Better Together: Why you need Microsoft 365 and RecordPoint to reduce risk and maintain compliance

Accurate and reliable records management is an essential process for any business — but it’s often incredibly complex and inefficient if you’re using outdated systems. Until now. That’s why we want to highlight a few of the most common challenges and how you can use the combined power of Microsoft 365 and RecordPoint for the best outcome.
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Information drives everything in your business

Used correctly, information can be an organization’s key asset. Too often, though, organizations struggle to manage their information effectively, putting them at risk of regulatory penalties or a costly data breach.

One of the challenges many organizations face is that they have too much information. Modern organizations are creating more information than ever before on an ever-growing number of data sources.

This dynamic creates plenty of opportunities for poor data management practices, including:

Customer data may be kept longer than legally obligated.
Customer data may be spread across many data sources, making it difficult to comply with Freedom of Information (FOI) or Data Subject Access Requests (DSAR).
The proportion of dark data, or data the business is unaware of, may grow.
Team members may inadvertently share sensitive customer information in the name of efficiency.

The penalties for getting this wrong are severe. Governments are enacting regulations to require companies and public organizations to protect their citizens’ information. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the first such notable privacy regulation, with many countries and individual US states, like California, following suit.

Meanwhile, there is the ever-present threat of malicious actors seeking to access sensitive information to sell or hold for ransom.

How records management can help

A robust records and information management function allows organizations to overcome these challenges. This enables them to discover, manage and dispose of customer data over the whole data lifecycle, in line with regulations.

But many organizations may find themselves needing more than just a single solution, Microsoft 365, with a practical but inherently limited records management solution.

If your business struggles to efficiently manage records, remain compliant, and adequately classify or delete records on a schedule and in systems outside of Microsoft 365, you may need to implement a more robust records management system.  

The value and challenge of records management

The risks of poor records management have been understood for some time: inefficient work processes, poor decision-making, and financial penalties if sensitive information is not properly protected, stored, or destroyed.  

Companies have only recently understood that information, as one of their most valuable assets, also presents an opportunity.

When records are appropriately identified and controlled, records managers spend less of their time on menial tasks and can make better-informed decisions, and end-users can forget about records classification and focus on their core responsibilities. End-users are also more empowered when they have the right information on-hand, rather than spending time searching or worse, recreating information they can’t locate.

With a system that gives you the right level of visibility and accessibility, you’ll be able to manage documents in a compliant and transparent manner that protects both your business and your customers.  

Common challenges in records management

Data sprawl drives complexity

As we’ve discussed, companies create, share, and use more data than ever before. Many organizations access more than 100 systems and data repositories on a daily basis, including SaaS platforms.

It’s a complex challenge to assess and govern such widely dispersed information. Without centralized systems or a policy-based strategy, it’s nearly impossible for organizations to keep data organized and meet compliance needs.  

The traditional single-silo approach, where each department’s information is stored and accessible only in their own systems, is no longer sufficient. Instead, organizations must seek out solutions that make disparate information more accessible and can scale records management efforts through policy and automation.  

The explosive growth in privacy and data regulation around the world

Recently, there has been an increased focus on consumer rights, data privacy, and trust. Many records contain sensitive, personal information that governments regulate. As laws like GDPR and CCPA become commonplace, your organization needs a strategy to stay on top of compliance requirements — and out-of-the-box records management may not be enough.

These regulations apply to all data, regardless of where it is kept.

Regulators don’t care where your data lives, whether in SharePoint Online, a file share, or a SaaS application your finance team uses. They require data to be managed appropriately, and they will levy significant fines for the organizations that fail to meet this standard.

Decision-making becomes more difficult

Studies show employees can spend at least 20% of their time either looking for information or recreating it when they can’t find it. Since your team relies on data to inform strong business decisions, you must ensure it is as accurate, relevant, and complete as possible.

It’s essential that your system properly keeps track of data so you can always feel confident in the information you hold. Aside from the compliance concerns, as information grows at an exponential rate, you must be able to properly utilize it and deliver benefits in real-time.

Strengths and limitations of Microsoft 365’s records management module

Microsoft 365 is one of the most popular business platforms, used by the overwhelming majority of organizations worldwide for a wide range of functions — including records management.

Microsoft 365 includes a records management module as part of its compliance center, Microsoft Purview. This module is closely tied with SharePoint and available to all users with an E3 or E5 (mid-tier or high-tier) licence.  

While organizations with an E3 licence can retain and categorize files, functionality is limited. An E5 license unlocks new capabilities around file plan building, disposition, and records automation.  

But whether you’re using Microsoft 365 on an E3 or an E5 licence, the question is whether it is sufficient to meet your company’s complex and ever-changing records management needs, especially if you’re using platforms or apps outside the M365 ecosystem.

As one of the most fully featured document management and collaboration platforms, Microsoft 365 offers records management among its products. The most feature-rich version of this product is only available to users on the highest tier (E5) subscription.  

Microsoft 365's approach

Microsoft’s records management platform uses a hybrid approach that combines the more traditional ‘declaration’ model with automation. While it does have some limitations, it’s a solid foundation for basic records management needs for data held only in Microsoft’s product suite. You can leverage these capabilities and strengths throughout the lifecycle of your business’s content:

Easy organization with file plans

Classify your records to organize your data. Bring an existing file plan structure into Microsoft 365 or create a new one for enhanced management capabilities.  

Manual and automatic labels

Create and use labels to identify distinct types of records. You can manually apply a label or have one applied automatically based on a record’s information, keywords, or content type.  

Event-based triggers

Records must be disposed of after a certain amount of time has passed based on applicable regulations. Use this feature to manage retention periods based on trigger events, such as when an employee leaves the company, or a contract expires.  

Disposition management

Validate the disposal of files by having the appropriate party review them before deletion. Access proof of deleted records and export information about them for future reference.  

Information governance and protection

Use these features in conjunction with the records management suite. You can define and publish labels, retention policies, or security classifications to improve your internal processes' visibility and transparency.  

Microsoft 365's limitations and drawbacks

Microsoft 365’s records management platform would likely be sufficient for smaller organizations that only use products in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, such as SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams.  

But the overwhelming majority of organizations use products outside of Microsoft and need something that allows them to manage all their data, no matter where it is.

It’s unlikely there exists an organization whose records challenges are solved with Microsoft 365 alone.

Aside from this significant limitation, there are also additional shortcomings using Microsoft 365 for records management.

Generalized standards

While the platform has built-in compliance standards, they are generalized requirements that may not match your business obligations. Since Microsoft 365 is used by so many users in different regions, its standards are not localized to meet industry-related or jurisdictional standards. In addition, it doesn’t meet some recordkeeping standards such as ISO:15489 or ISO:16175.

Flat file plans

Since file plans are label-based, users cannot create hierarchical file plans or organizational systems. This single-level format offers no support for any form of inheritance, making it difficult to comply with government standards requiring a hierarchy.  

Static labels and rules

Record names, labels, and rules are “set and forget”: they are not automatically updated as a record evolves through its lifecycle. Classification, retention outcomes, or data itself may be inaccurate or become outdated quickly. Users must risk this obsolescence or set aside time to manually update and verify their records system, an inefficient and often frustrating process.  

Less robust disposition

Microsoft 365’s review and decision-capture process is not as powerful as third-party solutions. Records may sometimes be automatically deleted without formal review or approval, and the system provides minimal context to managers during the review process.  

Limited automation capabilities

While Microsoft 365 does leverage machine learning, its capabilities were not designed to eliminate manual tasks associated with records management. The system can detect document types, such as invoices, but cannot classify all records. It also needs a much larger number of records to train the machine learning program, which is not feasible for all organizations.  

Team management shortcomings

As this product is simply part of the compliance center, Microsoft 365 does not have a specific user role for record managers. That means members of the records team will need elevated admin privileges that could expose them to confidential information they usually wouldn’t have access to.  

To overcome these challenges, many companies are turning to records management solutions that can work in tandem with Microsoft 365, providing additional capabilities without additional processes or workflows.

RecordPoint is one such solution, that can support M365 as well as all your other essential business applications. Let’s take a look in detail.

An introduction to RecordPoint and how it can benefit your organization

RecordPoint is an industry-leading SaaS platform that delivers an all-in-one records management system.

It helps organizations meet their compliance obligations without burdensome processes, both for records and information managers and for the end-users in the organization.  

RecordPoint supports Microsoft 365 data and all your other line of business systems. It delivers the same powerful management capabilities for records stored through internal network file shares and external document management platforms such as Dropbox, Zendesk, Salesforce, Workday, Oracle, and many others.

RecordPoint uncovers all your data structured, semi-structured, or unstructured, from any source, even custom applications.

Users benefit from a modern, intuitive, and user-friendly records management and collaboration platform. Automation takes care of the hard work, so there’s no need for employees to manually classify or organize data, and no change management is needed. End-users can create, share, and work on content in a wide variety of formats without worrying about records management.  

If your team adopts a new tool or application, you can be confident that RecordPoint will connect to it to ensure that all your data is managed.

Additional benefits of RecordPoint

Connect to essential business systems

RecordPoint can connect to and uncover all data (structured or unstructured) from hundreds of business systems that are often stand-alone in origin and departmental in scope. Most large- and medium-sized enterprises have many business-specific applications outside the Microsoft ecosystem. RecordPoint is a single source of truth for all privacy, legal and compliance efforts, not just things that happen to be in SharePoint.  

Streamlined, highly accurate records classification powered by machine learning (ML)

RecordPoint’s automated classification engine gets smarter over time and can auto-classify content as it is created, improving your organizational system without a robust information management team. This means you’ll always feel confident that information, whether physical or digital, is accurately classified and properly protected.  

With an automated system, you can automatically apply record policies at scale as content is created. All without manual effort, specialist skills, or ongoing maintenance. By eliminating tedious records management tasks, you’ll increase classification accuracy and your employees’ efficiency.

Zero impact to end-user workflows

End-users can remain where the work happens, i.e. SharePoint, Salesforce, Teams, Workday, without being burdened with records management procedures. Your teams will be more productive, efficient, and deliver better business outcomes. There is zero change to standard workflows, so a change management program is unnecessary.

A unified approach to information management

Manage your electronic and physical records together in one platform to keep track of physical movement, organize boxes or folders of records, and much more. A unified information management approach allows organizations to apply consistent policy management.  

Sensitive data identification and management for all your data sources

Scalable identification of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Payment Card Industry (PCI) data across your entire data estate, Microsoft applications and beyond, empowering your organization to take appropriate measures to minimize or secure. Most companies collect and store petabytes of data, often including large amounts of dark data, including PII.

Metadata that encompasses your end-to-end data landscape, bringing more context to your data activities

RecordPoint allows metadata enrichment from third-party and external systems to add more context to your records. This can enhance event-based disposition, as metadata can be derived from events occurring in alternative platforms (for example, project management or HRIS systems). This additional context increases the likelihood of providing the correct data for audits, legal proceedings and data subject requests.  

Reduce costs and simplify workflows by eliminating ROT

Identify and dispose of Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial (ROT) data, and clean up your data estate. You’ll cut storage costs and enable your team to work faster, as they won’t need to wade through mountains of low-value and outdated records to find the files they need. For the average company, 28% of data is ROT.

Reports your way

Enterprise Reporting features allow for custom reporting of your whole data estate, which can be synchronized to the business intelligence tool of choice such as PowerBI, Tableau or Qlik. 

Why Microsoft 365 and RecordPoint work better together

Microsoft 365 delivers a strong range of out-of-the-box features that enable users to create, share easily, and access information. But while it includes fundamental records management features, it lacks the capabilities organizations need to comply with data regulations and standards.  

Moving away from Microsoft 365 entirely is unfeasible (and unnecessary). If your business wants to manage records more efficiently and ensure compliance, you should use RecordPoint in addition to Microsoft.  

Using Microsoft 365 as a content source and implementing RecordPoint as a records management and governance platform to extend its capabilities will provide far better results than using Microsoft 365 alone.

RecordPoint was purposely designed for Microsoft-based content AND non-Microsoft-based content. It provides centralized data management, as well as consistent functionality and user experiences for all content sources.  

The best of both platforms

  • Easily comply with all recordkeeping and data regulations, including compliance standards, local laws, and privacy and cybersecurity protocols. Mitigate risks and keep your data secure.
  • Better manage information and maintain greater control across multiple content sources. Tear down silos and manage all business-critical data in a centralized portal.
  • Manage everything from one place without duplicating or transferring information. This enables employees to discover new information trends and work more collaboratively from a holistic platform.
  • Overcome the challenges and misunderstandings that arise with inconsistent records management. Benefit from a consistent experience in managing records from any source or system, including physical records.
  • Improve accuracy and productivity — without heavy lifting. Leverage the power of machine learning and automation to simplify records management without cumbersome activities or incurring excessive costs.
  • Easily and automatically update file plans, retention schedules, and more to adjust to changing business or regulatory requirements.
  • Enhance Microsoft’s abilities to classify data better. Take advantage of pattern matching and machine learning, move beyond manual labels, and access metadata and rules from the RecordPoint system.  

RecordPoint offers deep but non-intrusive integration with each of the Microsoft 365 products. It supports all licenses so users can leverage any app or solution, including workflows, themes, and designs. Whatever your preferences, RecordPoint will never impact or restrict your usage.  

This flexibility makes it simple for your team to adopt RecordPoint and effectively deploy its elements across your organization.  

Your organization needs a records management system

Microsoft 365 is an excellent product for many purposes. But when it comes to records management, its functions are inherently limited for the majority of organizations.  

It’s time to stop struggling with comparing and managing data from disparate systems, manually classifying and naming records, and using other outdated records management processes costing your business time and money.  

Suppose you’re ready to maximize business efficiency, empower employees with a centralized system, and finally feel confident in compliance. In that case, you need to invest in a more powerful records management solution, and use Microsoft 365 as a content source.  

Only when you use these platforms together can you truly unlock the transparency, simplicity, and versatility you need.  

Interested in learning more?

Book a call with one of our experts to discuss how a Better Together approach can deliver a better outcome for your business.