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Implementing a Best Practices Information Architecture from the Very Beginning

One of the great things about SharePoint is that it is very easy for users to store content, create content, and navigate. This can also become a challenge because from an IT and records management (RM) or information management perspective, it is important to get in front of this “challenge” as soon as possible so that a organizationally specific IM policy can be put in place before there are thousands or even hundreds of thousands of documents, records, and related content.

There is no magic answer to address this issue within all organizations because it differs among companies, their users, and the type of business or vertical the company is in, as well as the culture of the organization. There are, for example, some construction or manufacturing companies that have embraced new technology and others that have waited to see how some of the new offerings in information technology will take hold and flourish or possibly stall.

There are healthcare institutions that have focused on collaboration and document management and others that have been focused on other areas such as Electronic Medical Records (EMR) projects or other patient-specific productivity initiatives.

Some government institutions have embraced and taken records management and the institution’s retention schedule head-on, and others have waited to see what regulatory or related laws may pass before implementing this technology.

My main point here is that regardless of your current state, it’s time to address the roadmap and focus on implementing SharePoint 2013 within your organization to meet the specific short- as well as long-term goals of the organization.

Understanding Your Organization’s User Base

Understanding your organization’s user base, as well as the types of documents, content, and records they currently utilize or may want to utilize, will put you in a more educated position to implement a solid SharePoint platform.

Identifying Your SharePoint User Audience

There will obviously be several different user audience types within your implementation, but what is the best way to go about understanding how they may use SharePoint on a day-to-day basis, as well as determining the types of content and content volume they may access and create?

You can determine this by performing interviews with the specific groups, teams, or departments either via conference calls and Lync/WebEx-type virtual meetings or in person, depending on how dispersed the team members are and their availability. Another way to approach this is by sending out questionnaires to the team or the specific set of department stakeholders with core questions such as these:

  • What are the standard functions that your department/team/business unit conducts in a given day or a given week (that is, what does a “day in the life” of your users look like)?
  • What types of documents does your “area” create or have stored (that is, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, or are there any large files like CAD drawings, diagrams, media/video files, and so on)?
  • Are there specific users who own or create specific records or documents for your given “area” (that is, are there any “records managers” identified that you should be aware of)?
  • Are there any document retention schedules that exist within the organization that your “area” (department, business unit, team, and so forth) must follow or should be following in the near future?
  • Are there any current workflows or business automation processes that you should be aware of?
  • How are the documents within the given “area” stored currently (is there a network share, existing document management system, and so on)?
  • Is there a current SharePoint system or other technology implemented where frequently used documents or even published content is stored? If so, please provide additional information.
  • Would it be possible to get a “count” or possible estimate of the amount of content that currently exists (for example, 25GB and 125,000 documents)?
  • Are there any common templates that are used to create common or frequently used documents for your “area”?
  • Are there any scanning or OCR (optical character recognition) requirements within your “area”?
  • Are there any existing systems that “tie in” or integrate with your existing documents or processes that you should be aware of?

Laying Out a Plan for Document Libraries

As mentioned in the previous chapters, document libraries are collections of files in SharePoint 2013 that users share with other users within a given SharePoint site. Now that you understand the types of users as well as the documents they use, store, and work with, you will need to implement an information architecture that consists of the proper governed document libraries to meet these needs.

Some document libraries are used specifically for that area or department or such, and you may consider those “private” documents libraries that are accessible only by the team members or users of that given group.

Other document libraries are cross-functional and are accessed and used by many different users or groups within the organization. These document libraries may store “public” or frequently used content or may even be a document library that is created for a specific project the organization is conducting that many different users and groups need to access and contribute to.

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