Enterprise Content Management in SharePoint 2010

Author by Concurrency Blog

Looking at ECM in SharePoint 2010 with Concurrency’s AIIM ECM Master, Rich Wood.

1: Microsoft's ECM Message I want to lead this post with, and/or highlight Microsoft's key message / focus for SharePoint in general and each feature set in particular, and for good reason-- these turns of phrase are more than semantics.  They're core concepts behind the software, and understanding them will be essential in understanding the detail of the solutions built upon them. For ECM, Microsoft is taking the old saw of "ECM for the Masses" and giving it much more than a basic push.  They seem really committed, and to judge by the explosion of new functionality available in the ECM space, it's not just the hot air that some commentators seem to fear.  Within that message, Microsoft sees Document Management as the core aspect of its ECM strategy.  As we know, it's a primary asset of SharePoint in its own right, but the core DM features run throughout SP.  Obviously Records Management and WCM, but also Collaboration, Social Networking, Search all depend on services that find their primary raison d'être in Document Management. Microsoft's expanded ECM feature set is grounded in the so-called "Three Tenets of ECM".  AIIM would like this, and probably wishes they'd come up with it first-- three simple concepts that are essential to successful ECM, and lo and behold, they all start with the letter 'E' (gasp!). Three Tenets of ECM:
  • Easy to Use: This is self-evident… usability is important, and never moreso than today.
  • Everyone Participates: Content management is no longer the domain of the grubby guy with ink on his hands, and for good reason-- you don't realize much value or ROI that way.
  • Enterprise-Ready: Get out of your silos, kids. True ECM sits on one stack and is pervasive throughout it, sharing features and content across site collections and even farms.
Another key message focuses around disposition.  If ECM is (as we've been saying for years) the management of unstructured content, the key is in disposing of as much of the "dead" content as you can and making sense of the rest.  Deleting as little as 20-30% of content created over a ten year period can have a significant impact on costs for backup and storage.
2: SharePoint ECM-- New and Upgraded Features  So what's new with ECM in 2010?  Here's a look at features both new and updated for Document Management. Folders:I like the approach here a lot.  Folders have value in SP 2010 when you want to apply shared Security, Metadata, or Disposition across a batch of documents.  We spent the last three years downplaying folders in favor of Views with Groups and Filters, in large part because they couldn’t have metadata assigned to them.  With this change, the Folder is officially resurgent.  Sort of.  I still wouldn’t use it to replicate a classic file-system structure.  That remains a Really Bad Idea. Records Center: Still exists, though it's perhaps not as essential to good Records Management as before thanks to in-place records management (which allows you to assign "record" status, and thereby apply "records management" features like litigation holds and disposition workflows, to any document within the platform regardless of its precise location).  There are also new options for the "send-to" feature, which previously only created a copy of the document in the Records Center.  Now, along with the copy, you can move or move and leave a link to the new location.  This is made possible through new, unique Document ID tags (which you can define as a setting).  Document Center: Also still exists, but at the SPC 2009 conference Microsoft stressed another point I always make to customers (gee, don't I feel smart today)-- there's nothing you can do in a Document Center that you can't do on any old collaboration site.  Managed Metadata Service: This is a really cool (okay, only really cool to information architect geeks like me) new tool used to define a centrally-controlled corporate taxonomy.  Features include:
  • Auto completion of choice fields (nice-- our clients ask for this a lot)
  • Nesting of terms (they ask for this too)
  • Taxonomy that evolves organically due to feedback (email) and easy updates/ adds of columns through the interface, which is a good deal friendlier now
  • Managed Metadata itself is like a column that pulls data from another source (like a Lookup list column, really) like the central taxonomy or the folksonomy (user input)
  • Term Store Management is the tool that manages the Managed Metadata Service and allows it to be shared across collections and farms.
Document Sets: These are batches of documents that can be given common metadata, zipped up in a zip file, moved around together etc.  We knew these were coming, but they still rock.  They provide a great way to manage batches of documents, which was previously unavailable in SharePoint's 2007 iterations.  Content Type Syndication: Content types are now available at the enterprise level and can be shared across site collections and even farms.  We knew about this one too, but that doesn't make it any less nifty for us info geeks.  We love to classify.  Muhuhuhuahahahaha!  Now we can enforce standards across entire portals!  Content Organizer: This feature automates the organization of content, based on the metadata that describes it.  A must-see.  Office Integration: When you go to create a new document in Office, SharePoint document content types will be included in your template options.  Damn cool.
Part 3: Records Management in SP 2010Microsoft approaches Records Management not just for documents, but for any/all files and objects within a SharePoint repository.  Their strategy is founded on these three key tenets: Integrated GovernanceMicrosoft see governance as tightly bound to collaboration experiences-- a wise approach.  Governance now can be implemented on a wider variety of SharePoint objects. Familiar and Easy to Use The right trade-off between feature richness and end-user freedom is essential.  Flexible The platform should be configurable to the organization's needs. Beneath this, it's important to understand how they approach SharePoint's Records Management Feature Set.  It includes the same four feature buckets as existed in 2007, but they have gone deeper into them (richer features) and made them pervasive across the platform with "in-place records management".  This means the services previously restricted to Records Center can now be applied to any file, anywhere in the SharePoint portal.
  • Recordization (i.e., making a document into a record and locking it down)
  • eDiscovery and Legal Holds
  • Auditing and Reporting
  • Retention and Expiration
On top of this, the use of Document Sets for batch changes/movement, the Unique Document ID to eliminate redundancy and replication, and other cool stuff has catapulted SharePoint 2010 firmly into the forefront of the enterprise content and records management conversation. Legacy vendors are already running scared—witness the profusion this past year of hardcore “document management” and/or “records management” repository vendors hastening to position their products as back-end repositories for SharePoint content.  They see the writing on the wall and will struggle to keep pace, but if you have one of these silo solutions and SharePoint 2010, you’ll be junking the silo and going all-in with SharePoint within two years.  And why not?  Paying for all those expensive legacy licenses when you already own an equally viable solution is just bad math.

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