In December of 2009, we had an extraordinary opportunity to sit down with Adam Harmetz, Lead Program Manager for the Microsoft SharePoint Document and Records Management Engineering Team for a two-part interview to discuss all the new records management features included in the upcoming release of SharePoint 2010.

With the recent Preview release of SharePoint 2013, Adam has once again agreed to update us on some of the new information lifecycle management features we can expect to see with this new release.

SPRM:  Adam, it’s great to talk to you again.  This must be a very busy time for you and your team.

Adam:  Thanks, Don.  Yes, wrapping up a release is always a busy time as we get feedback from our Preview, do final polish, perform those last usability studies, and get ready to talk about our work to the over 135 million people who depend on SharePoint.

And, of course, in June 2011 we opened the doors on Office 365, our cloud service, and since then tens of thousands of organizations with millions of users have joined.  As you can imagine, that keeps us pretty busy, too.

SPRM:  How has the SharePoint 2013 Preview release gone?    

Adam: Great!  Lots of interest from customers, especially now that it’s so easy to try out the latest by just signing up for an Office 365 trial from office.com/preview.  It’s been fun watching the feedback and telemetry coming in and making those final tweaks.

My team has been running a deep feedback program around our work with the OASIS Content Management Interoperability Standard (CMIS), which we now support out of the box in SharePoint 2013.  So it’s been great working closely with several CMIS consumers and committee members validating our interoperability.  It’s great to see a large part of the industry rallying around CMIS.

Overall, I’m really happy to be wrapping up what has been a tremendous effort by the team here and get it in the hands of customers!

SPRM:  We announced that we would be speaking with you on the Records Management Listserv a few weeks ago and asked the members to suggest questions we should ask.  Response was terrific.  But before we get to the specifics of records management, would you mind giving us a quick summary of some of the bigger changes we will see in SharePoint 2013?

Adam: Oh boy, Don, where do I start?  SharePoint 2013 is by far the most ambitious release of SharePoint to date, where we are shipping a service and server simultaneously for the first time.  I just celebrated my seventh anniversary with the company, and I’ve been working on SharePoint since we first introduced ECM capabilities in the product with the 2007 release.  And I’ve never been more excited about a release of SharePoint.

There is just a wealth to learn about 2013, and I certainly recommend the SharePoint Team blog to keep up to date and specifically The New SharePoint blog post by Jeff Teper, our Corporate Vice President, to get an overview of what’s new in 2013.

But to pick a few of my favorites:

  • New SharePoint Experience.  I help drive the user experience work on the Enterprise Content Management team over here in Redmond, so UX is close to my heart.  Building on our heritage as the easiest way for teams to collaborate, we re-designed the SharePoint user experience to be clean and simple.  Drag and drop upload to the browser, bulk metadata edit, quick access to document previews and context, one-click following of documents to keep track of your most important work – and you can experience all this in all the major, modern browsers.  There is a lot to love about the new SharePoint when you use it every day!
  • SkyDrive Pro and client integration.  Click “Sync” on a SharePoint library and you will get the documents offline in the Windows Explorer, Office applications and more.  I no longer have a personal My Documents on my computer – I use SkyDrive Pro to sync everything I need with SharePoint, and it follows me wherever I use Office 2013.  By using Sky Drive Pro (as opposed to the consumer facing Sky Dive or another consumer cloud service), you get all the compliance, workflow and other features of SharePoint (making many Records Managers happy, I hope).  Plus, it helps reduce data duplication, helping you achieve that “one copy of the truth” Holy Grail of Records Management.
  • FAST Search and Recommendations.   I’m super proud of the engineering team both in Redmond and Norway who is delivering the most advanced search platform in the industry.  We are combining the next generation of FAST with learnings from Microsoft Research and Bing.  You’ll see this core technology used in a variety of different ways (more on eDiscovery later).  One powerful way to understand this new platform is just to look at all the different types of material it helps organize: documents, presentations, pages, conversations, people, reports, video, and more!  Below is a screenshot of our new Video Search in action:

 

Those three are really just a start!  Pervasive social networking, a new cloud-based application development model, a new highly scalable workflow framework, and integrated project management into the team site experience are also major bets for us.  And, of course, we will deliver all this on premises and in the cloud simultaneously.

SPRM:  So clearly cloud computing is a major theme in this new release.

Adam: The future of our business is clearly the Office 365 service.  That’s where we get to reach a huge new customer base, make sure our customers get the latest we have to offer quickly, and the engineering team here can be responsible for keeping end users productive and the service humming along.

So yes, cloud computing is definitely a theme of 2013 and will continue to be going forward.  This transition will be a journey that Microsoft, our 135 million SharePoint users, and our 4,000 partners will take together over time.  Few customers are moving every workload in their portfolio overnight – I’m a big fan of taking a very metered approach to migration.   You’ll see us help with that transition in a variety of ways, for instance our ability to sync Active Directory between on premises and the cloud, hybrid search, and being able to dial up and down what you are purchasing from Office 365.

SPRM:  What are the records management considerations there?  Will SharePoint Online allow for the existence of Records Centers?

Adam:  Today, customers in Office 365 can define advanced information management policies and records management strategies in SharePoint Online.  They can define hierarchal retention policies, metadata schemas, unique identifiers for documents, track who is editing documents, and do “in place records management” in their collaborative stores.

With the 2013 release, we are enabling our customers to create Records Center site collections as well.  Customers can archive important business records from their collaborative O365 sites to one or more Record Centers in O365.  Archived content will be routed to the correct Records Center and then the correct folder within the Records Center’s fileplan using the Content Organizer, just like in SharePoint 2010 on premises.

The benefits here are two fold.  First, we don’t think records management and content governance should be a decision factor when moving to the cloud; you should be able to achieve your governance principles both in Office 365 and with the on premises product.  Second, think about what a dramatic leap forward this is in terms of IT operational overhead for the Records Management team!  In just a few clicks, you can get an up and running instance of your records management system, managed and billed alongside your collaborative system.  It’ll allow records managers to try out various records management strategies easier with less friction and see what are most adopted by end users.

SPRM:  That’s terrific, Adam.  We’ve recently joined Office 365 and we’re very excited about exploring what it has to offer.

Will Azure support virtualized Records Centers in the cloud?

Adam:  First we always recommend Office 365 for enterprises – it’s where customers will make sure to always get the latest we have to offer.  There are a variety of different plans.  Most customers will use the various enterprise plans, but there are also dedicated plans (where the servers you use are in Microsoft data centers but dedicated just for you), as well as plans geared towards government agencies.   There might be some situations where hosting something in Azure is the best option (it’s definitely possible), but I’d recommend examining the other options first.

SPRM:  For local compliance reasons – and perhaps some security reasons, as well – we anticipate some of our readers will want to manage their records repository on premises while they maintain their SharePoint collaborative spaces in the cloud.  Will SharePoint 2013 support this type of ‘hybrid’ approach?   

Adam: Hybrid environments will be the norm for a while, I think, and there is a wealth of information about how to achieve a great deal of flexibility in the transition to Office 365 – this hybrid whitepaper is a good resource.

For now, though, you won’t be able to archive an item from a collaborative site in Office 365 to an on premises Records Center.  We’ve heard that a bit from customers and it’s definitively on our list of items to look into for the future.  For the 2013 release, we wanted to really make sure we had rock solid archiving from within Office 365, so that was our focus.  The good news is that the cloud allows us to move on a much faster scale than previously; we’ve been making quarterly updates to Office 365 since we’ve launched.  I’ll ask your readers to shoot me a mail at aharmetz@microsoft.com if they have a situation where they would benefit from hybrid Record Centers; it’s always great to hear from customers.

SPRM:  We believe the release of SharePoint 2010 was a seminal moment for SharePoint-based records management.  The features like Managed Metadata, Content Type Hub and Content Organizer really brought SharePoint up to the level of the other big enterprise solutions in terms of managing the lifecycle of our content.  How does SharePoint 2013 build on the success of the records management features in SharePoint 2010?

Adam:  I agree with you, Don.  2010 was an important milestone for ECM that helped customers manage their information stored in SharePoint, especially Records Management.  The focus for 2013 is to build on that momentum, specifically complementing all this work with a deep, cross-product solution for solving your legal teams’ eDiscovery problems.

It’s my pleasure to announce to your readers the eDiscovery Center, a central place for lawyers to identify, preserve, filter, and analyze content across SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, and fileshare content.

We’ll be blogging more about the details of the eDiscovery Center soon on the SharePoint blog, but there are a few things that I’m excited about and should be real game changers for the industry:

  • Central place to find and manage all types of content: SharePoint documents, wikis, microblogs, discussions, list items; Exchange mails, tasks, calendar items; Lync conversations – and more!  By having one UI and workflow for managing all those types of content, we expect to be able to save legal teams a LOT of time and headaches.
  • Quick access to answers and in place hold: In SharePoint and Exchange 2010, we took a bet on an “in place” records management strategy.  We are building off that thinking in eDiscovery as well.  Our eDiscovery system uses the in place search systems – SharePoint Search and Exchange Search (both powered by a new search core based upon FAST) to give real time results to questions like “Exactly how much content are we talking about for this case?” or “If I use these keywords, how much does that reduce my content?”  You can preserve this content in place, too, without having to move it to a separate store.  This in place hold protects content behind the scenes, allowing users to edit and delete their documents and email while retaining the original version for your legal team.  It might have taken weeks or months to manually export the content and then import into some other eDiscovery processing system – Microsoft customers can have the answers in minutes.
  • Export using industry standards.   Microsoft provides some awesome places for people to collaborate and communicate.   In those places, we offer best in class eDiscovery tools to help manage the content during the early phases of a case.  As eDiscovery experts know, eventually content needs to be analyzed and dissected by legal experts (i.e. the “right hand side of the EDRM model) and there are a ton of great tools already out there in the community for that.  All of the data managed by the eDiscovery Center can be exported into the industry standard EDRM XML format.  In addition, we are actively working with major review vendors in our early adoption programs to provide a seamless transfer of the data.

Combing our existing Records Management tools with an eDiscovery system that provides some unique advantages over what’s available today will holistically solve end to end problems for our customers, Don, making 2013 an ambitious release for Microsoft!  Here’s a look at what the “home page” of a case looks like in the eDiscovery Center:

SPRM:  How about managing emails as records in SharePoint 2013?  Any changes there?

Adam:  I think you can tell from my previous response that coordination between Exchange, SharePoint and Lync will be a theme for the 2013 release.  It’s been really fun working with the other Microsoft product teams and it allows us to provide a better solution for our customers.

To that end, the Exchange and SharePoint teams have been working on an app you can add to your Team Sites called Site Mailboxes – you can read all about it in this recent Site Mailboxes blog post on the Exchange Team Blog.

In short, it provides a place for teams to manage both the documents and the emails around a project together.  For users, a site mailbox serves as a central filing cabinet, providing a place to file project emails and documents that can be only accessed and edited by site members.

Mail can be filed into this site mailbox and viewed in both Outlook 2013 and the SharePoint team site.  Conversely, SharePoint document libraries for the project can be viewed in Outlook 2013 and you can just drag and drop content into the doclib, right within Outlook.

Behind the scenes, our bet with Site Mailboxes is that the content is kept where it belongs.  Exchange stores the email, providing users with the same message views for email conversations that they use every day.  SharePoint stores the documents, bringing document coauthoring, versioning, metadata and everything else.  There can be a small percentage of emails that really are more like documents –status reports that are final and you don’t expect to have further conversations about them, for instance.  Those can be dragged and dropped into SharePoint libraries using Site Mailboxes, in essence “docifying” them.  You might want to do that for super important business records, so they can be made immutable, get a consistent retention policy with other records, et cetera.

Compliance on site mailboxes happens in the background, without getting in the way of end users.    For instance, when end users create a site, they are asked to pick a lifecycle policy that determines how long the site, and its accompanying site mailbox, should be kept around.  And, of course, Site Mailboxes can be included in the eDiscovery solution mentioned above.

So in one sense, Site Mailboxes really turns your question on its head, Don.  We have a mechanism for keeping content in their native stores yet applying consistent, matter based policy on it.  It will also have spillover effects on other parts of the experience.  For instance, it’ll allow you to have shorter retention policies on users Inboxes, as important mail can be put into a Site Mailbox.

In summary, Site Mailboxes bring mail and docs together in a way that complements how end users already work, apply compliance across multiple stores in the background, and keep content where it belongs (in their native stores).  You can try it out today by signing up for the Office 365 preview at office.com/preview.

SPRM:  As people start to get a better understanding of what SharePoint is capable of doing, we are seeing a rapid increase in the number of organizations who are migrating their legacy records repositories out of their older enterprise solutions and into SharePoint.  We’re anticipating a spike in these migrations with the release of SharePoint 2013, because it will provide the dual benefits of moving from expensive, on-premises legacy Content and Records Management Systems and moving into a cloud environment at the same time.

Does SharePoint 2013 provide any new functionality that will help companies with this migration process?        

Adam:  Well, the biggest thing to understand about upgrade, migration, and Office 365 is that SharePoint and Office 2013 provide a dramatic reinvention of the SharePoint and Office 365 developer platform.  The goal here is to bring the scale, security, resilience, and openness of the cloud to our application model.   The team here is running an entire blog on this – see an overview post here, but make sure to read other posts on the blog if you are interested.

How does it impact you?  Well, first off, it means that migration and upgrade to various SharePoint topologies gets a lot easier.  It’s just like your phone with discrete apps that run in a sandbox, allowing the underlying platform to get updates without worrying about apps that don’t work.  It’ll also provide an entire Office Store where you can browse for apps to add to your SharePoint sites.

So over the long term, that’ll make upgrade and migration between environments a lot simpler.  When it comes to getting rid of those legacy systems you are talking about, we continue to make it easier to onboard to Office 365 (here’s a good resource portal).  And, of course, we’ve always had a strong partner community offering a variety of great tools (hundreds of partners are in this Office 365 partner tool)

SPRM:  Well, thanks so much for this discussion, Adam.  It’s been enlightening.  We’re looking forward to spending some quality time with SharePoint 2013 very soon.  In the meantime, do you have any speaking opportunities coming up where our readers might learn more about what they will find in SharePoint 2013?

Adam: Sure do!  Since Exchange and SharePoint are working together, I’ve got double the speaking opportunities as before (quick: someone register exchangerecordsmanagement.com and cross-post!)  You can find me at both the Microsoft Exchange Conference (September 24-26 in Orlando) as well as the SharePoint Conference (November 12-15th in Las Vegas).   Hope to see many of your readers there!