Back in March, I talked about 8 ways web content management has improved in SharePoint 2010. Each feature contributes in some way to a richer SharePoint experience that end users are quickly becoming fond of. One feature that I think needs a little more showcasing is the new content organizer. It’s not flashy like the new AJAX GUI or slick like the new WYSIWYG editor, but it may become one of the most useful tools at your disposal. 

The Trouble with SharePoint Governance

For me and a lot of others, SharePoint did not become a major player in content management until 2006. However, there is one area of contention amongst content managers that still can cause debate. And that is whether or not folders are appropriate in document libraries.

Just about every DMS/CMS in existence uses folders, because it is the most logical way to separate information. Users love folders. On that fact alone, I personally have held the opinion that Microsoft made a really bad move in their treatment of folders. Not only do folders lack the ability to have metadata in SharePoint 2007, but it forced users to manually key in metadata every time a document was uploaded. To me it just represented a lack of understanding of how a true document power user needed to work.

In SharePoint 2010, the development team addressed this fatal flaw by making folders more into management objects rather than just hierarchical folders. Now folders can contain metadata, so documents stored within them can automatically receive the right information.

You know Microsoft made a mistake with SharePoint 2007 since they’ve changed their best practice from “use metadata not folders” to “use folders to force metadata”.

Less Thinking, More Doing

But just because you’ve got a solid governance plan, that does not mean that you are completely negating the human element here. In general the system will always need an operator to initiate some form of action to get the desired result. Because of this, there will continually be a need for librarians and/or content managers who must monitor activity to ensure proper document classification.

Now we have a product that is geared towards empowering the end user, but we may still have a complex requirement for document placement and metadata classification.

This is where SharePoint 2010’s content organizer can really help in achieving both of the above competing goals. In its most simplistic form, the content organizer is almost like a customizable sandbox of workflows that you can further enhance very quickly within SharePoint’s user-friendly UI.

If you already trust your content managers with governance planning, then why not let them put their plans into action without even calling IT?

For more information on the improvements to Document Management in SharePoint 2010, read: How Document Management Has Evolved in SharePoint2010

How it all Works

The real brain behind this new feature is the managed metadata service (see How SharePoint 2010's Metadata Services Increase Usability) in SharePoint 2010. So going forward let’s assume that you have this running, and you’ve configured the appropriate metadata for your firm.

I won’t list each feature of the content organizer, but I’ll touch on the important ones, so you can get an idea of how to utilize this in your own firm.

  • Drop Off Library -- The drop off library is pretty self-explanatory. It functions as a ‘to be filed’ location for documents. The content organizer can be configured to force document uploads to be put in the Drop Off Library if there is a rule configured. As I’ll show you at the end of this article, I setup a simple rule that pushes documents to a specific document library based on the metadata set by the user.
  • Folder Partitioning -- This feature can be really useful if you’ve got libraries with thousands of documents. Even with SharePoint 2010’s enhanced rendering capabilities, you don’t want a folder with ten thousand documents in it. Now just let SharePoint automatically create more folders at a certain threshold.
  • Duplicate Submissions -- Here you can tell the content organizer to add a duplicate document as a new version or append a unique string at the end.
  • Supports incoming E-Mail
  • Rules -- Here is where workflow drives how content is routed. For the drop off library to truly come to life, you need to setup at least one rule. All you do is give it a name, a priority and fill in what type of content goes to what specific library or folder.

In my example, I’ve configured two document libraries, ‘East’ and ‘West’. I also created a content organizer rule called ‘East’ that will route any document tagged with the keyword ‘FL’ to go to the ‘East’ library.

Finally, I enabled the feature to redirect users to the drop off library if they try to upload directly to the ‘East’ library. I did this, because I want to make sure that I only see documents tags with ‘FL’ in the ‘East’ library.

As soon as I try to upload a new document, I see that the content organizer is enabled and will route my document accordingly.


After I choose a document to upload, I now need to fill out the metadata. I’ve tagged this document with ‘FL’, because I want to make sure that the content organizer puts it in the right place.


Once I hit submit, the rule that I enabled kicks in, and the document gets put to the right location in the ‘East’ library.


Final Thoughts

I’ve barely scratched the surface on the possibilities of the content organizer, but I hope you can see just how easy it is to configure.

I don’t want to minimize the effort that is still required to come up with a solid governance plan, but with one in place, the content organizer can be a life saver for the digital enterprise.

Read more SharePoint 2010 articles from Mike Ferrara including: 5 Cool Things in SharePoint 2010 That You May Not Know About