Happy New Year and welcome back.

In our last article we began to explore a series of "strategic lenses" which I use to help clients understand and articulate their SharePoint related goals. We discussed value, knowledge management and intranets. In this article we’re going to wrap up on strategic lenses with Enterprise Content Management and the "C" word -- Collaboration!

This is article number nine in the intellectual odyssey which is the Art of SharePoint Success, a four point framework for ensuring organizations generate long term, measurable returns on SharePoint investments. There are four elements to the framework:

  1. Governance
  2. Strategy
  3. Architecture
  4. Transition

Let's begin with Enterprise Content Management.

Enterprise Content Management

Many organizations approach SharePoint from an Enterprise Content Management (Enterprise CMS) perspective. A key element of enterprise content management is understanding the content lifecycle. Figure 1 illustrates the key stages in the lifecycle of unstructured content.


Figure 1: The Content Lifecycle


The Create stage of the lifecycle is very dynamic. Multiple people might be updating and editing a document, new versions might be created several times a day, there may be numerous cycles of approval and updates. Imagine a project in full flight with a team working to create the project deliverables.

Once the content or document is complete, the final versions need to be stored securely but still be easily found and available, and there may still be a requirement to make amendments or updates periodically. This is a stable and well organized environment.

Many organizations, particularly those in regulated industries such as legal and finance, may need to keep secure archive copies of documents for compliance reasons. Finally, content should be disposed of in a controlled and considered way.

SharePoint provides the platform to manage content throughout the complete lifecycle. Document libraries, search, workflows, information management policies, meta-data, content types are just some of the tools in the kit bag. But putting a document into SharePoint is not content management. It’s content storage, and if that’s all you’re doing then you may as well stick to file shares -- they are cheaper. To "do" content management you need to support the full content lifecycle and to make it effective you should plan to support the lifecycle of content within the context of specific business processes. If your content management solution is a big bucket structured around business functions or departments then miss a turn and go down the snake!

Potentially each stage of the lifecycle could be supported by a different SharePoint based solution. A Collaboration solution could provide an environment for people to create sites for live projects or group working. A set of departmental or process based portals could provide long term storage for the completed or published content. A records center could provide archiving with and information management policies and workflows to manage the disposal. Alternatively, you could create business process-specific portals with distinct areas, sites or libraries to manage content at each stage of the lifecycle within that process. Finally, of course, there is Search to glue it all together. To the user these could all be presented as different tools for different jobs but under the bonnet they are all built on SharePoint.

The "C" Word -- Collaboration

Collaboration is not something that happens as a result of installing software.

Nor is it something that you’re going to achieve overnight.

Collaboration is a human activity where people work together to achieve jointly valued results. A project team is the classic example in modern organizations. Within the context of SharePoint planning, collaboration is often used synonymously with communication, cooperation and co-ordination. In modern organizations people work together in a number of different ways.


Table 1: How people work together within organizations

These ways of working are very different in terms of their objectives, time frames, leadership, authority and membership. They have different requirements in terms of how they work together and share information, and they create value in different ways. An individual employee may be a member of many different teams, communities and networks. No one solution will meet all of their requirements and needs, but SharePoint can be used to create an integrated set of solutions.

When defining your SharePoint strategy consider which of these ways of working is most closely associated with value in your organization and identify examples. Project teams are often the easiest to tackle because they are very visible, their results are obvious and they are associated with a clearly defined process, so it comes as no surprise that one of the most common uses of SharePoint is to facilitate team collaboration. Creating SharePoint sites for departments can facilitate corporate communications and information sharing, community sites are often associated with the identification and sharing of best practices, and networks can play an important role in problem solving and innovation.

Finally, it’s often said that modern management is the nemesis of collaboration. Think about how your organization is structured and how your people are incentivised. Many organizations are structured around business units and incentives and financial rewards are associated with the business unit level profit and loss account. At a lower level people might be incentivised against the performance of their specific projects. In these scenarios will people really embrace true collaboration with other business units or project teams? Addressing issues like this require executive level support and the involvement of HR professionals. Have you got these people on your SharePoint / Collaboration project team?

In Our Next Exciting Episode…

We will be moving to the next part of the Strategy element and I’ll be introducing you to my comprehensive guide to building a bulletproof business case for your SharePoint project. In the meantime, I am off to the gym to work off some of those mince pies…..

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