A couple of weeks ago, right before Christmas, I had the honor do a webinar about Key Success Factors for Enterprise Content Management.
First, I was talking about Information Overload. Everyone knows the feeling when we get more emails than we can read, more documents than we can process, more updates on social network that we can even read. Everyone knows the feeling to be overwhelmed and the feeling it gets worse and worse, day by day.
To be a bit more formal, we can define Information Overload as the situation when the amount of input is bigger than the processing capacity. It can be related to a computer system, but also to a human. As a result, we pay less attention to the important contents, or if we try to pay full attention to a piece of content, we end up process less than we should. Finally, we are in delay in making decisions (as we need more time to process all the content needed for making a good decision), or we make bad decisions (as we cannot process everything that we should).
Statistics says, the average information worker receives 63,000 words of new information every day (by Robby Walker)! This is a huge number, especially if we try to put this into context: the average length of the novels in Amazon is 64,531 words – yes, we receive the amount of a book of new information every day. It’s a crazy number, isn’t it?
Enterprise Content Management
Information Architecture (IA) is a commonly used term for the art and science of organizing and labeling content (documents, web sites, blog posts, emails, etc.) to support findability and usability.
In different systems, we can find different tools and solutions for supporting Information Architecture. In SharePoint, we have a lot of tools and options, including lists, document libraries, folders, content types, document sets, managed metadata, workflows, content organizer rules, document ID and many more.
If we want to use these features to organize the content in SharePoint, there’re a lot of best (and worst) practices which I introduced during the webinar. As always, there’s no “silver bullet” can be the best for everyone, every company is different, with different needs and requirements, backgrounds and cultures. Every small piece has to be considered in order to be successful.
- Don’t be lazy. Names like “Document1.docx” is highly NOT recommended.
- Using the user’s name in the name of site, list or library, or even a document is also a bad practice. For example: “Joe library“
- Use descriptive names instead. Always. Title is one of the most important columns, make it to be readable and understandable. Make it to be useful. For example “Marketing Presentations” folder or “Sales demo 2013-12-01 CustomerXY“
- Always include the intent of the document in the title.
- Be careful with word breakers in file names and title, see my post earlier.
- Always use structure. Don’t upload/create everything in the “Shared Documents” library.
- Enforce users to use the structure consistently. For example, don’t upload a document with title “Marketing Campaign 2013.pptx” to the folder “2012” in the “Campaigns” document library. Or never upload “CustomerXY.docx” to the site of CustomerABC.
- Creating subsites, lists, document libraries or even folders, should be aligned to the governance plan. Always.
- Keep the structure clean, intuitive and ergonomic. Mess becomes bigger and bigger mess over the time.
- Don’t fly without a detailed governance plan.
- Use Content Type hierarchy, it has a lot of benefits through inheritance.
- But don’t overcomplicate your Content Type hierarchy. Keep it clean and intuitive.
- See naming conventions, for Content Types as well.
Properties (columns) and Managed Metadata
- Keep your term sets clean. Keep in mind, you need someone to administer and govern metadata.
- Keep in mind that users are lazy. They tag their Facebook pictures much more than their enterprise documents. But making the fields to be required is not the solution: you’ll end up to see a lot of “abc123” and “qwerty” and “111” values, and (not) surprisingly, you’ll see the default values selected the most, if any. Metadata management is a culture, a psychology, you must find out how to motivate your users.
- Always use site columns instead of creating your columns on the lists or libraries. It means more work at the beginning but much less headache later.
- Keep your metadata structure clean and intuitive.
After this Information Architecture introduction, I turned the attention to Enterprise Search.
Search is very important in every business as it helps the findability fundamentally. It connects people to the information they need to get their jobs done. And it all relies on Information Architecture. Everything we do to improve our IA ends up to instantly improve the Search experience as well.
I’ve been doing many classes, webinars and sessions on this topic in the last couple of years, and cannot highlight enough: metadata is the heart of Search. People have bad impression of search mostly because of their bad and/or misused metadata. The formula is easy: improve your IA and your Search will be better. But of course, we have a lot of challenges here.
Analytics for Successful Enterprise Content Management
The last part of the webinar was Yarin Negri’s talk. He discussed why content and user behavior analytics is so important and how they can help our IA. Some questions to answer:
- What are most users doing on the Portal?
- What is the most popular Search?
- What are the Search terms without any result?
- Where are my users coming from?
- What are my customers downloading?
By answering these questions, you can identify your key users – and you can involve them to be evangelists in their departments. You can identify departments with low usage levels – and you can provide training and other assistance for them. You can monitor the mobile trends – and you can make sure your content can be accesses through all the popular devices. And you can do many more…