Document Management Strategy for SharePoint

So, how does one explain document management strategy to an organization, a team or a group of business users? This topic can quickly take on a life of its own and will most likely mean different things to different people based on past experiences or personal knowledge of specific features in the product(s) being used at your respective business.

When speaking of document management, it is often intertwined with the likes of content management, records management and possibly a number of other disciplines, methodologies or frameworks. I was challenged recently with defining a document management strategy that related to SharePoint as some business users wanted their content in SharePoint while a few of the IT staff was unwilling to commit to such a large deposit of content in one fell swoop. Frankly, the thought of getting in the way of business user progress is the last place I want to be.

The purpose of this article is to prove that there is more than sufficient evidence to tip the scale on the value of using SharePoint for document management versus the continued use of traditional file shares. As with any effort that is worthwhile, due diligence and prudent planning are paramount.

So, how much justification is needed before IT allows your business user content within the bounds of the SharePoint environment?

Here’s a few thoughts to consider on the trek …

Start Somewhere
– we can’t assume the business users are going to have all of their requirements defined up front
– identify what is important out of the gate
– reap the quick wins
– build on what is learned from the ongoing experiences and move forward

Mix It Up
– being able to have all of their documents in a central place changes the experience and provides opportunities for learning that would never be presented in other settings (ie; shared drives)
– documents may be managed within folders if that is preferred
– documents often should NOT be presented in the context of folders
* navigating through a folder structure only to find there are no documents in the folder leads to a very distructive user experience
– provide intuitive document UI (ie; views) experiences for each audience persona
* empower the user with sorting, filtering and grouping (ie; collapse, expand) features

Move It Around
– let’s not get in the way of the user’s content, their collaboration, their experiences, their opportunities and their deliverables
– IT needs to provide the infrastructure, a bit of guidance and then get out of their way
– if we need to bring down the cost of storage by moving their content to cheaper storage, that is a bigger IT problem to solve; let’s not penalize the business users with this

Creative Find and Search
– having a large number of documents in one place provides opportunities for narrowing down the list of documents that relate to specific industry terms, keywords, phrases, locations, groups or other metadata
– if all of the documents are in one library, then filter, sort, group and search are options for finding content
– if the content is spread across the site, then a site wide keyword search would be a great option
– if your team or department uses a specific or proprietary identifier or naming standard by which each document is identified, include this special requirement within the document (ie; H&S-USA-PUB-TBT-001.0S-12-13); the name and title of the document need to be concise, readable (ie; wordy), findable and searchable

Consumable Format
– know the audience(s) who use your content
– understand their processes
– target your content to be consumable by their processes

You may need to manage your content in Word versus PDF format IF . . .
– your content is managed as a PDF
* for security, print or other reasons
– other editors of the content are licensed to use the Office products so they do not have a PDF editor
– your target audiences need to consume your content for other purposes
> copy and paste into proposals, reports, etc.
– the strategic governance of the environment requires adherence to the Word format
> provides a consistent means of managing content
> provides a two-step method of quickly editing and publishing content
– the enterprise policy requires the Word format due to Information LifeCycle Governance (ILG)

Cost is Relative
– what if the cost of storing documents on SharePoint was 10x more expensive than file shares?
– how and where can we draw the line?
– would that extra expense be worth it?
– who decides the overall benefit? IT or the Business?
– what if the hard $$$ just didn’t add up to the payback or the payback period wasn’t soon enough?
– how many intangibles does it take to justify each $1 payback?
– is it better for there to be more hard $$$ and intangibles on the IT or the Business side of the equation

Cost means Benefit
– many people know that owning a bike is much cheaper than owning a car; so, why do so many people own and drive a car to work?
– in regards to bikes, there are other factors to consider in addition to the cost of ownership … such as weather, safety, hygiene, appearance, capacity (passengers, groceries, distance, etc.)
– the insanity is that many people actually own multiple cars and bikes
– the truth is that file shares are one dimensional while SharePoint is multi-faceted; thus, there is no comparison
– to say file shares are 4x cheaper than SharePoint storage is making an assumption that one option may be simply substituted for the other; simply not true

Broader Usage
– documents added to the site may now be available to a larger audience than originally planned and a few of those users may find some valuable content that provides the answers they needed to complete their deliverables and/or win a major project or provide a key resolution to a nagging issue

Creative License
– many times developers and content owners design and write with the intent of providing a single deliverable or to accomplish a specific process or set of steps
– how many times do those original ideas get manipulated and twisted by the users to solve things that blow the minds of the original product or content owner
– we should not be surprised; we should be that much more inspired to build and write the next thing

Context is King
– content is one dimensional
– content becomes bigger than life when presented along side other content in a way that brings the larger picture in perspective and makes sense to the target audiences
– the right stuff, in the right place, to the right people, at the right time, in the right format for it to be consumed to meet their needs
– a puzzle is completed piece by piece; the steps in the process may be of value to some while the big final picture is way more important to others
– there is a big difference between content (aka; data) and context (aka; information dashboard)
– context should also reveal content ownership so the users know who to contact for more information
– the content needs to be managed closest to the content owner(s)

Content Approval
– you can provide a broader audience of users with the ability to upload content to a library but hide it behind the scenes until you approve of it being visible to the rest of the reader audience
– you can also enable major and minor versions on a library to provide ample time to produce document drafts, receive approval from all interested parties and then publish on your schedule

Workflow Actions
– there are a few workflow actions available out of the box; simply configure and your moving down the road
– other advanced workflow actions are available within the SharePoint Designer tool for your power users
– still other custom actions are available via 3rd party providers

Activity Notifications
– you can set alerts at the item/document level
– you can also set alerts at the higher list or library level
– you can set alerts to be notified of new activity, content changes and deletions
– you can also create custom views of lists or libraries and use them to alert you of content activity in the scope of that view

One Source of the Truth
– people need to know the content within their scope of reference is up to date
– a review date for each document may be configured for X number of days or years into the future; when that date arrives, a reminder may be sent to the responsible owners or group to begin the review process

Is there enough justification yet for moving the content on your file shares to SharePoint?
How many of the above features need to be in play in order for the scale to be tipped?
How many of the documents need to be utilizing the above features?
Or, is there a specific percentage requirement?

There are many facets to document management within the context of the SharePoint platform. Once the documents are available in a site, content owners and readers have many options available from production to consumption to management.

The success of any initiative requires user engagement. Users won’t care what you know until they know that you care. Care enough to involve the users in a deeper dive of awareness and understanding to achieve the desired ROI with your document management strategy.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

As always, drop me a note on how SharePoint has affected you?

This entry was posted in Document Management, Information Architecture, User Adoption. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Document Management Strategy for SharePoint

  1. Margaret Lim says:

    Thanks, Kerry! I’ll share this with my group!

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