4-page Case Study
Posted: 5/12/2010
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Towers Watson Professional Services Company Enhances Records Management with New Software

Each and every day, Towers Watson is entrusted with confidential client documents that must be stored in a secure, easily accessible way. To enhance the usability of its RecordsExcellence records management solution, Towers Watson is migrating the application to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. Taking advantage of the software’s records management and search improvements, Towers Watson hopes to better meet its associates’ needs while enforcing companywide records management standards. More flexibility boosts user adoption, which in turn should increase the number of documents tagged for retention and the level of protection and service that Towers Watson can offer its clients. Maintaining RecordsExcellence will also be easier and less expensive, with fewer customizations and third-party components.

New York–based Towers Watson is a global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk, and financial management. Launched in January 2010 by the merger of Towers Perrin and Watson Wyatt, Towers Watson offers employee benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management solutions through 14,000 associates around the world.

Because Towers Watson handles many financial, legal, and personnel documents for clients, the company needs to store them in a way that is secure, auditable, and provides easy access. Watson Wyatt had used Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to develop an enterprise content management and records management system called RecordsExcellence, which was intended to foster standardization in the way that associates used, tracked, stored, and disposed of documents and records.

However, even before the merger, Watson Wyatt associates in different parts of the world and different areas of the business wanted more flexibility in how documents were tagged for filing in RecordsExcellence. “Business users wanted search rules and terms that made sense to them, rather than using tags that made sense to the records management staff,” says Doug Taylor, Global Director of Enterprise Risk Management at Towers Watson.
Also, the RecordsExcellence development team wanted to reduce the amount of customization in the application. “Our original goal was to have an 80 percent out-of-box solution with only 20 percent customization,” says Faheem Larik, Senior Technical Analyst at Towers Watson. “But by 2008, roughly 40 percent of RecordsExcellence consisted of customized code, and this presented an ongoing maintenance burden.”

In early 2009, a Watson Wyatt team used Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to conduct a proof of concept for “in-place” records management with litigation holds, eDiscovery, and retention policies features. While this exercise proved that Office SharePoint Server could deliver these requirements, it required several customizations and significant ongoing maintenance costs.

* With SharePoint Server 2010, we’ve achieved a consistent records management infrastructure while giving business units the flexible taxonomies that they desire. *

Faheem Larik
Senior Technical Analyst, Towers Watson

In mid-2009, Watson Wyatt learned from its local Microsoft representative about the upcoming release of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, the successor to Office SharePoint Server 2007. SharePoint Server 2010 includes richer built-in records management and improved search features, among other improvements, which Watson Wyatt could use to simplify use while reducing customization.

Usability Enhancements
Excited about the new features of SharePoint Server 2010, Watson Wyatt engaged Microsoft Services to create a proof of concept of RecordsExcellence running on SharePoint Server 2010. After positive results, the firm began plans to migrate RecordsExcellence to the new software.

Towers Watson (the merger between Watson Wyatt and Towers Perrin was completed in January 2010) began taking advantage of the improved linkage between SharePoint Server 2010 and the 2007 Microsoft Office system. The company has incorporated a pilot version of RecordsExcellence into the Office Ribbon, so users can access the application from within any Microsoft Office 2007 program with a single mouse-click to store a completed document. Conversely, users can also search for and open documents from within SharePoint Server 2010 without having the client software physically installed on the desktop PC.

With SharePoint Server 2010, Towers Watson can provide consultants with access to RecordsExcellence, whether they are at the office or a remote location, using their own laptops or even just a browser connection.

The new version of RecordsExcellence also gives associates more document-tagging flexibility while maintaining a centralized records structure. In SharePoint Server 2010, users can tag content with metadata that makes sense to them. “Previously, users could add keywords to RecordsExcellence, but this led to taxonomy consistency problems,” Larik says. “With enterprise keywords in SharePoint Server 2010, people can add keywords that are consistent and centralized.”

Enterprise keywords are words or phrases with which users can flexibly tag documents as part of the SharePoint Server 2010 Managed Metadata Services. Managed metadata is a hierarchical collection of centrally managed terms that users can define and use as attributes for items in SharePoint Server 2010. “Because of the flexibility of using enterprise keywords, users are presented with the list of available options to tag their content,” Larik explains. “This ensures accuracy and consistency so that search becomes much more relevant.”

In addition to benefiting from enterprise keywords, managed metadata field types enabled one North American practice group to create its own taxonomy with document categories and subcategories unique to its business. With SharePoint Server 2010, the RecordsExcellence Team was able to give this group its desired document categorization (using term store) structure without forcing the rest of the company to also adopt it.

Search functionality is also greatly enhanced in SharePoint Server 2010. Towers Watson associates can narrow their search results by client name, client code, type of document, content type, categories, subcategories, and other criteria. Also, users can quickly view documents from a browser, decreasing the time spent finding the right document.

IT Enhancements
With SharePoint Server 2010, Towers Watson has more flexibility in managing RecordsExcellence than it’s ever had before. By using a SharePoint Server Content Type Hub and publishing content types to other geo-distributed SharePoint farms, the IT staff can configure, control, and update content types within one location and publish them globally. This can help the IT staff apply changes consistently and also save time by eliminating the need to configure the same thing multiple times in various farms. In addition, with SharePoint Server 2010, records managers have a single location (Content Type Hub) to apply retention policies for content types that are published in other geo-distributed farms.

By implementing an enterprise content management and records management solution in SharePoint Server 2010, Towers Watson will gain increased document-tagging flexibility while maintaining a centralized document-taxonomy structure across the company. Enhanced search capabilities and overall ease of use have increased user interest, and expanded, built-in functionality has reduced customization work and maintenance for the IT staff. The bottom line for Towers Watson is improved protection of client documents with a world-class records management solution.

Central Control, Flexible Taxonomies
With SharePoint Server 2010, Towers Watson can now have a centralized records management system that accommodates regional business taxonomies. “With SharePoint Server 2010, we’ve achieved a consistent records management infrastructure while giving business units the flexible taxonomies that they desire,” Larik says.

* Business users wanted search rules and terms that made sense to them, rather than using tags that made sense to the records management staff. *

Doug Taylor
Global Director of Enterprise Risk Management, Towers Watson

As Towers Watson associates move from team to team and project to project, they will see the same user interface, records structure, and search functionality. “People move around a lot in Towers Watson, and senior consultants often work on 8 to 10 projects at once. A consistent approach to accessing documents increases efficiency,” Taylor says.

High User Adoption for Better Records Protection
With the improved ease of use that SharePoint Server 2010 brings, Towers Watson expects strong user adoption. The ultimate benefit of a more flexible, easier-to-use records management system is better protection for Towers Watson and its clients.

“In our business, it’s absolutely critical that we have a sound records management system so we can protect and serve our clients,” Taylor says.

Lower Management Costs
With SharePoint Server 2010, the Towers Watson IT staff expects to reduce its management workload and associated costs, as many capabilities that used to require customized code are now included out of the box in SharePoint Server 2010. “By upgrading to SharePoint Server 2010, we have created a more powerful solution that better meets the needs of the business and saves time and money in the long run,” Larik says.

Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is the business collaboration platform for the Enterprise and the Internet.

For more information about Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, go to:


For More Information
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For more information about Towers Watson services, call (212) 725-7550 or visit the Web site at:
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 14000 employees

Organization Profile

Towers Watson, with global headquarters in New York, offers solutions in the areas of employee benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management, through 14,000 associates around the world.

Business Situation

The Towers Watson records management system could not accommodate various tagging taxonomies and retention schedules, which impeded adoption and required constant customization.


Towers Watson is using Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to enhance its records management system with increased document-tagging and retention flexibility, improved search, and reduced maintenance.

  • Central control, flexible taxonomies
  • High user adoption for better records protection
  • Lower management costs

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Services
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Premier Support for Enterprise

Vertical Industries
Professional Services

United States

IT Issue
Document and Records Management


Microsoft Services