Documentum – Leveraging an existing ECM System to Manage Records

In a post back in January, we described implementing a simple Records Management solution. Often times we have seen clients struggle with the large footprint of the Documentum Retention Policy Services (RPS), Records Manager (RM), and Physical Records Manager (PRM) products, and a limited budget to implement a records management solution. This post describes how several RM features have been implemented using minimally modified out-of-the-box ECM functionality.

Records Management Background

In any Records Management (RM) solution, the records must first be identified and organized. Afterwards, they can be reported on, put on hold, or destroyed. Determining an organization’s readiness for RM is a topic for a future blog post.

For our client we started with the existing content model and added the attributes needed for electronic and physical records.  New objects were needed for the physical documents and boxes. The object model for electronic documents was left unchanged. Typical attributes include the retention period, the location of a physical box, the date the record was received, the department that submitted the record, and who needs to approve its destruction.

File Plan

In a formal RM solution, records are organized into a file plan which resembles a folder structure. The benefit of a folder structure is that it can easily translate to records series and categories making browsing or searching for records very easy. Starting with an existing ECM system, it may be necessary to reorganize the documents to more closely resemble a file plan. Alternatively, attribute values can store record series and category information and be used to identify and organize the records.

For our client’s project we did a mixture of both for the file plan. A new folder structure was set up for physical records and the existing folder structure was used for electronic records.

For a more visual representation of these concepts, Alfresco provides several video tutorials for their records management module.

Auditing and Reporting

Auditing is a critical piece of any RM solution. Generally, ECM systems contain extensive audit capabilities that are by default only activated for a few system events such as invalid logins. Activating auditing for additional events in the system such as metadata changes, versioning, or deletion can provide data for monitoring and reporting records management activities.

Reporting on the state of records in the ECM system is also a requirement. Using an ECM system’s job capability, the reports can be run ad hoc or be scheduled. The reports are stored in the ECM system and then become records themselves in the file plan folder structure.

Reports developed for our client’s RM solution included:

  • Records by Retention Periods – This report is used by the Records Manager to review and confirm appropriate retention periods are assigned to records .
  • Records for Review by Department Owner – This report is used by record owners to review what they have under retention in order to inventory and comply with periodic review requirements.
  • Records Eligible for Disposition – This report has multiple purposes. It can be used to gain approval by record owners for destruction or transfer of records; as well as be used by the Records Manager to identify records that are coming up for disposition, currently eligible based on specific criteria, or records past their disposition period.
  • Records under Holds – The report lists all holds in the system, all the records in the system assigned to a hold and any hold details.

Functionality for Holds

When a hold is applied to a record, neither a user nor the system is able to destroy it. Since record hold functionality is not a common ECM feature, adding it required custom development and a user interface enhancement. A separate custom process reports on the holds in the ECM system and allows for bulk removal of holds. For our client, we added a new menu with options to create, apply or remove a hold. The menu is restricted to a specific user group.

Managing Retention

A file plan lists the record series and categories with their corresponding retention periods. The file plan data can be used to manually update and assign retention periods to records; or, if entered in a standard fashion a program can calculate and update retention and disposition dates on records using a scheduled process. To help automate the assignment of retention periods for our client, we wrote an enhancement to update records that matched the series and categories folder structure listed in the file plan spreadsheet document.

Record Disposition

Destroying records is a critical and yet sometimes scary part of the records management picture. How records are destroyed can vary by company and industry.

For example, is all record data destroyed or just the content? As part of disposition are the records destroyed or transferred to another location or authority? What needs to be written in the audit trail entries? Generally, the destruction process aligns with any regulations or industry best practices that are relevant.

To remove some of the hesitancy with deleting records en masse, the disposition program we deployed for our client runs a report to check each record for its disposition eligibility based on a set of criteria. The report will list all eligible records and then the Records Manager can change the report mode to report and destroy the records.


Out-of-the-box records management products provide a full suite of functionality built to comply with multiple records management standards and legislation from around the world. While many companies do require a full featured RM product, there are other cases where such a solution can bring unnecessary cost and complexity to an effort that is already budget constrained.

To help our clients control costs and leverage existing ECM investments, we first look at their existing systems, ask the hard requirements and compliance questions, and then work together to design a less expensive and easier to use solution focusing on their specific RM requirements.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this post in the comments below.