Quick, guess what the best SharePoint related thing to happen to me this week was… OK, if you guessed that it’s that my Sys Admin is testing SP2013, look at the title and guess again. The continuing evolution of SharePoint is very good news, but our main concern is the version that is running today. One of our lawyers had some serious questions regarding how we might preserve and control some company governance documents. These documents need to be maintained at specific revision points, e.g. “the 1996 edition” but they also change periodically. This discussion occurred in the hallway, as I was leaving for the day, but it wasn’t long before I was sounding like a carnival huckster; I may have even used the expression “but wait, there’s more!”
Record Libraries – A place that you can put stuff where it can’t change and can’t get deleted. I use absolutes like that when I talk to end-users because when I start adding the “well, you can delete if you…” and “…of course we can set it up so…” they shake their head and give me the staring-at the-IT-Guy look. I give the bare facts and then I wait until they ask me if there’s a way to delete, and then I slide in the rest. SharePoint is best served in small portions.
His next concern was about getting the right documents into the right places. Coming from a shared folder, he was expecting a similar challenge. I explained that you can explicitly put the documents where they belong, but added that we can wire up a custom Send To Destination option so that you can put them there without having to remember where “there” is. I also offered to show him examples of a workflow driven process where the document is marshaled into its proper location after the final production step is completed. Finally, I mentioned the option to create a PDF (either from within a workflow or by explicit action) in the Record Library. He liked that last option because while the Word documents change at a glacial pace, they do change. His next questions were about managing those changes.
Versions and Management Options – Most of our users understand that SharePoint has versioning features, but I’m not sure everybody thinks of versioning the same way. My coworker became excited when he learned that he could have a working version that is only visible to certain people. He absolutely loved the idea that he can be in charge of declaring the major and minor versions and granting the permissions to see them. I love that too, because it takes my department out of the process. It’s not that we are lazy, but we don’t need to be the gatekeepers at every stop. While speaking of gatekeepers, I pointed out the ability for him to approve content before accepting it in a library.
Management Policies – We finished our discussion with a little information about retention schedules an auditing, and how those policies can be made to apply differently to different Content Types. Of course, that led to a discussion about Content Types and what we can do with them.
It may seem strange that a small company that has had SharePoint for several years is only now having this conversation; well this isn’t the first time we have had this conversation. This is the first time we have had this conversation with this person, and that’s because this is the appropriate time. There may not be a widespread deep understanding of SharePoint’s features in our company, but there is a common understanding that SharePoint can probably be configured to handle any need. Most people can’t do the configuration work themselves, but almost all of them know enough to ask my team for help. I am very excited at having reached that point in our journey to effectively use this amazing product.