Differences between Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Records Management (RM) in SharePoint 2013 & Office 365’s SharePoint Online

Posted by Errin O'Connor on Jan, 20, 2015 01:01

Differences between Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Records Management (RM) in SharePoint 2013 & Office 365’s SharePoint Online

One area you must ensure you have a clear understanding of is around your organization’s stance on what the differences are between a standard document and an official record and what the official legal criteria is that drives these definitions.

Documents of all types are stored throughout the organization in both SharePoint document libraries as well as in areas such as file shares, laptops and devices in both structured and unstructured manners. Records tend to be considered evidence of the official activities of the organization and its governing policies. Are you confused yet? This can be a very grey area at times. I technically define records management as the practice of identifying, classifying, archiving, preserving, and destroying records according to a set of pre-defined standards.

Records usually have strict compliance requirements and related retention, access and destruction policies. This can vary thou based on the type of organization and the local or federal compliance policies that specifically relate to their business.

In the litigious world we live in today, it is best to error on the side of caution as courts can enforce strict penalties on organization’s that are considered to either not have records management program, not have a consistently deployed records management program, or not have a vehicle to performed an audit of your records management program and related eDiscovery plan.

Your organization may have implemented or considered various techniques around converting an existing or “active” documents to a record such as:

  • Manually declaring a document to be a record
  • Creating a workflow that sends a document to a Records Center or centralized records management related site

The Association of Records Managers and Administrators, better known as ARMA, has a wealth of free information and resources you can access to determine specific records retention policies and related governing laws for your organization and can be found at the following link:

There has also been another standard for which records management systems are judged which is the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) 5015.2 standard or equivalent which can be reviewed at the following link:

This standard is set for the management of records that will be eventually transferred to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and include government personnel records, standards, directives, manuals and documents that are scheduled for declassification or redacted items.

In countries in the EU, there is a similar standard named MoReq.

Common Terminology Used within ECM and RM Initiatives

There are a number of common terms that are used throughout ECM and RM initiatives that include the following:

  1. Metadata: In practical usage as its most commonly described, it means data about data. For SharePoint, it is data that describes or classifies other content or documents in lists, Apps, and libraries. It is also used to categorize people, discussions, communities, or to describe conversations
  2. Enterprise Metadata Management
  • Metadata as an enabler for different functionalities such as navigation, term and search driven pages
  • Used for key capabilities for term store manager to enhance term usage models
  • Drive multilingual capabilities
  • Enables taxonomy APIs exposed via CSOM (i.e. Client Side Object Model) and REST (i.e. Representational State Transfer) for extensibility purposes
  1. Taxonomy: Formal hierarchy of terms and tags that are usually centrally administered and defined
  2. Folksonomy: Informal list of ad-hoc tags or terms that are built up over time through user defined keywords
  3. Ontology: Formal representation of knowledge as a set of concepts within a domain with relationships between those sets of concepts
  4. Term Store: Database that houses taxonomies
  5. Term Set: Secondary level of a taxonomy
  6. Term: Element of the defined taxonomy

SharePoint and Office 365’s SharePoint Online ECM and RM Terminology

There are a number of common terms that are specific to SharePoint 2013 and Office 365’s SharePoint Online used throughout ECM and RM initiatives that include the following:

  • Content Type – A reusable collection of settings and rules applied to a certain category of content in SharePoint
  • Content Type Hub – A site collection which operates as a central source to share content types across the enterprise
  • Content Type Syndication – Publishing content types across multiple sites, site collections, web application and/or farms

Additional SharePoint 2013 RM\ECM Thoughts

EPC Group will continue to build on this topic throughout this this week and share additional posts around SharePoint 2013 | Office 365’s SharePoint Online Records \ Content Management Strategies (RM\ECM)“from the consulting trenches.”

Errin O'Connor
About the Author

Errin O'Connor

With over 25 years of experience in Information Technology and Management Consulting, Errin O’Connor has led hundreds of large-scale enterprise implementations from Business Intelligence, Power BI, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, IT Security, Azure and Hybrid Cloud efforts for over 165 Fortune 500 companies.

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