By Alex Franklin
Often, when engaging in projects with customers, we hear consistent complaints against legacy systems such as:
It's a difficult and frustrating experience trying to find the information that we need
In some cases, people report spending hours searching for content that they should be able to retrieve in seconds
Staff resort to reliance on personal networks instead, having to ask someone "in the know" where to find content, who may then email them an out-dated version of content that they have kept on their desktop to prevent future frustration in finding it again
Content can be spread across multiple systems (SharePoint, file shares etc.), sometimes requiring different passwords
Inconsistent metadata terminology
Two folders, in two locations, may hold the same type of information, but may be named something completely different, or structured to a different logic, creating a confusing experience for the end user
Current folders are plagued by a plethora of “versions” appended to the end of file names, creating confusion over which document is current or correct
A common analogy I like to use with customers is "The Amazon analogy". If I'm asked by my wife to buy something, and I have no idea where I would look for such an item, I expect to be able to search on Amazon and find it within seconds. I don't expect to have to sift through a mess of un-related, duplicated products in the hope of finding what I need. I search, perhaps click a refiner or two, and find my product. Why can't I have this same experience at work when looking for a policy that I urgently need?
When implementing SharePoint, consider the following:
Single source of truth: have one file, in one location, making use of Document Versioning
Use major & minor versioning if you need to edit the file without other users seeing your work in progress.
Use SharePoint Content Types to better organise your information
Content Types allow you to group data across your organisational structure and ensure that the required metadata is captured, while also applying a consistent document template if required. For example, creating a "Contract" in SharePoint might require that users enter its start date and expiration, while creating a "Policy" will require them to enter the department relevant, the subject matter and the policy owner(s). This same content type can be applied to all areas as relevant, with a document template that can be updated in one place, which will then be immediately reflected when anyone creates a new document of this type anywhere within SharePoint.
Use taxonomies to bring a consistent tagging approach across all content
Taxonomy can be defined as "the practice and science of classification". Using SharePoint, you can create a central set of terms, in a hierarchical structure (for example, taken from Amazon: Home and Kitchen > Cooking and Dining > Coffee, Tea and Espresso > Coffee Machines > Espresso and Cappuccino Machines) which builds a structured relationship across your content, which can be easily navigated by your content creators and end users. This allows for one managed set of terms to be created which are then applied and used across any number of SharePoint repositories, and connect your information in ways that folder structures cannot achieve. Additional points to bear in mind with regards to taxonomy are:
Avoid using terms like Miscellaneous or Other as human nature for ease will take people to these terms rather than using an existing, more relevant tag
Use full and descriptive terms
Avoid abbreviations and acronyms
Use synonyms, so that one master term can be referenced using alternative terms that people may be drawn to
For example, “HR” as a synonym for “Human Resources”, or “Twister” as a synonym for “Tornado” etc.
Avoid duplicate terms in multiple taxonomies
“Presentations”, for example, is a consistent term across the organisation, so don’t recreate it in multiple departmental structures as this will break the relationship of content
Taxonomy can be a far greater undertaking than many anticipate, but the rewards are worth it. Giving an end user the experience of finding a document, presentation or article with as much ease as finding a product on Amazon never fails to impress and can be a huge benefit to end-user adoption of your new platform in answering the “what’s in it for me?” question.
Also, consider using Folksonomy
SharePoint also allows the enabling of “Enterprise Keywords” (also known as Folksonomy) on items. Folksonomy is a wider method of tagging that allows the selection of tags from all available taxonomies, as well as the ability to add your own keywords (in a similar principle to hashtags on Twitter). This can be helpful in circumstances where a rigid taxonomy may not be appropriate for the needs at hand.