Saturday, May 15, 2010

New SharePoint 2010 Features Part 4 – Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise Content Management Features (Reference)

In this part of my new features of SharePoint 2010 series, I am going to focus on enterprise content management.

There are a lot of new features that have been incorporated into SharePoint 2010 that fall under Enterprise Content Management (ECM). ECM (Reference) provides the ability to manage, store, retain, support workflow and make documents accessible across the enterprise. For SharePoint 2010 this providing support for managing digital assets, documents, records and eDiscovery, enterprise metadata, and web content.

Enterprise Content Management >> Managing Digital Assets (Reference)

SharePoint 2010 now provides the ability to manage audio, video and image as content types in SharePoint libraries. Audio and Video can be made available through Media Web Part or embedded Silverlight applications. It is stated that Digital Asset Management for SharePoint is designed to support three main scenarios.

  • First scenario is for portal, team and internet publishing sites where the ability to submit new content is controlled. Typically the digital asset is used to augment the delivery of content to consumers.
  • Second scenario is community-generated audio and video sites similar to YouTube. In this case more control is typically put in place to control the size of content and more metadata is needed to assist users in locating the digital content they are looking for.
  • Third scenario is supporting learning and training sites that can host instructional videos which are professionally made and augmented with metadata and linked to other ancillary content.

Enterprise Content Management >> Managing Digital Assets Thoughts

I am very excited to see this supported by SharePoint 2010 and it really needed to support business operations. Not that long ago, I was surfing ESPN and Washington Post and one thing I really noticed was the amount content that was being presented to consumers in the form of video. ESPN is an extreme where it seems almost half of their standard print content is augmented a video broadcast of the same content. I joked to myself that can people not read anymore and they need a person to tell? While reviewing this new SharePoint feature, that sentiment went through my mind on how this can be positioned and how does it add value to a business. It struck me; cost. The cost of producing content audio/video content versus writing a detailed whitepaper is a lot cheaper. A person can easily read through a slide presentation or visually capturing actions on a screen and discussing them without having to make a major time investment. Leveraging digital assets and removing the barriers for creating and managing them will allow organizations to quickly capture information and make it accessible across the organization.

Enterprise Content Management >> Managing Documents (Reference)

With SharePoint 2010 there are many new features and capabilities that have been introduced in the realm of document management. In SharePoint 2007 there were tons of new features which significantly improved document management such as recycle bins, check in/out, major/minor versions, item level permissions, content types, document policies, workflow, document center site templates, records management, etc.

Microsoft has identifies three standard roles for users who interact with SharePoint 2010 document management features:

  • Visitor (navigates and reads)
  • Contributor (modifies content)
  • Content steward (owner of content and responsible for managing features).

Microsoft has three goals when it comes to providing features and functionality to these users:

  • Ease of Use (intuitive functionality)
  • Enterprise Readiness (ability to scale and provide rich features to the enterprise on the large)
  • Broad Participation (organizational accessibility and customizable capabilities based on users' needs).

The following is a discussion on major new/revised features of document management that you should be aware of SharePoint 2010.

  • Document Center – One of the biggest improvements to the document center is its ability to handle significantly more content than SharePoint 2007. Microsoft is stating that is can scale upwards of a million documents however it can still be easily used for some collaboration spaces managing only a dozen documents.
  • Document Sets (Reference) – There is a new type called Document Set which is used in a scenario when many artifacts are used to create a single work product. Basically we now have the ability to manage multiple documents in the same way we are used to managing a single document. For instance a white paper many have many files such as Visio, Excel, Word, images, PDFs, etc. which are all used to create the white paper. We now have the ability to manage all these documents together as a single document where we can eventually designate the white paper to be created as the master document. There are several new pages, special versioning, workflow and folders that have been introduced to support this usage scenario.
  • Content Organizer (Reference) – The new Content Organizer for SharePoint 2010 builds upon and improves the records routing framework used with the Records Center that introduced in SharePoint 2007. At a high level, it supports more general document management scenarios and is not only focused on records management. What the Content Organizer does is routes documents by analyzing associated metadata rather than just document type (i.e. content type). Content Stewards have several screens that they can use to create and manage rules and conditions for routing documents.
  • Location-Based Meta Defaults (Reference) – This is a new feature which basically will set default values into a document's metadata based on the location of where the document was created. An example would be in a Document Center there are many content types defined and many folders defined to organize content by product. Let us assume that all content types have a column called product type. When a document is added in a specific product folder, the product type column will be defaulted with the product type associated to the folder. Now the user does not have to manually set this value ensuring that there is better metadata now associated to that document.
  • Metadata Navigation and Filtering (Reference) – This again is a new feature to SharePoint 2010 which supports the ability for a user to navigate to content based metadata. Instead of digging through document folders or search, it allows you to navigate to documents based on the values in the document taxonomy. What list owner can do is identify key navigational fields on a list and the users can use the values in those fields to filter. To support this new feature a new UI has been created to support this navigation. As well there is a process within SharePoint that will create an index automatically using the designated fields. There is also a process that will select the best index when a query is run to avoid list throttling.
  • Document IDs (Reference) – This is a new feature that has a unique identifier for a document or a set of documents regardless of the location of that document. A static URL is provided and if a valid unique Document ID is provided, the unique document will be returned. It possible to modify or even create custom Document ID generator which can be based on business rules of the organization. Note that the document ID service is managed is managed at the site collection level; so you cannot be guaranteed to have a unique ID across an entire SharePoint farm unless you wrote a custom Document ID generator. Still, you access documents by site collection to the user will have to go to the correct site collection to retrieve the document from the static url.

Enterprise Content Management >> Managing Documents Thoughts

There are a lot of new features that have been introduced in regards to ECM and I believe that this will really allow SharePoint to compete even better in this market space.

I really like the new Document Sets feature because in previous versions of SharePoint we have had to create document workspace, workflows to publish, create custom content types or even custom web parts that query for all documents that are associated to each other and provide the user a consolidated view of the work product. This required a lot of custom development to implement. However now Microsoft is providing support for this scenario out of the box and I believe content within SharePoint can be better organized by users by using this simple feature. For instance it will allow you specific metadata that is required for each content type that is in the document set, associate workflows form SPD 2010, synchronize metadata values across all documents in the document set, allow users to select which types of document types they want to use in a document set, define a default set of documents that should be created when the document set is created, specify a custom page that be used to create a document set, and a custom page to view the document set. I am really really excited to see these features as it will definitely reduce custom development costs.

The Content Organizer on the surface to be a great new feature to take advantage of because routing of documents is now done outside of the context of records management. This feature was badly needed for documents in general. With this business users will now be able to create rules without having to build custom solutions that manage where documents are ultimately stored.

Location based default values for metadata is interesting because it will ensure that better metadata is now stored along with content and the user has less work. To have implemented something like within SharePoint 2007 we would have to create custom event handler s to set data and these rules would be embedded down inside of custom code rather than in the taxonomy definition in SharePoint. In the end, I see this as a value feature that people will take advantage of.

I am very very excited to see the metadata navigation tool that is now provided in SharePoint 2010. I have seen the need for this with several clients and we typically had to buy a third party product or build something custom to support this. Scanning over search results is just sometimes not want a user wants to do. Instead the user wants to navigate over different types of corporate documents logically based on metadata.

The new unique Document ID feature is critically important because we no longer have to reference a URL to a document which may change over time. Specifically documents can be moved to other areas of the SharePoint site and they can still be found by users or external systems.

Enterprise Content Management >> Managing Enterprise Metadata (Reference)

SharePoint 2007 provided us a huge leap in regards to SharePoint 2003. In SharePoint 2007 we had content types and columns that we could define on our site collections which we could use to create taxonomies for lists and documents. With SharePoint 2010 this has been added upon again. One of the main limitations of SharePoint 2007 is that content types and column types were limited to the site collection scope. However in an enterprise deployment of SharePoint multiple site collections are typically used to keep content database sites manageable for backup and recovery procedures. Know that, it is commonplace that same taxonomy information would have to be defined more than once. With Managed Metadata, a single definition is created and centrally managed so that all site collections in the farm use the same metadata.

Managed Metadata feature of SharePoint 2010 has many benefits. First it facilitates a consistent use of terms and keywords across the enterprise. This in turn ensures that data will be better managed, will be less error prone and easier to use for business logic. Second, when utilized, managed metadata will provide more relevant search results. This is because content using enterprise metadata can receive a higher relevancy ranking because the metadata is well managed. Third, since the values (referred to as terms) are centrally managed, they will be kept in sync everywhere it is used across SharePoint 2010. So if term's value needs to change from Foo to Bar, then the value Bar will be updated everywhere.

Enterprise Content Management >> Managing Enterprise Metadata Thoughts

This feature is something I am truly excited to see because creating a corporate/enterprise taxonomy in SharePoint 2007 was challenging. I really believe this is going to be an important feature that will be highly utilized by organizations. To successfully create strong taxonomy, a good governance and management structure needs to be put in place as soon as possible to ensure that the taxonomy is correctly used. With the new Managed Metadata for SharePoint 2010, we will be better enabled to enforce governance policies.

Enterprise Content Management >> Managing Records and eDiscovery (Reference and Reference)

SharePoint 2010 provides new and revised features for records management. A record is any document that is important to an organization and must be managed by some sort or process. The following are core compliance scenarios that SharePoint 2010 can be used to support:

  • Identifying and Managing Records – a records manager (lawyer, compliance officer, etc.) identifies important documents/records and associates a business process to them.
  • eDiscovery and Holds – the records manager locates and locks content that is related to litigation.
  • Auditing – the records manager needs to track who performed what actions and when to content.
  • Retention and Expiration – are polices that exist to reduce the cost of eDiscovery by ensuring that content is kept for a specific length of time and then discarded when that date has passed.

For SharePoint 2010 biggest and noticeable improvement is the incorporation of eDiscovery. One of the main reasons why organizations seek out Records Management and eDiscovery solutions is to reduce business risk. We now have the ability to initiate an eDiscovery feature can be activated on any site. Once activated, any document in the site collection can have a hold placed against it.

Enterprise Content Management >> Managing Records and eDiscovery Thoughts

The topic of records management and eDiscovery seemed to always come up with SharePoint 2007. Clients recognized that a staggering amount of information was being placed into SharePoint and there were concerns that they would be exposed to litigation if the content was not properly management. SharePoint 2007 had a records management solution which could work well in basic use cases however it did not scale well to complex process. SharePoint 2010 has addressed this issue and has expanded upon to provide new features that can properly manage content no matter where it resides within the SharePoint farm.

Enterprise Content Management >> Web Content Management (WCM) (Reference)

For SharePoint 2010, WCM features provide the ability to control and logically organize content across site collections, sties, site templates, master pages, page layouts, custom fields, web parts, libraries, etc. WCM for SharePoint provides rich tools to customize the UI, extensive integration with Office products and the ability to provision highly customized web sites.

If you are familiar with SharePoint 2007, here are some noticeable changes for SharePoint 2010 web content management that you should be aware of:

  • Content by Query Web Part (CQWP) has been enhanced to now allow filtering query results based on the query string or current page content values.
  • Content Types can now be centrally defined and re-used across site collections; which was not possible in SharePoint 2007.
  • HTML Editor enhancements that allow better cross-browser support and tighter integration with the new SharePoint ribbon.
  • Simplified HTML and CSS that improves usability and reduces end-user perceived latency.

Enterprise Content Management >> Web Content Management (WCM) Thoughts

With all of these improvements, SharePoint 2010 will compete better as a WCM solution for the internet. Previous versions of SharePoint were primarily used for intranet and extranet scenarios. However with the WCM improvements coupled with improved search and a more scalable logical architecture, SharePoint 2010 will be considered a premier internet solution for public facing internet sites. I am really excited to see SharePoint 2010 bridge that gap and allow us to start using SharePoint both inside and outside the firewall.

Workflow Enhancements (Reference)

With SharePoint 2007, workflow was introduced to assist with the management of content or creation of custom solutions within SharePoint. This has been provided with SharePoint 2010 with the following:

  • New Workflow Activities
  • Pluggable Workflow Services – allows for interaction with external resources
  • Workflow Events – Allows for initiating workflows from more events that were available in SharePoint 2007 as well as the ability to create custom events that can trigger a workflow.
  • Site Workflows – Ability to initiate workflow instances outside of the context of a list item.
  • Declarative Workflows – Allows for workflows to be reusable across multiple lists.

Workflow Enhancements Thoughts

Some of these improvements were greatly needed as workflow had challenges in SharePoint 2007. With SharePoint Designer 2010, more robust workflows that can now be authored by business users and improvements with Visual Studio 2010 with SharePoint will allow developers to more easily deploy custom workflow solutions. Deployment of custom WF workflows was a barrier with SharePoint 2007. I am also very happy to see that workflow instances no longer have to be aligned to a SharePoint list item. It will be interesting to see what the adoption will be in this specific area and how third party vendors will compete.

No comments: