There are numerous knowledge management systems (KMS) out there not related to SharePoint, and even Sean Squires and Lincoln DeMaris, Microsoft Project Managers, admitted that Microsoft was not fully using SharePoint for their KMSs. Their goal was to use SharePoint 2010 offerings to build a brand new internal KMS with mainly OOTB solutions.

This session at the SharePoint Conference was based on a case study on one of several KMS at Microsoft. In a nutshell, it represents a repository of high-quality, field-ready content with case studies, white papers, marketing materials, etc., that allows Microsoft to engage with customers.

A Microsoft Case Study in KM

The initial design phase focused on content publishing and discovery. Content submissions end up in the CMIS that was built on SQL 2000. With specific taxonomies in place, the core query and custom query web parts deliver content to users via SharePoint.

This specific KMS held about 1 TB of data. The users of the system make up some 80K Microsoft employees with varied sales and marketing positions. Key Takeaways:

  • High value content is about more than documents
  • User contribution doesn’t have to compromise value or trust
  • Metadata is key: drives navigation, discovery, relation, and re-usability of content
  • Even Microsoft has difficulty getting a KMS right!

Both Sean and Lincoln stressed that developing an effective KMS is not an easy task. They first needed to map out the reasons why the current KMS was not as effective as it could have been, and then figure out what needed to be addressed in SharePoint 2010 to fix those issues.

Current Challenges

  • User experience – too many different user experiences and business processes
  • Collaboration – pages and documents are managed differently by multiple teams
  • Info Discovery – search results aren’t relevant – and difficult to refine and validate

Knowledge management on 2010 – Goals

  • Maintain content discoverability and authority
  • One sanctioned place to go find content
  • Consistent layouts and branding
  • Tight OOTB way to integrate pages and documents
  • Subject area experts have the final word
  • Empower more people to contribute
  • Just a few clicks to contribute to a topic
  • Rating, tagging and commenting is quick and integrated everywhere
  • No hang-ups over where’s “The Right Place” to put content

The SharePoint 2010 Solution

A Publishing Site

  • Pages are storefronts
  • Consistent Wiki-like experience
  • Implicit structure

A Document Center

  • High-value, managed content
  • Not a walled garden
  • Submissions come from anywhere
  • Shared Services
  • Enterprise consistency
  • Taxonomy folksonomy

Rather than hundreds of sites with competing designs and structures, the 2010 solution is literally just two sites in the same site collection. The new KMS is page-based and relies heavily on the content itself rather than the design. The hierarchical design from the old system has been replaced by linking, ratings and tagging.

Microsoft is betting heavily on social media with this release, so much of their design relies on the end users themselves to drive the usability of the KMS. Page contributors and editors need only to be trained on how to use the new wiki features, and they are nearly fully ready to begin refining the content in the system.

The Publishing Layer

Tag once, reap the benefits

  • Tags are interactive everywhere
  • Content Query can easily tie related content together automatically

Pages are storefronts

  • Page model provides consistent look and feel-focus is on content

Ease of contribution doesn’t mean sacrificing quality

  • Wiki editing and social features everywhere make it easy to jump in
  • “Slightly customized” approval workflow lets experts stay in control

The Document Center

Docs are strictly managed

  • Best, freshest content, not all content
  • Some content is locked down, some isn’t
  • Content is actively managed out

Submissions come from everywhere

  • Work happens in one-off collaborations

The idea is that the main collaborative processes happen within the publishing layer. The document center is meant to be more of a refined repository for “finished” documents that require very little further collaboration.

This ideal really hasn’t changed much from SharePoint 2007/WSS v3. But with the new social features available for SharePoint 2010, it will more than likely be much easier to achieve this level of usability.