Does Your SharePoint Install Need a Lost and Found?

Does Your SharePoint Install Need a Lost and Found?

By Brian Prigge

With the frenzies of holiday shopping and subsequent returning of gifts winding down, I decided it was safe to venture out to the local electronics store this weekend. 

I received a gift card and it was burning a hole in my pocket. 

So, Saturday morning I began looking for the gift card.  I remembered putting it in a completely logical and safe place. 

The only problem: I was unable to recall where that safe place was.  I searched for thirty minutes for the gift card before finding it tucked in a gift box with a shirt I had also received. 

Given they were both gifts, it was a logical decision to put them together at the time, but that was no longer the most relevant attribute. 

Like a true SharePoint nerd, I began thinking about the implications of putting things in a “safe” place in SharePoint.  Below are a few pointers to make sure that your content is accessible, organized and searchable, which, together, make it ultimately more actionable.

Access:   The most important principle to remember when storing information is accessibility.  To act on information, you must have the information.  If SharePoint is not available outside of the office, your remote and mobile workforces will not be able to access the information. 

This can be a serious problem when trying to drive user adoption.  Security, however, is still a concern.  Many vendors offer mobility solutions for SharePoint that include secure access, encrypted local storage, and geo-fencing. 

No matter how you expose it, if you have a workforce that is beyond your four walls, SharePoint must be as well.

Once users have access to the information, they need to be able to quickly find what they need.  Organization and Searchability are two more keys to solving this challenge.

Organization:  The main purpose of your information architecture is to guide how you organize your content.  A key goal of your architecture should be to align your content with your business strategy and your users’ expectations. 

But this is typically easier said than done, and in fact, there really is no single correct information architecture. 

For example, organizing your content by project may be a great fit for your company, while organizing content based the departmental structure may be best for another company. 

For others, perhaps organizing it by geography will make the most sense.  

It’s clear that there are many factors and many options, and the reality is that you’ll never be able to truly satisfy all parties. Create the most effective information architecture that you can, but realize that it’s only going to carry you so far.  The absolute key to a creating robust, highly-functional content system is covered in the next section.

Searchability: While access is critical, and organization is important, searchability takes center stage as the paramount attribute for your content system.  Search has become ingrained as a typical first step in information consumption throughout our lives, and it’s critical that your SharePoint installation enables this, or you risk alienating users.   

Whether they forgot where they saved something, or they are looking for new content, or simply don’t have time to navigate, search should bring your users to the content they need.  By taking steps to ensure that enough relevant metadata is attached to all of your content (including video) in SharePoint, you’ll be on your way to meeting this requirement. 

When planning for search, make sure that logical identifiers are attached to the content.  People will likely remember that a document was regarding the travel policy.  People will likely remember roughly when a press release occurred.  Those pieces of metadata should be included on the item. 

The majority of the users will not remember that a document was written with Times New Roman font instead of Calibri.  Identifiers to that extent are likely overkill.  Too much metadata will reduce end user compliance with metadata entry and cause greater irrelevance in your search results. 

Being able to act on content in a productive, timely manner is key to the evolving enterprise.

Accessing and finding your content are the first steps in the process.  The tips listed here are just a few of the many for maintaining the viability of your SharePoint environment.  If you have others, tweet me, @brprigge, with #FindItInSP.

Brian Prigge is a SharePoint Architect with RAMP, where he leads the implementation of RAMP's suite of video hosting, search and discovery solutions into custom SharePoint integrations.  He has been working with SharePoint for over five years and has a deep knowledge of both the solutions model and the app model for custom SharePoint development. He specializes in designing and developing custom solutions to complex business problems.

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