16 Questions (and Answers) about SharePoint and Office365
John Mancini

By: John Mancini on August 25th, 2014

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16 Questions (and Answers) about SharePoint and Office365

Sharepoint and Office 365

I recently did an open-mic webinar with Quentin Christensen and Andrew SanAgustin from Microsoft to answer questions from users about SharePoint. The Q&A flowed beyond the scope of the webinar, so I asked Quentin and Andrew if they could respond to some of the outstanding questions in this post.

Here are the questions and their answers -- as usual, no endorsement implied -- and the perspective is theirs, not mine. The point of the post is simply to provide a conduit for the questions and give Quentin and Andrew a chance to give their take.

Here are the questions from the webinar:

For electronic records, do you require any approvals before disposition/deletion occurs? Or does that disposition occur automatically, with no human intervention?

SharePoint allows for automatic destruction/disposition. However, we require approvals and reviews before deletion occurs, and there is human intervention/oversight.

What about SP2013 and scanned documents: are there any compatible metadata extractors?

Yes, but not out of the box. We employ a third-party solution that was customized to be able to identify metadata fields from unique, scanned images. However, as part of the management rigor, we validate this information before moving items into the SharePoint Records Center.

How can one use SharePoint, Office 365, or other technology to apply legal preservation?

Using eDiscovery Center with SharePoint 2013 or Office 365, users are able to capture relevant records managed within this environment and preserve them by specifying SharePoint sites and enabling In-Place Hold. With In-Place Hold enabled, your users can continue to work on their documents with no impact. eDiscovery Center users the built-in SharePoint search to index and search all SharePoint sites, and on-premises you can also index and search file shares. You can place your collections from other systems such as user’s local computers in SharePoint or a file share to search your data in one place.

The eDiscovery Center can also search and manage holds for Exchange mailboxes. The eDiscovery Center is a type of site collection just like the Records Center and is useful not just for legal preservation of records but also beneficial for FOIA, FOIL, and PDR – Public Disclosure Requests because you can easily search and export data.

Do you have a change management process you advocate to improve user adoption?

Yes, as we provide solutions to internal customers, we educate them on Records Management Methodology for Microsoft, and the solutions available (how it’s used, how we can manage their data, how we can help improve their processes in managing documents). Each customer is typically different in their business needs, so we have flexibility in our delivery. However, SharePoint Records Center functionality is constant.

Do you recommend or work with any particular 3rd party suppliers to add capability to SharePoint records management?

We typically use SharePoint Records Center out of the box, save for the scanning component. However, there are many different vendors that are SharePoint and SharePoint Records Center literate that can help define workflow for unique and specific requests for customers.

What's the benefit of having SharePoint managed in the cloud?

[Quentin recently covered this in an AIIM blog post: The Reports of SharePoint's Death are Greatly Exaggerated.]

Here are a few key points:

  • Microsoft takes care of keeping SharePoint up and running so you can focus on building solutions to empower your users.
  • High availability and redundant data centers mean your data is always available
  • Microsoft handles the upgrade, and on average, you get updates much faster. New features ship to Office 365 before they go to on-premises in the next major release. Upgrade is one of the biggest pain points we hear from customers.

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How does Microsoft itself deal with migration from earlier versions of SP and to Office 365?

We have a hybrid configuration. We used custom tools to migrate our OneDrive for Business sites to Office 365. Here is an article to learn more about OneDrive for Business migration options. Some of our SharePoint on-premises deployments continue to exist, but when people create new sites or solutions they are created in Office 365 instead of on-premises.

We have some web pages that people go to for new site creation and we just changed the links to point them at Office 365 instead of on-premises. Some of our on-premises deployments will continue to live on premises, and when people no longer need them, we will shut them down.

How do you deal with user adoption?

First, define a method for measuring adoption; you can use SharePoint usage reports for this. Then ensure you have solutions that customers will find valuable. To start, you can keep it simple and easy by deploying OneDrive for Business sites and giving users a place they can go and create their own team sites on demand. Give them a carrot and advertise by using documentation and email to let people know about helpful things they can do to improve productivity. You can also work with small groups of users that you teach to be advocates and provide a high level of support to get them and their team using SharePoint.

Can SharePoint really do records management?

Yes. But it’s important that the customer fully understand their scenario and business lines in order to identify a tool that will match their needs. Many folks are searching for an end-all solution for their issues, when in fact, they are not truly aware of the issues they are currently facing, other than “people don’t like it.” SharePoint Records Management, like any redirectioning in data management solution, is a paradigm shift that requires understanding of the environment and idiosyncrasies of the enterprise/users in addition to the business groups that make up the broad spectrum of users.

In layman’s terms, before searching for the solution, define the problem. SharePoint 2010 and 2013 have significant records management capabilities out of the box, and there are third party solutions to help do things it can’t, such as document scanning. SharePoint 2010 and 2013 also support large site collections, and in Office 365 you can now even have 1TB site collections and unlimited size tenants, so yes ,SharePoint can scale to meet your records management needs.

When do you go out of the box, and when do you custom code SharePoint solutions?

Scanning was our biggest project for Records Management for Microsoft as it was a unique factor in workflow for a particular department within the Microsoft Legal & Corporate Affairs department. The project had specific requirements for structure within the organization and the need to communicate with outside partners. We went with a partner because SharePoint doesn’t have direct integration with physical scanners and buying a 3rd party solution was more effective than developing our own.

When making the out of box vs. custom code decision, first define your problem and goals. Part of designing a solution is simplifying and getting to what is absolutely critical. Prioritize your requirements and really understand what you are trying to do, then map those requirements to SharePoint. If there are small gaps, you can evaluate whether you can live without those requirements. If there are significant and critical capabilities that you need, for example, document scanning, then look to building your own solution or custom code. Many customers I talk to are trying to get everything and the kitchen sink because they had an old legacy system that could do everything from A-Z, but they really only used A-E. Don’t overcomplicate your experience and build a complex and costly to support solution just because you think you need something that your users will never actually care about.

We are concerned about America being the 'safe harbor' - is our data safe from your government?

With Office 365, customers own their data, not Microsoft. Legal requests from any government are sent to the customer and not handled by Microsoft. Microsoft does not provide backdoors into the service. To learn more, please visit the Office 365 Trust Center.

What new records Management capabilities have been added to Office 365 in the past 3 months?

Not necessarily in the last 3 months, but here are a few that have been recently released or are coming soon:

  • 1TB site collections
  • Unlimited size tenants
  • Sensitive information classifications and search through the eDiscovery Center
  • Document deletion policies

Record Center versus in place records management in a document library, can you explain the difference?

In place records management requires the users to identify key metadata to each record created and preserved within a SP site. In a truly dynamic and collaborative environment, it can be considered (based upon the corporate environment) that not all items are considered a record in this space. Rather, only the “finished” product is what’s required to be captured in line with the Corporate Retention Policy and Retention Schedule.

In other words, you may be capturing items that are not records when implementing in-place (other scenarios required this rigor, i.e., financial institutions, government agencies, etc.). In-place records management allows you to define records within any collaboration and personal sites where the records will be mixed with other documents. The Records Center is a single location where you can store and manage your records.

How do you handle the security as some have confidentiality attached to the retention?

With SharePoint 2013, In-Place Hold is not visible to users, so you can preserve content without people even knowing the data is on hold. Only your eDiscovery users who have access to the eDiscovery Center can see what locations are on hold.

In a big organization where multiple content repositories/systems exist including but not limited to SP -- but all require records management -- should records be managed in place in each system respectively, or centrally managed in a single RM system? Which is a best/better practice?

It is preferred to have a single repository to manage all records of an organization, despite where the data may reside (one law that rules the land) as opposed to a siloed approach. I believe we are working on managing data within a separate system outside of SP, whereby the metadata is managed so that we can surface different types of records managed in disparate systems, but have a single “situation room” to facilitate control.

Many records now travel by email, or email itself becomes a record. Can you describe what integrations exist between SharePoint 2013 and Outlook to facilitate moving email or email attachments into SharePoint when necessary?

People can drag and drop email from Outlook into SharePoint, although you won’t have the message metadata populated as columns in SharePoint. You can also use the new SharePoint and Exchange 2013 feature site mailboxes to connect a mailbox to your SharePoint site. All members of the site have access to the mailbox. You can view the email and documents both in Outlook and in the SharePoint site, and you can drag and drop Outlook messages into the SharePoint document libraries that show in Outlook.


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About John Mancini

John Mancini is the President of Content Results, LLC and the Past President of AIIM. He is a well-known author, speaker, and advisor on information management, digital transformation and intelligent automation. John is a frequent keynote speaker and author of more than 30 eBooks on a variety of topics. He can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as jmancini77. Recent keynote topics include: The Stairway to Digital Transformation Navigating Disruptive Waters — 4 Things You Need to Know to Build Your Digital Transformation Strategy Getting Ahead of the Digital Transformation Curve Viewing Information Management Through a New Lens Digital Disruption: 6 Strategies to Avoid Being “Blockbustered” Specialties: Keynote speaker and writer on AI, RPA, intelligent Information Management, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation. Consensus-building with Boards to create strategic focus, action, and accountability. Extensive public speaking and public relations work Conversant and experienced in major technology issues and trends. Expert on inbound and content marketing, particularly in an association environment and on the Hubspot platform. John is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William and Mary, and holds an M.A. in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.