Document management provides users with an environment that includes many features for collaborative document creation. Users with coordinator or author roles can check out documents, edit the documents, and then check the documents back in. Users can route documents for approval using workflow processes, and make the approved documents available for viewing by a wider audience of readers. In addition, users can subscribe to documents and directories and receive notifications of changes in those documents and directories.
All of the document management functions are handled out-of-the-box by Microsoft® SharePoint™ Portal Server 2001 dashboard site, Microsoft Office client, and extensions to Microsoft Windows® Explorer.
How interesting is that, that way back when SharePoint 2001 was released, the idea was to simply allow document creation and approval based on specific permissions. I wonder if our business requirements have actually changed that much since then?
I personally don’t think that our requirements for document management using SharePoint are any bigger or more complicated than back in 2001. The SharePoint feature landscape is now much bigger than back then, but requirements are still the same. The key to using SharePoint comes down to the following things:
- Business Requirement understanding
- Knowing SharePoint capabilities
- Correct implementation
- Not trying to use everything just because it is there
- User adoption and training
These five things have been the same for the past 20 years or even longer when it comes to a successful collaboration solution being implemented.
SharePoint 2013 Feature Wheel
SharePoint 2016 Focus Areas
Now I do agree that the version of SharePoint we now have, including the modified version within Office 365, is much bigger, much more complicated and more powerful than the 2001 version we started with. With that in mind, what are the core capabilities for collaboration within SharePoint?
You can develop a social connection to the people you work with and stay up-to-date on the activities of those people you are following. Employees can filter discussions based on topic keywords and stay connected to each other in a more meaningful and less generic sense. Adding in components such as Yammer in the cloud will then increase the social capabilities beyond what SharePoint can do.
People can use the rich, forum-like experience in Community Sites to find and share information and ideas, find people with similar interests, and build reputation.
Teams can stay up-to-date by using announcements, which allow for short posts, status updates or anything else that needs to be broadcasted to an entire team. An additional feature in the announcement section is that the broadcaster can implement an expiration date to any post so to eliminate any confusion as to the time period it refers to.
Discussion boards are a form of communication for teams available in SharePoint. Members can discuss topics they find interesting, team building opportunities, future projects to pursue and anything else they could imagine wanting to talk about. Discussions can easily be shared, filtered and started through SharePoint, and discussion members can easily alter the view and design appearance of the boards.
To stay informed about upcoming events or meetings, SharePoint incorporates an easy to use and follow a list of upcoming events. This is similar to the task list as it is intended to limit the amount of confusion that can develop when event dates are stored throughout a number of locations. Events can be copied and linked to easily.
Tasks can be assigned to any team member and assigned a deadline and priority level. Additionally, tasks will show an up-to-date progress and status report and can be filtered by all tasks, a specific selection of tasks and those that are assigned only to you. This feature keeps all team members on target for finishing their specific assignments and keeps everyone well informed as to the progress of the team as a whole. Tasks lists have also been enhanced to include a built in gant chart for better project management. Adding in Planner and Project Server or Project Online enhances this to make a true enterprise solution for Task management.
Document IDs help you manage your documents by providing an easy way to track items regardless of their location. For example, if a legal contract gets moved from a document library on one site to a document library on another site, the contract would be easy to locate based on its Document ID. Document ID’s are automatically assigned to uploaded documents and this ID will follow the item throughout its entire life cycle. Document IDs can also be assigned to Document Sets.
A Document Set is a special kind of folder that combines unique Document Set attributes, the attributes and behavior of folders and documents, and provides a user interface (UI), metadata, and object model elements to help manage all aspects of the work product. A Document Set is also a group of related documents that you can manage as a single entity.
Meeting Workspace Sites (pre-SharePoint 2016)
Meeting Workspace feature is a web site designed to centralize all the necessary information and materials that will be used for either one or a series of meetings. Before a group’s first meeting, this site can be designed and then used to send out meeting invites with the links to the Workspace housing all necessary documents and materials. This site can also be used prior to the start of each additional meeting to publish the agenda that will be followed along with who needs to be in attendance and which of the materials will be discussed at that time. Then following the conclusion of the meeting, the final results and the next steps for the project can be published and tracked through the Meeting Workspace.
Document Workspace Sites (pre-SharePoint 2016)
Document Workspace is for document collaboration. This site effectively works in the same manner in that it allows multiple team members to view and edit documents at the same time and share their changes with each other. Changes can either be made directly on the Document Workspace site or by copying the material into a different program, editing it through there and then uploading the revision back to the Workspace. The versioning technique that also benefits this feature will be discussed in greater detail next.
Revisions are tracked on lists and libraries so that all changes to the properties of items and their files are recorded and can be easily accessed. This is helpful when a document goes through several revisions by multiple people and it takes a great amount of development before reaching a final product. The “Check in” and “Check out” feature also makes sure that two people cannot make changes to the documents at the same time, to minimize any conflict that could occur as changes are being made.
Use the co-authoring feature in SharePoint Server 2013 or SharePoint Online to enable multiple users to work on a document, at any time, without interfering with each other's changes. Co-authoring removes barriers to server-based document collaboration and helps organizations to reduce the overhead associated with traditional document sharing through attachments. This functionality requires no additional server setup and is the default state for documents stored in SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online. Co-authoring functionality is managed by using the same tools and technologies that are already used to manage SharePoint, helping to minimize the impact on administrators.
SharePoint workflows are pre-programmed mini-applications that streamline and automate a wide variety of business processes. Workflows can range from collecting signatures, feedback, or approvals for a plan or document, to tracking the current status of a routine procedure. SharePoint workflows are designed to save you time and effort, and to bring consistency and efficiency to tasks that you perform on a regular basis.
Each one of these features have a place and can be combined to create a better collaboration solution. Choosing which features comes back to the five things that will make the implementation better and more successful.
SharePoint is such a great platform for collaboration, if you are not using it, then start using it now whether you are using SharePoint On-premises or SharePoint Online.