As the nights are drawing in and a chill fills the air, the most wonderful time of year is descending upon us. It’s the season for predictions and Content Management professionals are making their lists and checking them twice.

Rather than listing my industry predictions for 2012 however, I’m going to pool my holiday wishes into one big hope for 2012. That big hope is that we truly figure out where SharePoint sits in our content management and digital engagement strategies.

There are a lot of opinions about SharePoint, both favorable and not-so-favorable, but there is no denying that it is the de facto standard for employee collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its familiarity, low cost of entry and ease of availability to IT give SharePoint an almost ubiquitous position in the enterprise. In fact, an Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) survey of over 600 enterprises found that 74% of those surveyed had installed or were currently installing the SharePoint Server for internal use.

A Digital Landfill

Its pervasiveness grew largely under the radar of IT or those responsible for an organization’s content strategy, governance, knowledge management and communications. SharePoint became the foundation for a shanty town of corporate information -- a dumping ground not unlike the old shared drives. It’s the technology element in the never-changing conversation: “Where is that file?” asks Employee One. “On the shared drive,” answers Employee Two hoping that is all the information the coworker needs. “I know that. Where exactly?” grumbles Employee One.

This digital landfill, although messy, is full of tremendously valuable information. Not only does it contain that vital cost code from finance for your expense report, but it also contains information that the organization can repurpose to engage its audience on the public websites such as technical product information and customer feedback. In the case where this content needs adjusting before it’s viewed by outside stakeholders, SharePoint is flexible in offering a place to edit collaterally.

Am I suggesting you build your next website on SharePoint? Not at all, and for reasons why I refer you to experts such as Washington Consulting’s Laurence Hart, who wrote an excellent piece weighing the pros and cons.

A Collaborative Environment

What I’m suggesting is that we give SharePoint a hug and acknowledge what it’s best for. SharePoint as an information repository is a great place to mine for good content, and it also plays a role in the stage before web content becomes web content, before it enters the formal publishing process and we are just kicking around some ideas.

From a digital marketing perspective, providing this collaborative environment can also help broaden the contribution community to include informal and occasional content authors. It enables peer review from key knowledge workers, enriching the quantity and quality of the content being created.

As we talk about visitor engagement, we strive toward delivering personalized and targeted content. For content to be targeted, we need more of it. We need more than one version of our message to adapt to the needs of the audience we’re talking to. For this, the new forms of content and the recruitment of fresh authors are important.

Of equal importance are the knowledge communities that huddle around these internal content silos, as these are often the folks that your audience wants to be talking to. As audiences become accustomed to and demand less formal content (blogs, social comments, etc.), the engineer that posts on that internal blog could have the key to unlocking the engagement of a like-minded tribe within your community.

All of this means that SharePoint has a definite place in your digital engagement strategy. True, it may be the tool to build your website on -- but liberating all of this great content and the people that contribute to it are a vital cog in the web engagement machine. It therefore becomes imperative to hook SharePoint into your web publication systems and processes.

So, perhaps these holidays – spare a hug for SharePoint.

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