When I first saw the AIIM roadmap, I was in a class that I wasn’t sure I belonged in, AIIM’s ECM Master Class. When I looked closely at this illustration, I started counting the number of things that our little shop has to deal with and I knew that even small businesses can benefit from proper ECM. The topmost entry point to the roadmap is Human Created Information, and that’s where I am going to start today. A quick look at the four lanes of the on-ramp reveals a lot about our organization:
- Office Documents – This is the single largest piece of our content pie. The content in this piece has varied over time, from typewritten documents that were filmed to Word documents to email; but it remains the leader of our content creation world.
- Forms – This is always astonishing to the cold-call salesmen and people on the show floor at AIIM Expo, but we have very few forms. We insure Nuclear Power plants, not Volvos; you don’t walk into our lobby to get a policy. What few forms we do have are related to internal accounting, and personnel, e.g. expense processing, benefits and such.
- Rich media – Depending on your definition, we have a little bit of rich media or no rich media. Like most organizations, our “documents” include more rich content today than 10 years ago, but they are still documents. We also make use of richer mediums like video conferencing, shared collaboration spaces, etc. I would argue that wikis, white boards and presentations shared around the country are rich media, but perhaps it is poor, lean, dull media transmitted though a rich pipeline. In any case, only the results are being treated as content today.
- Microfilm – Ugh, yes, we have microfilm. Most of what we have on film, is reference material; documents, tables, charts, drawings that couldn’t be carried by any other medium at the time they were needed. Occasionally, we need to recover some of this stuff, but it does not represent an ongoing flow of content.
How well does SharePoint support this side of capture? Office documents, and in this case I mean “Office 2010”, are riding with an E-Z Pass stuck to the windshield. That is, unless you consider email to be a part of Office. There still seems to be a bit of a turf war going on between the SharePoint and Exchange groups within Microsoft. Public Folders were going away in Exchange 2007, but they are still supported in Exchange 2010. In fact, it appears that in the 2010 versions, it might be easier to render views of public folders in SharePoint than move email into SharePoint. I find this troubling because we have a pressing need to integrate email with documents stored in SharePoint. We have looked at several email archiving solutions for SharePoint, and none really stand out as something we want to use. For now, we are using public folders for organizing email and collaborating around email and then moving email in bulk to SharePoint for archive purposes. I don’t like the solution, but it works.
As I mentioned before the mini-rant, the integration between Office applications and SharePoint is sweet. The applications are aware of the structure, understand check-in/check-out and support the metadata of SharePoint document libraries. The integration between Office and SharePoint that was introduced with MOSS 2007 saved SharePoint in our company. If we had to rely on the manual check-out, do your work, save and check-back-in cycle, SharePoint would have sunk under its own weight. We still have to work like that with the applications in Adobe Creative Suite, but thankfully we don’t create much content there.
Our limited need to capture microfilm has been satisfied by one of the best bits of hardware I ever found, a Scan Pro1000 microfilm scanner. I met these folks at AIIM Expo several years ago and I was blown away by the device. We can view and scan individual pages to PDF (at about 1pg/sec) or we can automatically scan entire rolls of film. We operate by a simple rule: if we scan it to PDF, we save it. Of course, we save it in SharePoint.
Even in our little world, capture presents some challenges and some bright spots. At this point of the roadmap, SharePoint hasn’t started to help us, but the fact that Office is well integrated with SharePoint makes capturing the bulk of our on-going human created information easy enough. Not as easy as the K: drive, I’m told, but easy enough. That brings us to the subject of backfilling; which, in this case study is a success story, but one that can wait to be told.