Sharepoint 2010 : Enterprise Content Management - Document IDs

9/28/2013 7:45:02 PM

1. What Is ECM?

Modern organizations produce a lot of information these days. Think about all the information that is consumed and produced in your job: in meetings, in documents, e-mail, videos, discussions, audio, video, marketing information, the stuff that is on the web site, product catalogs, support documents, consulting reports, RFPs, expense reports, travel logs, and so on. Now think about what most organizations get sued about these days! What almost always gets them in trouble is mishandling of information! If an unruly customer breaks equipment at a fast food restaurant, don't you wish you had your surveillance videos archived? But most modern surveillance video equipment lets you store only a certain amount of days before it is overwritten! Wouldn't it be nice if somehow that information was backed up onto less expensive storage? Maybe even automatically deleted 18 months from when it was created?

What about e-mail? Chances are that e-mail sent by the CEO is probably more important than the ones I sent! So e-mail should be more discoverable than mine. Thus, depending upon the content type (uh oh, did I just use a SharePoint term here, or is this a business term, or both?) and the necessary metadata fields in that content type, different rules may apply to any content.

Consider one more thing: how do you collect such information in the first place? The funny thing is that organizations are producing, and perhaps even collecting, some of this information already. Don't project managers create project plans? Don't people e-mail each other anyway, and don't IT administrators run backups on your exchange server? So, do we ask people to update yet another system just to capture this information? Good luck implementing that! The reality is that people are not going to do any extra work than they already do. So you must capture all this information without changing people's workflows.

Thus, a good enterprise content management system is pervasive, not invasive.


A good enterprise content management system is pervasive, not invasive.

Pervasive means that this information should be captured, stored, and maintained as part of the usual work processes people already follow! Thus, if you use SharePoint as your enterprise blogging engine, or if you have SharePoint workflows enforcing document routing, then by virtue of using the tools that people use to perform their daily tasks, you are able to apply enterprise content management principles to it readily.


Enterprise content management (ECM) refers to the technologies, strategies, methods, and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to an organization and its processes.

A similar but often confused term is web content management (WCM). This technology addresses the content creation, review, approval, and publishing processes of web-based content. Key features include creation and authoring of tools or integrations, input and presentation template design and management, content re-use management, and dynamic publishing capabilities. In that sense, WCM is a subset of ECM. And when you have the same platform (hopefully SharePoint 2010) doing both WCM and ECM, your headache is greatly reduced.

But then what is document management? Document management (DM) technology helps organizations better manage the creation, revision, approval, and consumption of electronic documents. It provides key features such as library services, document profiling, searching, check-in, check-out, version control, revision history, and document security.

But doesn't that make DM pretty much the same as ECM? DM is similar to ECM, but not the same! Both DM and ECM facilitate information lifecycle management, encourage collaboration, and help manage information. But similarities aside, there are some key differences between ECM and DM:

  • ECM can manage more than just documents, including videos and even hard copies. Thus ECM's scope is much wider than that of DM.

  • ECM brings a larger science of records management and formal records management. DM is purely the management of the documents, with or without any records management.

1.1. What is Records Management?

Records management, or RM is the practice of maintaining the records of an organization from the time they are created up to their eventual disposal. Duties may include classifying, storing, securing, and destroying (or in some cases, archiving) records.

This brings up a whole bunch of interesting associated concepts. The classification of the information largely depends on the associated metadata collected. The associated metadata in SharePoint terms is the structure of your content types.

The storage of these content types is preceded by another relevant concept, referred to as the file plan. The file plan is a hierarchical structure that allows the management of various content types organized throughout the tree. One item can appear at multiple locations within the file plan. But rules can be specified on each one of these nodes within the file plan. These rules are also referred to as retention policies and disposition workflows.

Retention policies refer to rules that define how content moves from one bucket to another. For instance, when I get a bill in the mail, after I am done cursing, I place it on my table until I have paid it. Once I pay it, I put it in the drawer. When I am sure that the payment has gone through, I move it from the drawer to a little brown box. Finally, at the end of the year I move that brown box into the garage. A few years later, I burn that brown box along with all the memories of the bill I paid. Burning that brown box is the equivalent of disposition, and all the rules I associated in moving the content from one store to another are retention policies. Organizations find these policies very important, because in moving the content from one box to another, they are reducing their storage costs by a huge amount, while making the content less discoverable. Thus as content is moved to cheaper storage or is destroyed, organizations can save huge sums of money. And you know organizations love to do that, but they need to manage what gets destroyed and when.

Finally, there are various other relevant concepts, such as physical records management, which refer to the science of managing non-electronic assets by using electronic systems. Unique document IDs which give every document in an organization a configurable and meaningful document ID. Tiered storage models reduce costs of storage within the organization by successively moving content from one store to another. By default, SharePoint will store every uploaded document in SQL Server. When was the last time you saw a content database that was petabytes in size? And what was the cost of running it? I can assure you that the fans on that petabyte server will keep Washington D.C. warm without all the politicians' hot air.

All these concepts, were supported by SharePoint 2007, but are vastly improved in SharePoint 2010.

In SharePoint 2010, every feature you see in the records center and document center can be broken up and used individually as features in any site you want. As a result, there is this whole new concept of in-place records management, in which users or automated processes can mark records right where they use and produce them.

2. Document IDs

Organizations need to identify documents uniquely. Scalability and performance may be reasons why you would want to separate out your logical topology of SharePoint installation into various site collections and maybe even multiple web sites. There can be other reasons however, such as security, navigation, or simply the process of moving a document between various audiences. As a document moves through all these various site collections, how do you give it a unique ID that ensures the document is always guaranteed to be found?

List items in SharePoint have an ID column, which is an integer that would constantly increase. It is unique across a document library, but not unique across an organization. Also, using the document ID only, it is difficult to tell the document ID to be anything else, except an integer. In reality, organizations have their own schemes for numbering documents, and especially when you have documents spread across many sites and site collections, you want the document IDs to be more meaningful and unique as they move across the system. Also, you want these document IDs to be more permanent and binding if they are to be useful.

A document ID in SharePoint 2010 is a pluggable identifier for a document or a document set (described later). It also provides a static URL or a permalink that opens the document or document set associated with the ID, regardless of the location of the document.

Thus, you can reference documents as permalinks—links that don't change or break as the location of the document changes. And also, the format and generation logic of the generated document IDs is customizable. Let's see how this actually works! In order to use document IDs, you have to first activate the Document ID Service under site collection features as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Activating the Document ID Service

Activating the previous feature will schedule a timer job that will configure the feature. After the Document ID Service feature is configured, add a document in a document library in the site collection. As you will see, the document now gets a unique document ID (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Document IDs created for you

Note the URL for the document ID. It looks like as shown in Figure 1: http://sp2010/_layouts/DocIdRedir.aspx?ID=ZKUNP6SFESZK-1-2

This URL has no bearing on the document's location; it relies on the document redirection service to remember where that document is. And because the ID never changes, you can always count on that permalink to work.

Also, with the document ID service now activated, visit the document ID settings area, which can be accessed under the Site Collection Administration area under Site Settings. The specific URL for document ID settings is at http://sp2010/_Layouts/DocIdSettings.aspx. This page will allow you to specify custom prefixes to your document IDs, and thus ensure that the documents in different site collections do not get conflicting document IDs.

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