2023 KMWorld Media Kit Available Here 

Integrating Systems of Record Governance

Many organizations continue to adopt SharePoint because of its flexibility and ease of use. But along with the popularity comes an expanding volume of unstructured and relatively unmanaged information that can pose significant, often hidden, compliance risks. So how does an enterprise leverage the value of SharePoint while ensuring that information is managed in compliance with organizational policies and standards?

Proper governance for SharePoint. In many organizations, systems of record for enterprise content management (ECM), records management (RM) and business process management (BPM) are already in place to support formal information governance and business processes. For organizations with these established systems, SharePoint's popularity has pushed to the forefront issues of interoperability and information governance. They are recognizing that departmental SharePoint sites tend to pop up without much oversight, often beyond the reach of these controls.

In fact, a recent AIIM survey found that SharePoint is primarily deployed for collaboration, portal (search) and social engagement, but not for core ECM. More than 70% of those surveyed (AIIM members) say they are not using SharePoint as their primary, enterprisewide ECM system, and almost half say that they are using other content or document management systems alongside SharePoint. There's no doubt SharePoint has helped improve access to information and collaboration within teams. But the proliferation of SharePoint and silos of SharePoint content also increases the difficulty of defining an effective information management strategy. Moreover, as concerns over compliance and information security grow, there is an increasing need to extend governance to a broader set of documents and the employees who create and access them. External parties such as partners, customers and suppliers must also be included.

The need to boost collaboration and solve the silo problem. The silo problem can also apply to process management. Team collaboration in SharePoint helps in meeting short-term project goals, but it tends to occur outside the context of business processes that are orchestrated by BPM or case management systems of record. A team may be collaborating on an engineering design within SharePoint, but the artifacts produced during this collaboration—documents, meeting notes, communications, etc.—may be missed within the information record of a related business process, such as monitoring of supplier performance. Similarly, the information attached to the business process (data about supplier past performance, for instance) is not readily available to the collaborating team to guide them in making decisions. The collaboration effort and timing may also affect project delivery, but can be corrected only when the collaborative activity is tracked by process analytics.

The shortcomings of customization. To be truly valuable to the business, SharePoint content should be available for reuse or repurposing via other client applications and business processes, while still under the control of enterprisewide retention, compliance, records management and security policies. Many organizations have tried to address this issue by customizing SharePoint. They either write custom extensions using SharePoint APIs, or integrate third-party plugins that add specific features such as records management or business process management. But they usually find that customization doesn't necessarily eliminate the silo problem, and that it gets even worse when third-party products are introduced. Customization is also expensive and risky, and can impede upgrading to a new version, as many organizations are now finding with the recent arrival of SharePoint 2013.

The Logical Answer

It turns out that the most successful strategy is the most obvious one: Integrate the content management system of record into the SharePoint environment. Take advantage of the popularity and familiarity of SharePoint by bringing existing content and process controls directly to SharePoint users, in a form that minimizes disruption to their patterns of work.

For example, ECM systems (such as EMC Documentum) are used in many large organizations as the repository of record for documents that are subject to regulatory control and other compliance needs. These systems offer a wide variety of governance functions that are used daily by the staff responsible for policy enforcement. But for many workers who are simply concerned with getting their documents written to meet short-term project goals, the policies may be burdensome and the applications unfamiliar. Their primary application is Microsoft Office with collaboration fueled by its integration with SharePoint.

Making life easier for users. This is where the popularity and wide adoption of SharePoint can come in handy. Rather than requiring them to use another application, users who would not or could not use a formal governance system can be brought into the fold through the familiar SharePoint interface. By selectively integrating key governance features into SharePoint, the documents and other artifacts produced during SharePoint team collaboration can be transparently merged into the system of record.

Take, for example, the engineering sector where extensive collaboration and document sharing is needed between engineering firms and external project participants, including clients, suppliers and partners. Yet the shared documents are also subject to extensive controls, especially in highly regulated industries such as energy. In this environment, SharePoint works well as a portal for collaboration within project teams; the familiar interface allows simplified interaction for uploading or retrieving documents. In the background, the documents are merged into the ECM system of record, which is able to attach them to applications running highly orchestrated business processes that monitor and enforce service-level agreements (SLA), contractual obligations, safety requirements and policies for security and compliance.

As a result of this integration, information is made available to project teams from the ECM repository to boost their productivity by helping them find related documents and reference material, as well as guiding them to make better decisions. Progress is tracked using the ECM system's sophisticated process analytics, ensuring that project SLAs are being met. And once moved into the repository, documents produced by informal team collaboration are automatically placed under the control of formal information governance policies.

Team collaboration and social engagement in a user-friendly environment, supported by robust information governance and process management—it's the start of a beautiful friendship. Extending SharePoint with your ECM system of record is the logical strategy for improving information management.

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