Testing how new document versions are handled when sent to a SharePoint 2013 Records Center

Introduction
There are a number of EDRM configuration options in SharePoint 2013 including ‘In-Place’ Records Management (IP-RM) and submitting documents to Records Centers (copying, moving, or moving and leaving a link). Detailed below is how a Records Center can be used to capture each document version as a record, whilst allowing the original document to continue to be updated.

Test 1: Submitting a copy of each major version of a document to a Records Center records library
1)  Upload ‘Caboodle TC’ document to a document library configured with a ‘Project Document’ content type and Major Versioning.

2)  Send a copy of ‘Caboodle TC’ to the Records Center.

3)  Check the Records Center Content Organizer rule correctly added the item to the ‘ProjectDocs’ records library.

4)  Update the original ‘Caboodle TC’ document to create a Version 2.0. Re-send a copy to the Records Center and check the Records Center ‘ProjectDocs’ records library.

The result is SharePoint adds the new major version to the same ‘ProjectDocs’ records library, but appends a unique code to the name of the copied item. The Records Center therefore stores a record per submitted version.

Test 2: Submitting a copy of each major version of a document to a Records Center records library
1)  Upload ‘ExcelDocument’ document to a document library configured with a ‘Project Document’ content type and Major Versioning.

2)  Send a copy of ‘ExcelDocument’ to the Records Center.

3)  Check the Records Center Content Organizer rule correctly added the item to the ‘ProjectDocsLibrary’ document library.

4)  Update the original ‘ExcelDocument’ document to create a Version 2.0. Re-send a copy to the Records Center and check the Records Center ‘ProjectDocsLibrary’ document library.

The same behaviour is exhibited, i.e. SharePoint creates a new item with an appended unique code in the ‘ProjectDocsLibrary’ within the Records Center. The Records Center therefore stores a record per submitted version.

So in conclusion, it is not possible to ‘overlay’ a superseded document version in the Records Center – separate items are always created. The only way around this would be using code/custom workflows. If In-Place RM was used to declare a published and approved item as a record, there would have to be a custom workflow process that un-declares the record to allow edited updates. The workflow would then manage the re-declaration of the In-Place record after it is re-published.

If records need to be declared, the workflow and custom development approach has to be recommended. I am personally in favour of using the Major & Minor Versioning and Content Approval capabilities of a standard document library without RM. You can still apply retention schedules and audit track events. The security trimming ensures that only relevant users can update the document and view draft copies. Only published/approved documents can be visible to the majority users by browsing or through search. Using the Search Results Web Part we can ensure that users always see the latest published version, whilst document owners can continue to work on draft versions.

If RM is not used in SharePoint you lose the ability to place holds on records and you lose the extra assurance that a document cannot be edited. However, the holds could be achieved programmatically with documents. The assurances can be derived from good security and auditing. I would therefore suggest that Records Centers are only used for the longer-term archiving of important or vital records, such as information on asbestos that needs to be kept for 50 years, or financial documents that need to be kept for 6 years etc. In-place records should only be used when documents no longer need to be updated, but the original context of the storage location needs to be retained.