Andy Hopkins is a 20 year veteran in the information management space. Andy is currently a founder and Principal Consultant at Chrysalis BTS which focuses on vision and strategy, development and deployment, and process management of Information Management solutions for their clients. Prior to Chrysalis BTS, Andy spent 9 years at Microsoft assisting their global alliance partners in developing their solution strategies around SharePoint technologies.
Here are some of Andy's thoughts re SharePoint 2010...
[Keep in mind these are Andy's opinions -- obviously well reasoned but his. I'm open to helping circulate alternative viewpoints -- the point of this column is to foster communication and discussion about the options out there. I know a large number of the recent posts have seemed a bit "Sharepoint-y" as we flesh out the content for our next e-book (on SharePoint). Just FYI, I've decided to wait until after the first of the year to publish it -- just not enough hours in the day. So in the next few weeks I'll get back to a bit more of the usual mix of content -- have columns coming up on legacy data, on indexing, and open source.]
Microsoft recently released the beta version of SharePoint 2010. From a content management perspective, their goal was to provide “ECM for the Masses." But what exactly does that mean and how does Microsoft expect to achieve it?
I spent time over the last few months test driving the beta and the technical preview versions with an eye toward “ECM for the Masses” and below are my opinions on key investments Microsoft has made in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) that will bring this quest closer to reality.
8 Ways SharePoint 2010 Moves Toward "ECM for the Masses"
1 -- Traditional ECM Capabilities
Traditional ECM vendors have generally focused on solutions for a targeted set of users within the enterprise such as information managers and records managers. Microsoft’s goal of “ECM for the Masses” is about changing the landscape of ECM to provide capability and access to the wealth of information across the enterprise as a whole. The 2007 product introduced the first set of “out of the box” Records Management features and integrated the Web Content Management capabilities that were previously in their Content Management Server product line. When you combine these features with the strength of the collaboration platform, the ease of use, and the integration with the Office client applications, Microsoft had the basis for an ECM platform that could span the enterprise and provide tools to end users that would cross the entire content lifecycle. Even still, the product had its limitations. Enter SharePoint 2010…
Recognizing that most large organizations have implemented more than one ECM product, Microsoft teamed up with other large ECM vendors (including IBM, EMC, Alfresco, OpenText, SAP, and Oracle) to define an ECM standard called Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS). The goal of CMIS is to define a standard for interaction between ECM products. This will allow the enterprise to surface and act on content in a broader way regardless of where the content actually resides. CMIS 1.0 entered OASIS public review on October 23, 2009. Microsoft announced that they will support CMIS in SharePoint 2010.
2 -- Taking the “Tax” out of Taxonomy and Metadata
Microsoft is introducing the Managed Metadata Service in SharePoint 2010. This service will provide the basis for organizing and managing the “language” that end users will use to describe and categorize their content. The service will provide the ability to synchronize the corporate managed taxonomy and the metadata model across the enterprise thus ensuring a consistent view and usage. Further, the service provides end users with the ability to add additional context by allowing them to describe the content in their own language (folksonomy) that will also be synchronized across the enterprise.
3 -- Bringing “Social” to Content
Microsoft is investing heavily in the social aspects of content management. When the corporate taxonomy, user defined folksonomy, and corporate metadata model are applied to the content, it gives the content more context and increases the relevance to the end consumers. This additional context can be surfaced in a variety of ways such as tag-clouds, enterprise search, and My Sites. When you add in user defined content ratings, content organizers, and people search, I think Microsoft is achieving the end goal of making it easy for consumers to find and act on the most relevant content in the enterprise.
4 -- Document Sets
Also introduced with SharePoint 2010 is the concept of document sets. This will allow the enterprise to define and treat multiple content items as though they were one entity. This is true for all of the standard content features including digital rights, business process, policy, retention, etc. Microsoft has finally provided the enterprise with a means of managing multipart content.
5 -- Flexible Compliance
In addition to providing enterprise scale to their records management (RM) capabilities through a corporate defined hierarchical file plan, in-place records, and location based policy, Microsoft has extended their RM capabilities directly to end users in a manner that does not impact their existing work habits. The content author and content consumer do not need to know the details of their corporate content policies in order to participate in the process. All of the RM details can be managed behind the curtain through workflows and policy. Additionally, content holds for compliance and/or litigation can now be applied across the entire SharePoint environment and include many new content constructs such as wikis, blogs, conversations, etc.
6 -- Process Transparency
Microsoft had a mantra when looking at Business Process in SharePoint 2010 of “process transparency." This means that business process is surfaced everywhere with the goal of providing simple participation. You will see that the underlying workflows are surfaced through the Office clients, browser, and even through the contextual ribbon. To put a fine point on it, Office clients are now aware of SharePoint constructs defined for the enterprise thus allowing the end user to interact and participate in business processes from within the context of the tools that they are most familiar including metadata capture, workflows, policy, document library locations, and more. Lastly, the workflows themselves are now visualized in the browser so the user can see the status of the content in the context of the entire business process.
7 -- Discovery and Action
Microsoft has invested heavily in extending the discoverability of enterprise content. Many of the topics already discussed provide building blocks that allow the end user community to discover the most relevant content within the enterprise, act upon it, and collaborate throughout its lifecycle. You will see extensions in the SharePoint platform targeted at assisting end users in this discovery such as content ratings, search navigators, and social context. For the enterprise with the most demanding search needs, Microsoft also offers FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint that extends the search platform with features such as deeper search refinement, broader language coverage, and more extensive visualizations of the results.
8 -- Ease of Use
A conservative failure rate estimate of ECM projects within large organizations is 50% and the number one reason for failure is low end user adoption (Source: Doculabs). One of Microsoft’s key pillars in developing SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 is ease of use which has direct impact on user adoption. The features outlined above are implemented to fit into the end user’s existing work habits with minimal extraneous impact and maximum productivity gains (example: integration of metadata model into Office client applications so the user doesn’t have to switch context or applications to capture metadata, initiate workflows, or publish content to SharePoint).
Microsoft has implemented a set of content management features in SharePoint 2010 that will help them drive toward the goal of ECM for the masses. The integration of client and server, the ease of use, the transparency of business processes, and adherence to the CMIS standard will enable the end users within the enterprise to participate independent of their role. The ability of any user to collaborate, develop, publish, discover, and use the content of the organization will help increase the overall user adoption and satisfaction with the underlying implementation.
You might also be interested in the following posts:
- 8 things you need to know about SharePoint governance
- 8 things SharePoint 2010 needs to be a true ECM system
- 8 things to consider when implementing SharePoint with another ECM engine
- 8 ways to use SharePoint for social computing
- 8 more things you need to know about SharePoint
- 8 reasons you should consider automatic classification and metadata tagging in SharePoint
- 8 things you should know about transactional processing in SharePoint
- 8 ways SharePoint helps in Enterprise Governance, Risk, and Compliance
- 8 things to do to make content more findable in SharePoint
- 8 things to consider when selecting an application to scan or capture into SharePoint