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Book Review: Alfresco 3 Records Management 31

ecmguru writes "My first impression of the book was that the author did an excellent job in presenting records management (RM) concepts, describing how Alfresco implemented the RM features in Share, and how you could customize this features if necessary. I was somewhat excited about reading this book because I am currently working on an RM project." Read on for the rest of ecmguru's review.
Alfresco 3 Records Management
author Dick Weisinger
pages 488
publisher Packt
rating 8/10
reviewer ecmguru
ISBN 1849514364
summary Provides a good mix of records management concepts and technical details for developers
The author begins by introducing RM in layman's terms, then details how to install an RM module and describes the RM features built for 5015.2 DoD certification for Alfresco. One big thing to note – Alfresco RM module is FREE. This may not be a surprise to typical Alfresco users or developers, but having access to RM functionality without having to pay a fortune is very appealing. He then talks about the Alfresco Content Model. RM content model is generic; there is DoD content model that follows 5015.2 DoD spec. There is a good diagram on model-view-controller application process flow and affected RM files.

If you are not familiar with what a File Plan is, the author defines what a 5015.2 File Plan is: three-level folder structure that contains Series, Categories, and Folders. Each object type in the File Plan has to follow specific RM rules. Series can only contain Categories; it cannot contain Folders and Records. Categories can only contain Folders and has support for disposition schedule. Retention rules are inherited by all Folders underneath a Category. Folder may contain records and non-declared records.

The author mentions benefits of developing a formal file plan. It helps with consistency when filing & retrieving records, enables compliance, provides an audit trail, and supports predictable disposition of records. There are several means of creating a file plan: 1) follow company organizational chart, 2) develop a file plan that maps to functionality or activity of the organization, or 3) a hybrid of both. #1 is simpler to identify, but generally not recommended since records for a group or department may have different retention & disposition values. #2 allows modeling based on process, activities and transactions, and enables clustering of similar types of records. #3 is typically the best approach. Use organization structure to define series, use processes to define categories, and finally use entity or time periods to define folders.

He next talks about Disposition Schedules and how they work in an RM module. The author does a good job in describing the details without making it too dry. Disposition normally includes retention, transfer, and destruction phases. The lifecycle of a record before it gets disposed can be described in the following fashion:

- When a document is moved into a File Plan, it's still an undeclared record.
- When all mandatory fields are completed, only then can it be declared as a record.
- Declared records located in a File Plan are automatically associated with a disposition schedule, which is inherited indirectly from Category
- Once a record is declared, the content cannot be changed; only metadata can be changed.
- All changes in metadata values are audited.

There are some complexities about disposition that the author tries to explain, but if you are not a records person, the topics seem esoteric. For example, there are 5 types of disposition steps and three main disposition rules:

- 1st step must be Cutoff or Retain
- No two steps can be of the same type
- No steps can come after Destroy

Here is another rule about disposition — if disposition occurs at folder and folder contains no records or undeclared records, folder will not be Cutoff. There can only be Cutoff if and only if there is at least one record. Most of these statements seem logical, but they do not really help me understand more about disposition.

The best chapter in the book has to be Chapter 9. If you only have time to read one chapter, this is one that you need to read. The author reviews various RM concepts and then describes various scenarios and what-if situations that a record can be in. Other topics include: freeze/hold, unique record ID that Alfresco creates for each record, and the two cron jobs that the RM module uses to support RM functionality.

The author concludes with how Alfresco RM supports searching, auditing, security, and configuration settings. The author provided a list of all RM features as it maps to RM groups/roles that are pre-configured in RM module. You can disable/enable features per role using the role editing UI. This feature is not in Alfresco Share.

In summary, I really liked this book. It provides a good mix of records management concepts and technical details for developers. My only suggestion for the author is that it would have been nice if he provided a fictitious use case that could be referenced throughout the book. Other Alfresco books that I have reviewed include such samples and I feel that it can be very helpful to readers who are trying to pick up a new concept.

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Book Review: Alfresco 3 Records Management

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