Since implementing SharePoint, our goal has remained consistently broad and seemingly unattainable. We want to use SharePoint for all the things Microsoft says it can do. Of course part of that goal is Enterprise Content Management (ECM); SharePoint was brought in to replace an in-house developed document management system. Our other major goal is to support collaboration. We figure that if people like using SharePoint for collaboration, they will learn how to use SharePoint for ECM. Not a bad plan, but there were flaws.
The first flaw was the fact that we were not ready to begin ECM in something as capable as SharePoint. Our in-house system was a very simple secure repository for clearly identified company records – the stuff nobody would argue about. We had covered the basics, but not the broad spectrum of content related issues. If ECM was a map, we were a tight view of a downtown area. SharePoint, on the other hand was a regional map of the United States. SharePoint offered many options that we had not considered, but we instantly recognized their importance. We altered the ECM rollout to focus on the simpler types of content and then went to school; literally, I went to AIIM’s ECM and ERM master classes, but more about that in a minute.
While we were learning about and planning for ECM, we turned our attention more to collaboration, this revealed the second flaw in our plan. People wanted collaborative workspaces, but they didn’t want to build them. That was acceptable, we are small enough that our tiny IT staff can build all the sites, libraries and lists necessary. The plan was still working; sooner or later SharePoint would be second nature to most people. We realized it wasn’t going to be sooner, and we realized that later was much later than we thought, but it has begun! What was once a grudging acceptance of SharePoint has slowly started turning into curiosity, influence, participation, and a few instances of downright ownership.
The remarkable thing we are realizing is that human nature is helping to avoid exposure of a third flaw in our plan. As more and more people started asking to have things built in SharePoint, and changes to the things already in SharePoint and enhancements to SharePoint, etc., we were worried that we would be overwhelmed in IT. What we are seeing instead is that, as people depend more on SharePoint, they want to know more about it. Now they are willing to learn; we have always been willing to teach, so the lines are coming together. A wonderful example happened last week.
One of my coworkers noticed that some content was missing from a site we had recently built out. I explained that we had not uploaded the content, because the customer wanted changes. Without going into the details, we needed a new Document Library with several metadata columns to support this customer’s needs. We liked the idea and wanted to build this as a model for similar sites. My coworker offered to help. We spent about an hour discussing the required changes, and I taught her how to make those changes. I gave her design privileges, and now the changes have been made, the content has been uploaded, the metadata is set and the site looks fantastic! That is just one story out of several during past few months. It appears we are beginning to see the kind of participation we have been waiting for. Fortunately, we have also been planning for it.
I’ve talked about the benefit of AIIM training before, but I’m going to mention it again today for two reasons. One, as a result of the AIIM training I took, I am ready with answers now that people are starting to ask questions. The structure I am turning over to them is sound, the procedures I’m asking them to follow, and in some cases create, are appropriate. The business processes we are wrapping in and around SharePoint are based on best practices and years of experience. The second reason I want to talk about AIIM is hanging off to the right side of this screen, AIIM Expo starts in just about two weeks! If you can afford to go to a conference and work with or rely on ECM or SharePoint, go to AIIM Expo. If you can’t afford to go to a conference, go to AIIM Expo just for the exhibits and keynotes (which are free). I started going to AIIM Expo about 10 years ago, and I started going just for the free stuff. After seeing the exhibits and hearing the keynotes, I wanted more. I’ve been attending the conference ever since. I’ve presented at AIIM Expo in the past, and I’m presenting again this year as part of the SharePoint Showcase, and I’m taking a coworker with me. Do yourself a favor, go to AIIM Expo.