If that’s true, what about bad and ugly things? This past Thursday, I was part of a SharePoint panel at an event in Boston hosted in by both AIIM New England and ARMA Boston. The title was “SharePoint: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. One interesting part of this event was when fellow panelist Russ Edelman, CEO of Corridor Consulting started off by asking for a show of hands of people using SharePoint. I’m used to events where they don’t even ask that question, so I was surprised when less than a third of the hands went up.
We had agreed to give very short presentations, to leave room for questions. Russ demonstrated some fundamental features of records management in SharePoint. After that, Sue Gibbons, Systems Engineer at Gimmal talked about some of the best practices to keep in mind when building a records management solution in SharePoint. I added some support for those two messages with an example of some of our recent work. Then the fun started.
First up, Bob Zagami asked: “Russ doesn’t like to use SharePoint Records Center, Sue said that she uses it all the time – what do you think Dan?” I should point out that Russ prefers the context of in-place records. Sue gets concerned about the fact that in-place records mean that the sites can’t be destroyed – two very good points. I perpetuated the tie by telling Bob that we use both. We use a records center to store the permanent copy of our inspection reports. That works because we have left everything else for the engineers mess with, but we don’t want the final reports disturbed. A library where we will use in-place records is for our policies. We store a lot of documents with our policies and many should be treated as records. You might think an insurance company’s policies would be records, but we write a continuous form policy. Each year, our policies are renewed by an endorsement that is added to the policy jacket, and a PDF version is added to the PDF “jacket”. We can’t make it a record, because it has to change.
The real fun came when Steve Weismann, President of our Chapter, asked each of us for three things we thought the audience would like and three things we thought they might hate about SharePoint. I won’t try to paraphrase Russ and Sue, but I’ll give you my answer to that question:
- Managed Metadata – I can’t imagine a records manager liking anything in SharePoint more than this. OK, I guess I should point out that I’m not a records manager, but still I love this feature and I love the accuracy it lets us achieve.
- Consistency – Although Sue talked about the lack of consistency that can result in a SharePoint deployment if you don’t follow best practices, I’m talking about the consistency of experience. I like the fact that once somebody learns how to modify a list, they know how to modify every list.
- Document Sets – I actually don’t know if a records manager would like the concept of document sets, but I like the fact that a container can have metadata that applies to everything it holds, or in our case, everything it will hold. We create document sets for inspections that will be performed in the future, but most of the metadata will be waiting for those documents when they arrive.
- Email Integration – I’ll never understand how Microsoft decided to connect SharePoint and Exchange about as well as Bill Buckner connected with the ground ball in the 1986 World Series (sorry, Steve, Bob, Russ, Sue and everyone else who was in the room). All I can say is thank goodness for Harmon.ie – if it wasn’t for this totally amazing SharePoint add-on, many of our employees would have given up on SharePoint. Newsflash Microsoft, sometimes records arrive in email.
- Navigation – We have made a lot of progress toward the goal of helping people find what they need in SharePoint, but I wish it was easier. I also wish that the best ways of making SharePoint easier to navigate weren’t ones that seem to make it look less like SharePoint. In my mind, that runs counter to “Like” #2 above.
- Licensing – Actually, I won’t stop at SharePoint, I seriously think Microsoft hires people and then tells them: “…this company has great products. Your job is to make is as hard as possible for people to buy them.” The reason I focus on SharePoint, is the degree to which some add-on vendors make licensing even worse.
SharePoint – The good stuff is really good. The bad stuff can usually be made good by one of the many amazing vendors working to make SharePoint better. Licensing is ugly.