Records Management in SharePoint Online - configuration options
Updated: Sep 6
Few enterprises found SharePoint on-premise good enough for managing corporate records, but this has changed with Microsoft 365 (M365). The key to managing records in M365 is not SharePoint Online, but E5 Information Protection & Governance to simplify and automate records management with record labels.
How enterprise ready is this?
One of our global clients operating in a highly regulated industry with almost 40,000 users assessed several of the leading content management systems for the best approach to manage information in M365 and beyond. Microsoft E5 Information Protection & Governance with Advanced Data Governance (ADG) was the clear winner as it was native and the most integrated of all the solutions. This allows for “compliance by design” to embed compliance into the Microsoft cloud platform. Users continue to work with information (e.g. tag a file as an NDA, business workflows), and ADG provides compliance by applying the right retention and disposition automatically.
Another global client highly with over 80,000 users has already come to this conclusion. M365 is the new corporate content and records management system. They have now replaced both OpenText and HP with M365 – which has improved access and significantly reduced their operating costs. As an example, the annual cost of a leading content management system for 2,000 staff often costs more than Microsoft E5 Information Protection & Governance for 20,000 staff.
Records management with M365 and SharePoint Online rely on retention labels to create record labels. Once a record label has been applied, the record can´t be changed or deleted, but metadata can be changed over the record lifecycle to accommodate new record owners, security classification, etc. A retention label can be applied manually by users, automatically when storing files in libraries with a default label, or automatically based on keywords, metadata, and machine learning.
Here are some of the most common ways to implement records management with SharePoint Online, but the first one will NOT work for enterprises with lots of users and record types.
Option 1: If no SharePoint governance, then publish all record labels to all sites
Pros: Easy to implement (but we do NOT recommend this option)
Cons: Require users to identify and label all records; If a lot of labels, then users will struggle finding the right label among hundred of options to manually apply the correct one; Only label name will help you identify relevant records per business area, process, country, etc. In Office 365.
Option 2: If no SharePoint governance, then publish on-request relevant record labels to specific sites
Pros: Easy to implement
Cons: Require users to identify and label all records; Require site owners to well define the purpose of sites and request the relevant labels to be published to the site; Only label name will help you identify relevant records per business area, process, country, etc. In Office 365.
Option 3: Site provisioning that include publishing relevant record labels to specific sites
Pros: Easy to implement; Metadata on sites that documents and records inherent makes it possible to search for information per business area, country, etc.
Cons: Users will have to request new SharePoint sites that are created by a central team (e.g. using PnP), but also when requiring Teams, Stream, Planner, and Yammer that automatically create a SharePoint site; Require users to identify and label all records unless set as default on a library; Require script to get governance on pre-existing sites.
Option 4: Self-service site configuration that rely on metadata to auto-apply record labels
Pros: Users are empowered to create sites when required with default metadata; Metadata on sites, documents, and records makes it possible to search for information per business area, country, etc.; Records management with SharePoint Online may be set up to be automatic based on mandatory metadata, e.g. document type (e.g. HR file) and document status (draft vs final)
Cons: Require script to get governance on pre-existing sites.
Option 5: Rely on M365 machine learning to auto-apply record labels
Pros: No work for users, only admins managing the machine learning
Cons: Machine learning will often declare draft content as records, but M365 Advanced Records Versioning will allow users to unlock the record to finalize it.
Most of our clients are implementing option 3 or 4 while testing option 5 for future deployment. The business case for buying the E5 or E5 Information Protection & Governance add-on license may be very simple since this include a number of other benefits that will help you manage records.
Feel free to contact us if you need help implementing records management with SharePoint Online.