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It’s a common story. An employee reads about how SharePoint is a great tool for document sharing and collaboration, a great place for teams to work on projects, a great tool for the company intranet. They go out, get approval for the software, get IT to install it on a server(s) and then they start moving documents and content over from file shares, from desktop folders, from old databases. Everyone starts to use it.

Oddly though, no one is happy.

What happened? The organization went from multiple disorganized content silos to one big disorganized silo that is just a mess. This happens frequently to companies that don’t plan and organize content before they migrate. Listen carefully to these four words...

Don’t upgrade your mess!

You Want Stats for That?

According to a recent AIIM report, SharePoint has a 60-70 percent adoption rate. Of these, 17 percent have more than 20 terabytes of content stored and expect that to grow 20-30 percent every year. It’s being used primarily for enterprise collaboration, but many are now starting to consider it for enterprise content management (document management, records management, case management, etc).

There are so many discussions happening right now about proper governance and information architecture for SharePoint, that you would think that organizations would know how to do things right from the start. However, according to another survey, 37 percent have SharePoint implemented, but haven’t even started their governance plan and 51.3 percent point to managing content and storage as their biggest governance challenge.

The story above is not a single organization’s story. It’s a recurring theme across verticals and horizontals. The truth is, in the rush to move to this “new” tool, time is not being taken to consider how to do it properly.

Can you Organize a Mess?

If you want your move to SharePoint to be successful, then you need to develop your Information Architecture (IA) Strategy. Two of the first steps in your IA strategy are to identify what you have and where, and how content flows across your organization. Doing this is going to help to do two very important things:

  1. Organize your content in a way that makes sense.
  2. Help you define content types, metadata and relevant tags to apply to that content as you migrate it into the SharePoint environment.

SharePoint 2010 offers several ways to organize your content as noted above.

  • Content Types: Organize your content into logical groups.
  • Metadata: Define a hierarchical set of terms and enterprise keywords that can be used with the content types in your SharePoint environment.
  • Enterprise Keywords: These are basically words or phrases (or tags) you can add to a content type in a single column.
  • Social Tags: Allow your users to add their own tags to content.

With the exception of Social Tags, these organizational tools are managed primarily by SharePoint Administrators to ensure that content is consistently defined and tagged in a way that makes it easy to find. This is good for records management and compliance rules where it’s important for everything to be in the proper place, but also for search and general overall user experience. If you’ve tagged your content consistently, it’s a lot easier to find and that makes for productive employees.

Don’t Migrate All At Once

When you are mapping your content into Content Types and defining metadata and tags, keep in mind that you don’t have to move every piece of content that you have identified. Start with migrating only the most important information, ensuring you are mapping it properly. Later on, migrate additional content if it’s required.

The key here is that you need a tool to help you manage your migration process in phases, or on an as-needed basis. This will be an ongoing process, not just to get the current content into SharePoint, it’s likely that your content is going to change over time and you will need to consider re-mapping content types and metadata/tags.

A Long Winding Road

I won’t pretend that even with the best tools, the process of identifying, organizing and migrating your content to SharePoint will be an easy one. It’s a long, winding road and you have to be prepared to stop and reconsider your strategies.

That being said, with the right migration and classification tool(s) the process should go much smoother and quicker than a completely manual process that typically would happen if you worked only with what SharePoint offers you.

I’ll say these words again: Don’t migrate your mess. SharePoint is a great platform when used properly for both enterprise collaboration and content management. Plan to organize from the start.

Title image courtesy of carl ballou (Shutterstock).

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