10 Steps Toward a Successful SharePoint Document Management System

Setting up a powerful Document Management System with SharePoint 2013 can’t be done just like that – especially in an enterprise’s environment. That has always been the recapitulation of my (successful) sessions about Document Management with SharePoint 2013 in the past months. My slides always ended with a short list of my personal best-practices, but I have been asked several times by many attendees of my sessions if I could provide a more detailed list of my personal best-practices. That’s why I created this post with a list of ten important steps that should be followed when creating a Document Management System with SharePoint in an enterprise’s environment. Although these 10 steps are based on my extensive project experiences they should only be used as a guideline. You need to adapt them to each environment, to each project and to each customer.

1. Discover how your customer works with documents today, and understand how and why documents are handled the way they are. Are there internal regulations, workflows, or business processes with which you will need to comply? The objective of this step is to thoroughly understand your customer’s document handling needs.

2. Consider what improvements to your customer’s current document management approach might be possible and how these improvement might look. What available SharePoint features could be effectively utilized and what would the immediate benefit be for your customer? The objective of this step is to get a clear understanding on possible improvements and resultant benefits.

3. Plan a workshop with your customer and department heads. Show them how Document Management looks in SharePoint, and be mindful of their SharePoint experience. (If you are working with SharePoint novices, take time to explain SharePoint first…don’t risk swamping them with too much SharePoint stuff too quickly.) The objective of this step is to give the customer a first glance of Document Management possibilities with SharePoint.

4. Plan a workshop with department heads to evaluate their current use of metadata. Demonstrate why metadata is important for effective document management. If necessary, plan an additional workshop to build out a robust metadata structure. The objective of this workshop is to formalize a metadata strategy.

5. Plan a workshop with department heads to evaluate what different kinds of documents are used in their enterprise. Show them the benefits of Content Types. (Consider Content Type Inheritance and how it can be used for the Content Type structure.) The objective of this workshop should be a finalized Content Type structure that considers the previously built metadata structure.

6. Create a test site in SharePoint, adding metadata and content types. Set up a few Team Sites, as appropriate, and build out document libraries using different content types. Set up a Document Center and add a Content Organizer using rules based on the content types from the libraries. Add a search center and choose a short crawl period. Share this test site with the attendees of the previous workshops and let them explore its capabilities. They will need to learn the look and feel of SharePoint and how to work with documents. (You also can watch how they play around – but do this quietly. Just observe and monitor!)

7. Collect feedback from attendees and analyze it on your own time. Identify where attendees had problems or where metadata and content types are missing. Do your findings show that a reevaluation of metadata or content types is required? Are there any internal processes mentioned by the testers that you have not yet considered?

8. Confirm which business processes must be implemented but can’t be supported with out-of-the-box SharePoint features. Analyze these processes in order to get a clear understanding of what they require. Are third-party add-ons needed? At this point, it could make sense to put every existing business process up for evaluation. Are the documented processes up to date? Are they still followed by employees as initially intended? Do processes align with the way the enterprise works internally? It often happens that internal business processes will require changes or updates if they have not been recently reviewed.

9. Check the enterprise’s current intranet site structure in order to gain an understanding of where departments save their documents today. Consider that there may be public documents, department-internal documents, and restricted documents. Create a plan on how to integrate document workspaces (or team sites, or whatever you consider suitable), document centers, and record centers. Determine the best approach for your customer (e.g. one or multiple document centers / record centers).

10. Create a plan to migrate existing documents. There may be documents that need to be migrated from a library without content types to a library with at least one content type, and there may be documents that need to be moved from file shares (or network drives) into SharePoint. Remember that these documents won’t have any metadata! There is a good chance that this migration can’t be done manually, and will often require external tools to assist the process. Validate the migration process before enabling employees to migrate their documents.

If you have any questions for Oliver or know of any other steps needed for a successful SharePoint document management system we would love to hear from you. Simply leave a comment below.


Document Management System by Oliver WirkusOliver Wirkus is Senior Consultant at the IT consulting company Bridging IT GmbH in Mannheim/Germany. As a SharePoint expert and software architect he has long standing experience in conducting international projects. Customers from different industries like power suppliers, pharmaceutical and financial companies rely on his knowledge as a SharePoint expert. Oliver Wirkus has published several professional articles, is a renowned speaker at conferences and maintains the well known SharePoint blog (http://sharepointcommunity.de/blogs/owirkus).

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