash it all out.
SPRM: Ha! I’ve known Jesse professionally for a long time and I’ve followed his career closely. Microsoft and AIIM would both benefit from a meeting like that. I know several members of the SharePoint ECM Development Team follow this blog, so who knows? Maybe that can be arranged…
But back to SharePoint… It’s our experience that there is a great deal of misinformation floating around out there about SharePoint Records Management. I think Microsoft is responsible for some of that because they haven’t promoted SharePoint as a records management solution as aggressively as they really should have. But I also believe that a good deal of this misinformation is coming from some of SharePoint’s biggest competitors. Many of the people we talk to are convinced that SharePoint is not capable of managing records across the enterprise, but often can’t tell us why.
What are you hearing? Do you believe your customers have a reasonable understanding of SharePoint records management functionality or is there still some education necessary?
Nick: I would just like to say that SharePoint is capable of doing Records Management for most organizations right out of the box. The problems that most organizations struggle with, in my experience and opinion, are a lack of planning and a lack of understanding.
SPRM: We couldn’t agree more.
Nick: I’ve yet to figure out the root cause of the lack of planning since Records Managers are usually such fantastic planners. My current thoughts are that IT usually drives the SharePoint implementation projects and Records Managers get left in the dark. The other problem I see is that most organizations don’t leverage the full set of features that Microsoft has already given us for Records Management. It really is a robust platform that can, in fact, meet the needs of most organizations for Records Management. Go and get some training if you need it. I know of some really good training available from AIIM for anyone who’s interested…
SPRM: Ha! Yep, I took that course myself and I thought it was terrific.
Nick: The other issue I see is the same problem that Records Managers are dealing with whether they use SharePoint or Documentum or anything: There is a lot of content being created and Records Management is generally understaffed. When you increase the amount of content and decrease the content watchdogs you’re in for trouble. That’s why I recommend automation so strongly as I outlined in my recent AIIM White Paper on the topic. Even if you’re automating just 10% of records declaration, that’s a huge step in the right direction for most organizations.
SPRM: Again, you won’t get any argument out of us. We’ve been advocating automated records management processes for several years now.
Managing email records in SharePoint is always a hot topic of discussion here and many of our readers have wildly different approaches to doing it. What are your thoughts on the best way to manage email records in SharePoint?
Nick: I don’t think you can do it effectively within SharePoint yet. This is one area where I think Microsoft needs to put some more thought and functionality behind because it really is a huge frustration. My current advice is that you should use a different system for your email management whether that’s an external system entirely or one of the solutions that are available as an add-on product for SharePoint. At AIIM we’re vendor neutral, so I can’t do any name dropping, but look at your business requirements and evaluate the products available, I think you’ll find some clear winners in the pack. If you can’t afford to have a critical email fall through the cracks, you can’t rely on SharePoint out of the box for email management. Not yet at least, I really hope that changes.
SPRM: Microsoft is being very public about their push into cloud computing. Given that it is still not yet clear what sort of records management functionality will be available in SharePoint 2013, what are you recommending to your customers who want to develop a SharePoint cloud strategy?
Nick: On a basic level, my advice is move ahead. The business benefits are too large to ignore. I think what we’re seeing is a diverging product set in the long run, one SharePoint available as a local installation and the other as a cloud offering. If you can move to the cloud now I think you’ll have less of a headache trying to move later as the codebase between the products grows more and more different.
We do and will continue to have the ability to add in additional partner solutions to the cloud based version(s) of SharePoint and there are some very intelligent companies creating some great solutions for Records Management in SharePoint. My assumption is, they will continue to keep making great add-on products because the market is far from saturated. That tells me that if Microsoft can’t get Records Management perfect in a cloud environment for SharePoint that there most certainly will be someone available to fill that gap and there are probably already a few that could meet your specific needs. Out of the box Records Management in the cloud will come.
Often you hear pushback about the reliability and security of the cloud. I think most of that is essentially a red herring as long as you do your research on what is being promised. I can say, without hesitation, that cloud servers from the leading providers are more secure that over 99% of the local servers of people who will read this interview. So why do we hear so much about the cloud and security? When a server at Amazon goes down it gets press. When a server at your organization goes down, does the press come knocking? They hire the best and brightest server geniuses on the planet, the folks that our organizations can’t attract. As far as I’m concerned, most of the worries over the cloud are extremely overblown.
SPRM: You are writing a book on SharePoint governance and we’re all looking forward to reading it. ‘Governance’ seems to mean different things to different people. How do you define SharePoint governance and what role does records management play in it?
Nick: SharePoint Governance is one of those topics that is often talked about but seldom explained. There are two basic concepts involved: 1. Controlling and directing your systems and how your employees utilize those systems. 2. Controlling and directing how information is created and managed.
Far too many of our SharePoint experts (and sometimes Microsoft as well) get stuck on the system portions of governance and forget about the business and the information that reside within the systems. Governance is not anything new, we are simply applying our longstanding principles to SharePoint specifically. SharePoint Governance is a natural extension of Corporate Governance.
There are six categories of SharePoint Governance in our model: Information Architecture & Design, Content Governance, Classification Governance, Development & Server Governance, Security Governance, and Testing, Training & Support
SPRM: Well, thanks again, Nick. This has been enlightening. When are you releasing your book and where can our readers go to buy it?
Nick: Thank you again for having me, this has been great. The book should be available near the end of the Fall. We’ll actually be starting by releasing a comprehensive SharePoint Governance Toolkit in August that will have templates, planning sheets and instructions on how to develop a complete corporate SharePoint Governance plan, the book following behind shortly after.