It's Wednesday night down here in New Zealand, and I'm at the SharePoint User Group Meeting in Wellington (hosted by Infinity Solutions, arranged by Justin -- thanks mate!) on the topic of Enterprise Content Management capabilities in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. Mark Orange (from Intergen) presented (Ryan from Microsoft was intending to come, but couldn't at the last minute). Wellington is the center of government for New Zealand, and SharePoint is attracting some significant interest from government departments; there's 50-60 people here (no camera, sorry).
Four Main Parts of ECM from Microsoft
This is the fourth meeting of the SharePoint User Group going through the six major functions of SharePoint. In Microsoft's world, there are four major functions in enterprise content management ... records management, Web content management, document management, and forms management. There's a white paper from Microsoft on ECM ... see Breaking the Barriers to Broad User Adoption.
Key talking points:
- There's a huge explosion of content creation going on ... and a huge variety of different types and variety of information. How do we factor this into our information management strategies?
- There's legislation that requires organizations and government departments to do certain things.
- There's a broad swarth of ECM platforms that don't drive a business return because they're too hard to use. Microsoft has attempted to integrate Office applications on the front end to make it as easy as possible.
- Organizations have point solutions for Web content management, but how can we drive other things from a single platform.
- Organizations have invested time and money in records or document management, and if you are putting in a new ECM wide strategy, then it is important to be able to coexist with current things. Standard interoperability is very important to leverage existing things.
The PowerPoint Deck
In Office System 2007, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 provides fundamental collaboration services (storage, security, workflow, management and topology). Collaboration capabilities (team sites, project sites, etc.) are provided by Windows SharePoint Services, whereas Microsoft Office SharePoint Server offers portal, search, content management, business forms and business intelligence. The latter two require an Enterprise license for SharePoint.
Business Role #1 ... Manage Diverse Content: Scalable Document Management
Aims: (1) find and reuse information (a central repository, search with relevancy ratings), (2) protect sensitive information (eg, via rights management, redaction), and (3) streamlining document collaboration (with workflows, metadata management, and more).
The demo: the "list" is the underlying organizing construct. For a document library, someone appropriate can specify what types of documents based on certain templates can be created therein (for documents created directly out of the site). When a new document is created, certain metadata fields are exposed in, say, Microsoft Word, that show back in the SharePoint site.
You can also upload other documents. When doing so, you are asked to specify what content type it relates to.
Content Types are quite powerful. You can have multiple document libraries (for example) that include certain content types, eg, contracts, SLAs, presentations and more. Each document library is owned by someone, who can see everything in the library. Equally, however, certain groups can take a cross-library view of a certain content type. Eg, the legal team gets to see all documents that have a content type of "contract".
Business Role #2 ... Satisfy Compliance Requirements: Secure Records Management
Aims: (1) retain business records, (2) safeguard records from modification, and (3) easily manage litigation discovery.
Demo: Documents can be sent to the records management repository manually, or they can be sent automagically based on a workflow. A rights policy can be then applied to a document based on certain metadata associated with the document.
Business Role #3 ... Efficiently Manage Multiple Web Sites: Single infrastructure for intranet and internet publishing
Aims: (1) empower users to publish content in a time manner, (2) run rich sites with consistent branding, and (3) simplify content deployment and management.
Someone from a government department asked: "We currently use Content Management Server in a secure environment for content creation, and then we push a static document out to an external site (using Offline Explorer). Can this be done with MOSS 2007?" Mark responded ... "yes, that will work".
A further question ... "Hosting SharePoint Portal Server on the Internet ... to enable external login ... will that work on dial-up?" Mark said, "You can use dial up, but it depends on how lightweight your site is for speed and responsiveness."
Demo: Mark showed a Web site that is content managed by SharePoint. From within any Web page on the site, an authorized user can create a new page (among other actions). It is built around the same constructs (libraries, lists), workflow abilities, and content types. If a new page is to be created, there should be certain templates set up for page types.
Any page in the Web site can be viewed for dependencies on other resources in the Web site, eg, template files, images, etc.
Business Role #4 ... Streamline Business Processes: Managed Workflows and Broad Reach Forms
Aims: (1) automate manual processes (on the Windows Workflow Foundation core), (2) rapidly design and centrally manage forms (designed using InfoPath 2007), and (3) extend information gathering across boundaries (design once, run on multiple platforms, and more).
The next SharePoint User Group meeting is on March 28th, 2007 ... in Wellington, and will focus on Forms Management. It will be presented by Chris Johnson from Microsoft, who is about to head up to Redmond to lead (part?) of the Windows SharePoint Services v4 platform.
Map Your Infrastructure Journey
Depending on what you're trying to do, use SharePoint in the appropriate way.
There's a lot of flexibility and functionality built into this platform ... which gives a huge amount of variation possibilities in use. If you're thinking about putting in SharePoint and don't have the right internal technical experts, either get them or go outside your firm and work with a Microsoft Business Partner with the appropriate skills ... otherwise, you're going to waste a lot of time and make a very big mess very quickly.
Okay, time to go. Taxi, airport, flight ... should be home in about 3 hours ...
Three Hours Later ...
Okay, am home. Flight was fine. One thing I want to add is that it was very clear that Mark really really really knew his stuff with respect to SharePoint. He wasn't a fly-by-night SharePoint guy, or someone who had mastered marketing-speak with respect to the product and platform. He knew how and where it was appropriate (and inappropriate) to do certain things based on business needs and intentions. That's a highly demanded skill by an organization putting in a new platform. Now he wasn't the only SharePoint technical guy in the room -- but if he's representative of the calibre of people in the Wellington IT industry focused on Microsoft SharePoint -- then SharePoint has a bright future. Organizations need people of his ilk.