Interview: Top SharePoint Records Management Blogger, Don Lueders, Has Some Choice Words For You

11 minute read
Mimi Dionne avatar

SharePointRecordsManagement.com, Don Lueders' blog, is one of the top resources on -- you guessed it -- Records and Information Management functionality in SharePoint.His tenure with the product extends back several years.I cajoled Don into sharing a few comments on his work for this audience.

Work Experience Prior to Joining Gimmal

Mimi Dionne: Tell us about your work experience leading up to your tenure with Gimmal.

Don Lueders: I've been in information technology for about 20 years, but I got into enterprise content and records management when I started working for an electronic records management application vendor called TrueArc in the late 90's. My official title there was Sales Engineer, but like with most small companies at the time, I actually held a number of different positions. I was a Records Management SME and consultant; I consulted internally on the product. I was even Lead Trainer for a time. It was a lot of fun.

That was back before anyone was doing real cradle-to-the-grave information lifecycle management. A number of the big vendors had Document Management applications and were looking to partner with companies that had Records Management solutions. TrueArc was eventually acquired by Documentum, so I worked for them for a while.

While I was at Documentum I started paying more attention to SharePoint and quickly realized that it was likely to be the real future of eCRM. I eventually joined a solution integrator who developed the MOSS 07 DoD 5015.2certified Resource Kit for Microsoft.

I knew a number of folks at Gimmal through industry connections and I knew Gimmal had started a SharePoint eCRM practice, so I contacted them about possibly joining the team. That was a little over three years ago.

His Involvement with SharePoint Records Management

MD: Two and a half years of investment into “SharePoint Records Management” -- what have you enjoyed the most? What are your lessons learned?

DL: Well, SharePointRecordManagement.com has been around for two and a half years, but technically speaking, I've been involved in SharePoint records management since before Microsoft released MOSS 07. And it's been a lot of fun. I've really enjoyed seeing the records management functionality in SharePoint evolve over the years. I'm particularly excited about the records management features in SharePoint 2010.

I can honestly tell you that, with the exception of a few missing pieces of records management functionality, SharePoint 2010 is a true enterprise-level solution for managing all of an organization's content throughout its entire lifecycle. That's pretty exciting.

MD: What are the missing pieces?

DL: Things like global events to trigger event-based records retention and parallel disposition processing. Unrecoverable electronic record shredding, records transfer functionality, Vital Records management, and record-level security. And, of course, true content-based email records management, as opposed to simple email archiving, which is good for short-term discovery requirements, but doesn't serve an organization's long-term compliance needs.

To be clear, Microsoft knew there would be a demand for these features, but felt they could rely on their partners to fill the gaps -- which is turning out to be the case.

MD: Who do you read for inspiration on posts?

DL: I try to read whenever I can and not just IT or eCRM material. I try to keep up with business trends and sharpen my management skills as well.

That being said, there are some real good SharePoint books out there worth reading. John Holliday, who I think is one of the real thought leaders in SharePoint eCRM, wrote an excellent book on MOSS 07 Records Management, though it was primarily from a development perspective. I'm hoping he does something similar for SharePoint 2010.

And, of course, I'm frequently checking out other SharePoint blogs. Especially if they have an eCRM focus. Russ Stalters manages a good site at BetterECM.wordpress.com. Mike Alsup, my boss at Gimmal, has a good blog at KQJ109.wordpress.com. I direct people there a lot. The AIIM SharePoint and Records Management communities post some interesting stuff.

MD: Surely Microsoft is reading your blog and speaking with you on a regular basis? Have you advised them in the past?

DL: Oh sure, as a matter of fact, Bill Gates just called this morning and asked me about event-based records retention...

MD: Ha!

DL: Sorry, couldn't resist. Actually, Microsoft and the SharePoint Development Team have been very kind to me over the years and I hope I've had a small influence on some of the decisions they've made around how SharePoint manages the information lifecycle.

They also post links to my blog on MSDN and TechNet, so that helps build traffic for me. Microsoft's SharePoint Support Team frequently directs records management inquiries toward my site, too, so I get a lot of visitors through them, which I'm grateful for.

MD: What’s your favorite SharePoint 2010 Records feature? Expand on this.

DL: Wow, this is kinda like Sophie's Choice and I'm Meryl Streep. But without the phony German accent.

First of all, I would probably have to make it clear that I never really bought into the notion of "Records Management" to begin with. And keep in mind this is coming from a CRM. We are now, and really always have been, Information Lifecycle managers. We need to be responsible for content from its very creation until its ultimate disposition (whatever that might be). And that hasn't really changed. In fact, those of us who manage information are more important in the Digital Age than we've ever been. But it also means we really have our work cut out for us.

So with that in mind, I'd have to say my favorite new features are the ones that help you manage content across its entire lifecycle, not just at the end state. The Content Organizer and the Managed Metadata feature come to mind. They're both extremely powerful features that can help you manage content within a site collection, across multiple site collections and even across farms.

If you absolutely forced me to choose between the two, I'd say I'm happiest about the functionality the Content Organizer provides. It really is a nice feature that allows you to remove the burden of content classification away from the end user, something that is always a critical factor in the success of any eCRM solution.

MD: Care to point to a blog entry on that?

DL: Sure, I've posted a few articles on Content Organizer. You can find them here.

MD: You have said that, in SharePoint 2010, there’s an organizational record and a functional definition -- that SharePoint doesn’t care about content, or context. Please expand on this.

DL: Right, but that notion doesn't just apply to SharePoint. It applies to any eCRM solution. I've trained hundreds of users on any number of different records management applications and I can't tell you the number of times my students would tell me that they wanted their solution to tell them what is and is not a "record."

What they are really asking me is "What information material that I create as a result of my normal business activity am I required to manage as a record?" This is the organizational definition of a "record." And it must be determined by the organization's Records and Information Management personnel, hopefully with the support of the organization's Legal Council.

Learning Opportunities

SharePoint (or Documentum or whatever solution your organization uses) doesn't care about what content is subject to internal and external regulations and what isn't. The task of the ECRM solution is to effectively and easily apply the functional definition of a record, which means being able to lock the content down, make it immutable, apply accurate retention and disposition, manage metadata, ensure unrecoverable destruction of expired material -- things like that.

Which sort of brings me to another notion I never bought into and that's the idea that unstructured content can be divided into two separate groups: documents and records. Documents being these editable, evolving pieces of information that may or may not need to be ultimately managed as a record.

Well, that's fine, but go ask your General Counsel if she agrees with that notion. If she's any good at her job, she'll tell you that you can call some content "documents" and some content "records," but the fact is it's all evidence. And as such, it must all be managed efficiently and effectively throughout its complete lifecycle. Cradle-to-the-grave.

MD: Exactly. EDiscovery means documents and records. It's everything, right?

DL: Yep, everything. That’s the goal we have to set for ourselves or we aren’t doing our job.

MD: My company is migrating my records from MOSS 2007 to SharePoint 2010. My IT department wants to do a 1:1 migration. What are the top five technical concerns I should communicate to the migration planning team?

DL: [Laughs] Only five? First off, MOSS 07 had some terrific records management features, but the number of organizations who are using it to actually manage records is relatively small, so I'd probably assume that your company is referring to electronic content that they treat as records.

Next, I'd want to know what content classification is being used in the 2010 environment. If that hasn't been considered it would need to be addressed. I'd be concerned about how the metadata values are being managed and what the auditing requirements are.

I'd want to know how your company intends to apply appropriate retention and disposition to the records in 2010. I would need to understand if retention would be set at the content type or if it would be location-based (set at the library and folder level). And I'd also need to know what Information Management Policy actions need to be defined.

I'm a stickler for designing an efficient record declaration strategy, so I'd want to make sure I understand what your company's goals are for that. I'd also want to know how your company wanted to process unclassified or unknown content. There can be a lot of that in any organization.

How many is that? About eight or nine? I could give you more, but that's probably where I'd start.

MD: I’m INCREDIBLY enthusiastic about the service you’re providing, but you’re writing a textbook for free. Where’s the book? How soon can I get my autographed copy?

DL: Well, thanks. I'd be lying if I said I didn't occasionally think about putting a book together. But I'm really very happy doing what I'm doing now, especially when I'm working directly with customers and watching their eCRM solutions develop, improve and provide real value to their organizations.

Plus the blogosphere allows me the kind of flexibility I couldn't get from a publisher. With a blog, I've got no due dates, no writing standards I have to follow. I'm free to say what I want. And besides, a publisher would probably make me edit out all of my best sarcasm. I'd never accept that.

That said, if I ever do write a book, you'll get one of the first copies, Mimi.

MD: Awesome. So, how often do you attend the SharePoint Saturday events around the country? Where will you be next? Have you been invited to speak at a national level conference yet?

DL: I used to speak fairly frequently, but I haven't had as many opportunities as I'd like lately. That should change after we complete work on the Gimmal SharePoint Compliance Suite in the next couple of months. But I do have a couple events on my calendar. I'll speak at the DC SharePoint Saturday in August and I've tentatively agreed to speak at a couple of local ARMA Chapters sometime this winter. I typically post something on my blog about any public presentations I'm doing. You'll probably see more of those posts toward the end of the year.

MD: What is your wish list for the next SharePoint Records Management function (for example, social media records management)?

DL: You know, social media and Twitter and Facebook and even voice mail are all legitimate records management concerns, and there should be policies and procedures in place to address them. But I always stress that we need to ensure that we are efficiently managing our basic unstructured content first before we start focusing on new sources of content.

Microsoft really turned a corner with SharePoint 2010 records management and, given the added boost of a few small partner applications, SharePoint 2010 is ready to go toe-to-toe against any of the biggest ECRM solutions on the market.

About the author

Mimi Dionne

Mimi Dionne is a records and information management project manager and Consultant/Owner of Mimi Dionne Consulting. She is a Certified Records Manager, a Certified Archivist, a Certified Document Imaging Architect, a Certified Information Professional, and a Project Management Professional.