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Design Information Systems with SharePoint in Mind

Any company that stores information on a computer is storing knowledge. But not all companies have an effective knowledge management system in place to manage that information. That depends on how the system was planned and how it is managed on an ongoing basis.

Whether you have a new system or an existing one that encompasses several different platforms, it's important to assess whether it is delivering all that it can for your organization. How can you do that? An (enterprise content management) ECM Reference Architecture can help you understand gaps and redundancies from a platform perspective.

Business Reference Architecture

A reference architecture is a proven template that demonstrates the elements that must be considered when building a particular element, whether it is a DLL, a house or a business.

It also provides a common vocabulary with which to discuss implementations, often with the aim to stress commonality. A reference architecture is not a methodology, framework or process. It is merely something to refer to when you’re building something new or improving that which already exists.

When building a knowledge management system, an ECM Reference Architecture may seem simple. But when worked properly, it can provide significant value to your organization.

It takes both patience and persistence to work with an ECM Reference Architecture — it is not a “once and done” activity. But working this through on a semi-annual or annual basis will help your organization ensure that your knowledge management system is delivering significant value and ROI to your organization.

Process Flow for Gap Analysis

2014-29-July-ECM Reference Architecture.jpg

This single poster provides a visual, yet simple workflow for defining and resolving your platform selections for your larger knowledge management system.

You’ll simply go through each layer and each box and make three assessments:

  1. Do we need this function in our environment
  2. If we need this function in our environment, to what degree is it important (use a Likert scale, such as one to five, with one being the lowest.)
  3. If we need this function in our environment, what platforms do we presently have that can perform this function and (again us a Likert scale here) how effective are those platforms at providing this functionality?

If it was me, I’d also be connecting each box to core processes in my organization so that I can demonstrate how those functions are utilized in my organization — you know people will ask.

Where you have redundancies, you can evaluate how useful it would be to engage in a software consolidation project. Where you have gaps, you can discuss how to either expand current platforms or purchase new software platforms to cover those gaps.

Chances are, you'll find many opportunities during gap analysis. Obviously, one must prioritize and budget capital and resources accordingly. A good practice is coupling this process with a risk analysis. What areas of the business are most at risk? Can we operate in some areas status quo until we reduce our higher risks? Legal should be part of the risk assessment.

Set aside any platform biases that might exist. Some level of abstraction of emotion will help you and your teams reach better, more comprehensive choices for your organization.

About the Author

Bill English, CEO of Mindsharp, is an industry leader, author and educator specializing in SharePoint training and user adoption. As a former psychologist, English uses his knowledge of human behavior to help companies manage change when new software platforms are implemented. English is the author of 14 books on Exchange and SharePoint products, including the Administratorís Companion for SharePoint Server 2010, published by Microsoft Press.

If you would like one or more copies of the Process Flow Gap poster for free, just contact Neil Truso at If you live outside the continental United States, you will be asked to pay shipping costs.

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