Earlier this week, we had a meeting about Governance. Now this is usually a painfully boring subject, but this meeting was very productive. We had it at the right time, while we are still in the design phase. Everyone involved with the project was able to attend the meeting, and we had a representative from Legal to give us those all-encouraging nods and to ask the questions nobody else wanted to touch. We had some fun at my expense, when I inadvertently said “we don’t need a better process, we need better people” – sometimes I should just think these things. In the end, we arrived at a good understanding of what we have to do, what I meant to say, and a short list of tasks.
One of the things the group asked for was a list of five things they shouldn’t do. In other words, the Top-5 behaviors we are trying to change. We discussed some of these during the meeting, but as soon as the question was asked, I thought “oh, that’s my blog entry for Saturday.” Here’s my list; your mileage may vary.
Email documents for review – When documents are being managed and stored on SharePoint (or any other ECM platform), keep them out of email. There are several reasons for having a third-rail (don’t touch that) policy here, but these are the biggies:
- Fragmentation – as soon as you send a document for review, instead of sending a link, you are compromising the collaborative process. Conversation becomes binary, and even if you make the suggested changes, they are now attributed to the wrong person.
- Discovery – Who deletes email? If your policy says “all our stuff is in SharePoint” and the discovery operation reveals copies elsewhere, the discovery process is certain to expand.
- Reference – A year from now, the person you sent that email to is more likely to search their inbox than they are to remember to go to the library for the current copy of that document.
Email documents to yourself – We are all guilty of this. It seems like such a convenient way to avoid having to open a VPN connection and wait for documents to load over the net. When you consider that you have to log into your personal email and download the document from there, you must realize that there is virtually no time savings. Logic rarely prevails in these meetings so I relied on fear. Send that document to your personal email, download it to your own device and get ready to turn those devices in if there is a discovery operation.
Version comments = “minor changes” – This is a pet peeve of mine, since I orchestrate the production of a few version-controlled documents that are built via a collaborative effort. Version comments should guide us to the version that we want to open in the event that we have to start digging. There is nothing worse than looking at five drafts, where all of the version comments are meaningless. When you think of the reasons that you want to open an earlier draft: “this was better when it said…” “I liked it better before we reorganized it”, etc. you will be led to make appropriate comments. It doesn’t have to be an essay, but it should be more than filler.
Skip the metadata – Nobody wants to have a library where every metadata field is required, but when metadata is optional, it shouldn’t be avoided. Even if the metadata is required, I’ve seen people avoid the process by putting the document into Shared Documents or some common library with the thought “I’ll move it later when I have more time.” Metadata is there for a reason. If the reason isn’t a good one, if the metadata is unnecessary, redundant or ambiguous, talk to the people who designed the site. If the metadata is important and useful, take the time to fill it out.
Reuse old documents instead templates – I didn’t put this list in order of importance, but this could easily be the most important. I was aided in our discussion of this topic by the fact that the victim portrayed in an earlier blog entry was in the room. I told the story of how he was dragged into a confrontation over a report he had nothing to do with. He had written a good report on a similar subject, and someone decided to use it and simply change the names, dates and facts. There are so many reasons to start with a template and simply copy in old useful content, but clearly establishing the fundamental metadata elements as well as the current approved look and feel rank near the top.
This isn’t a rant. The fact that they asked for this guidance is encouraging, and underscores the sense that we are all Information Professionals.