Thursday, 9 June 2011

IRMS Event – London Group Meeting on Sharepoint

Last night was an informative and enjoyable meeting of the IRMS London Group, with two speakers giving very different perspectives on the use of Sharepoint for information and records management.

James Lappin from Thinking Records kicked off and turned the traditional speaker format on its head, by having the Q&A session at the beginning.  He asked us to pair up and ask each other what issues or questions we had about Sharepoint.  We then reconvened and he gathered a number of questions from the floor:

  • What are the pros and cons of the vendors of ‘add on widgets’ for Sharepoint?
  • How does it cope with inheritance of metadata from other systems?
  • Is Sharepoint 2010 any better than earlier versions, from an RM perspective?
  • Where should you start – what should you do before you let users loose on it?
  • What level of control/governance should you aim for?
  • What sort of administrative resource do you need to run a Sharepoint implementation?

James then went onto give his presentation – the ‘Horrible history of Sharepoint’ – while weaving the answers to some of these questions into his talk.

Sharepoint has evolved over the years since its initial launch in 2001.  There have been four versions; 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2010. The first version to include any records management functionality at all was 2007, and James feels that many of the functions were not thought through very effectively.

Whilst Sharepoint 2010 has improved its RM functionality in some ways, this criticism holds true in the newer version – for example when declaring a record ‘in place’ Sharepoint will prevent users from deleting the document, or from deleting the document library the document is in, but will allow deletion of the site collection the document library is in...

Mark Field from the Department for Education then gave us an insight into government thinking regarding cloud computing, and in particular the DfE’s approach to using Sharepoint as the platform for this, but in a seamless way that is invisible to the user. 

One memorable phrase Mark used to describe the situation was that government is moving away from their initial ‘Stalin meets hippy’ approach of having one large ‘G-Cloud’ for the whole of government.  Instead they are developing several separate private clouds for various parts of government and, later on, other areas of the public sector.

They have deliberately avoided using any ‘Sharepoint language’ like ‘document library’ or ‘site collection’ or even ‘Sharepoint’ itself.  Instead they have information workspaces – and the access to create and administer one is rigorously controlled.

The strong governance they have put in place is illustrated by their process for declaring records.  A user can manually declare a document as a record, which takes them to a screen to add three pieces of metadata (content type, file and name).  If they fail to do this, then an automatic ‘sweep bot’ moves all remaining documents, which are 1 year old and v1.0 or higher, to the records centre.  Once there, if no one goes to ‘claim’ them in the meantime, after a further 1 year they are all automatically deleted without further review.  It really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’!

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