I spent much of this past week in Dallas. My first stop was the AIIM Board meeting that I was invited to attend as an ‘on-deck’ director. My term officially begins on January 1, 2013, and all I can say is that I’m going to have to work hard to participate effectively; this is one impressive group. Immediately following the Board meeting was the AIIM Executive Leadership Council meeting which focused on Big Data. I’m not going to talk about those meetings, but I want to talk about the hotel. I stayed at the Hyatt, which is attached to Union Station where the meetings were held. In between these two buildings, as you might expect are the train tracks. Some people complained about the noise, but I love listening to trains. Even when I woke up in the middle of the night to a train whistle, I woke up with a smile.
Clearly, people don’t want the same things, and it should be just as clear that that fact applies to SharePoint. Several years ago, I created, used (blogged about) and tried to market in our company a template for a SharePoint site for complex projects. This template worked really well, on the two projects where I was involved, you know the guy who likes to listen to trains at night. Only a few others ever used it. The reason was that even though I tried to make the template generic, it had an IT spirit and most people found it to include a lot of things that they didn’t need. People come to SharePoint to do a lot of things, and we have to approach these things differently. The most popular three reasons people come to SharePoint in our shop include:
I don’t care – I would guess that perhaps half the content we have on SharePoint falls into this category; people know it needs to be saved, but they don’t really plan on actively using it. In building this type of site, we focus on how the people work, so we can make the process as painless as possible. If they receive a lot of documents via email, we need to make sure they have Harmon.ie and that they have the libraries setup. If they are going to be pulling scanned documents in, or moving documents from a file share, we need to provision the helper utilities that we have to help them do that. On these sites, we try to organize our way around metadata. By that I mean let the site/library structure direct people to the content and only add a bare minimum of metadata.
I need this to do my job – This is usually some form of transactional or near-transactional content. When we build these sites, we focus on process. By that I mean we look for ways to add workflows to handle required or complicated tasks. We also look for ways to build dashboards or analytic web parts that will give the people interested in this content some insight into the current conditions. We also are starting to focus on making sure we have a nice looking and functional mobile site so that they can do their job from wherever are and when they want to work. These are sites where a bit more metadata, and a bit more thought about process improvement can pay big dividends later. One of the critical processes to consider automating is the final disposition of content. If, for example, at the end of the process there is a document that needs to be archived, create a workflow to do that. Your users are at the point where they are otherwise done using that content and they are ready to move on – make it easy for them to do that.
I’m doing this for the children – This is an expression that we use in the New England Chapter of AIIM. As we figure out the best ways of doing things, the best caterers to use or the best venues in which to hold our events, we are documenting these facts for those who follow. The focus expands beyond content management to include knowledge transfer. These sites require a lot of thought, particularly when it comes to metadata. Where possible, we are working to use managed metadata or site columns and we try to make good use of content types. Beyond that, we work hard to suggest metadata that will enable findability and support search.
People use SharePoint for different reasons, but they all want the process to be simple. Einsteil said “make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.” It turns out that he also knew something about trains.