Microsoft’s SharePoint has made securely storing files for easy access and sharing from any device for business simple—but used wrongly, it could create more problems than it prevents.
All businesses must follow a logical process that keeps a workflow steady, eliminating the irrelevant and out of date as they strive for efficiency. However, with many users now discovering the utility of the cloud—particularly with Microsoft’s Office 365 and its SharePoint technology, users may find content management unaligned to the business process, reducing efficiency.
For example: an ongoing project requiring collaboration will inevitably give rise to a multitude of documents. As the project moves on, some documents will be superseded by others, simply fall by the wayside as their relevance lessens until their abandonment.
Leaving this content accessible doesn’t just add to process bloat—it also slows it down, costing money and increasing the time spent finding relevant content. The document lifecycle is not being completed, often leaving a document in storage long after it has ceased to be useful to the project or team. It is vitally important that documentation is managed carefully in order to maintain an alignment to a productive business process.
Furthermore, as collaboration within the business process develops, there will be data and content that requires control. This sensitive and often confidential material can be managed through Office 365’s compliance tools which can define compliance form specific document types based upon the drivers of the business process. For example, compliance in a R&D process can ensure that documents associated with a project number never leave the building, or become unreadable if emailed outside the building.
Outside of confidential documents, it is vital to manage content for easy access. Layers upon layers of folders may seem organized at first—but the reality is that when seeking a specific document nested deeply into a Russian Doll of folders, business process is massively slowed down as a user struggles to accurately locate a file that is in a file structure defined by others.
This clogging of technologies such as SharePoint makes the tool virtually unusable—especially if a document cannot be easily searched due to overly complex naming conventions.
Where does the responsibility for managing this content ultimately lie? This aspect of the cloud suggests that users of a particular content library themselves should take responsibility. However, an IT department focused on content rather than technology can set up a content management system that guides users. Such a system not only needs its own content management framework, but also needs to meet the needs of the processes and vision that exists within every business.
Such concerns may seem fussy, but can have significant implications in real life company processes. Business process exists in every business, even if they do not realize it. A successful business has a way of doing things that has been developed over a number of years but changing as the business grows and develops.
IT department only focus on the business needs of current projects and rarely view of the constantly changing landscape of the end-to-end process that make the business a success.
This has to change if they are going to progress to managing compliance, and taking responsibility for the content of the business. Their change is ignoring the delivery mechanism of the technology and look within the tools they offer and ensure the content is being respected and managed through its lifecycle.
To close, let’s consider two business processes: one from a logistics department that affects the process of meeting customer demand and one from HR that affects the way the business is view by potential employees.
In logistics, it is crucial to understand a whole process that starts from the end of the production line and completed when the customer signs for delivery. You could argue that it starts with raw materials being delivered to the production process. In either case, for an Enterprise Content Management system to be supportive of the process, it needs to focus on the content, the information that identities “material needs collecting”, “the time to collect”, and “the capacity of the object”.
In reality, the business stores spreadsheets and scanned documents in folders that Logistics then opens and reads to build a picture of the process. If the focus for managing this content is the business process, then at any part of the process the relevant content would be at-hand, when in current reality, it is stuck in a folder that is named by the individual and not the process.
Dependency for success is focus on the individual and not the process. Take away the individual and maybe the process will become inefficient because of this dependency.
A smaller sub-process in HR for staff recruitment may offer all interview candidate feedback on their interview in order to perform better at their next—if the Human Resources department is unable to locate the notes from the interview, then they fail in their objective to improve their services with a well-managed content system, the process would be smooth with such documents labelled and tagged with relevant data to allow the HR department to find then based on say “Interviewers name”, “date of Interview” or “location”.
In either case as much as a whole half day may be lost to a trivial task of finding relevant content with no benefit to a business and its overall productivity.
Content management is a process that is linked closely to a smooth business process—and by extension, a business’ success in the marketplace. IT departments that consider their roles as finding the right technology instead of focusing on managing enterprise content will ultimately lead to increasing irrelevancy—and all the dangers that presents to its future survival.
About the Author
Steve Dalby manages content for important people. The user! SharePoint and Office 365 are the tools of his trade. Steve has produced business relevant governance strategies and business change programs to allow the end user to focus on the content and IT department to focus on the delivery of an Enterprise Content Management service both in and out of the cloud. If you want to hear about his successes, email for more details. SteveDalby@sei-is.be