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Document Management with SharePoint 2010 - Part 1

Written By: Knox Cameron -- 6/21/2011 -- join -- contribute -- (737) comments -- printer friendly version

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Categories: Document Management, Features, Integration with other products , SharePoint 2010, SharePoint Foundation 2010

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Problem

You have been given a SharePoint site to use as a document storage area for your team. You know how to save documents into folders in a SharePoint document library, just like you would do with a file share. But folders have always been a hassle to use.

  • It's often difficult for people to find documents, because one person's logic of which folder a document belongs in, doesn't always match another person's.
  • It can be time consuming to browse down and up through a folder structure to find documents.
  • A document is only ever in one folder, so you only get one convenient grouping. For example, you could put documents into folders based on which client they relate to, but then you can't easily see all proposals.

Isn't there a better way?

Solution

There surely is! Let's look at how you can organize your documents and get the best value from SharePoint, instead of just using it like a file share. It takes a bit of preparation work, but the results are that it is much easier to find and use documents.

We are going to look at the scenario of a team that works for a group of clients producing a number of different kinds of documents. We will look at how you can tag content so documents are easy to find, and so it's easy to find all documents relating to a particular client, or produced by a particular team member, or of a particular type.

Of course, SharePoint has a huge depth of capability, such as approval workflows and ability to link to enterprise CRM or HR systems. But in this tip, we are going to keep it simple and just look at something you can easily set up for your team just using standard SharePoint capabilities.

In the second part of this tip, we will look at more ways of using tag information in the documents, and more ways to customize the views.

What is metadata?

Metadata is just a fancy word for tags that you add to content (documents) to make them easy to find again. Even a standard document library has basic metadata that shows up as columns in a list view like this:

Standard document library view

The columns "Type" (in this case, a Word document), "Name" (the file name), "Modified" (the date and time the file was modified) and "Modified By" (the user who modified the document) are all metadata tags, otherwise known as columns in the document library. However, these tags are all very generic and of limited use. Let's look at how we can set up our own tags.

Preparing to tag

You need to work out what tags you are going to use. There are a few things to bear in mind.

First, they must make sense to you and to your users. If you have standard terminology that everyone knows in your business, use it. SharePoint allows you to enter both a column name and a brief description. Make good use of the description to clarify the purpose of the column: a rule of thumb is to make sure it uses different words than the column name.

Second, as much as possible, provide a brief option list for users to pick from. Make the options broad, and if possible avoid a "Miscellaneous" or "Other" option. Providing an option list helps clarify the purpose of the column for users, saves them time, and improves consistency (for example, avoiding spelling mistakes by users)

Third, and most importantly, KISS: keep it short and simple! You can probably easily think of twenty different ways to tag your documents, but keep it to a small number for which you can see an immediate use. Your users will quickly get frustrated and annoyed if they have to fill in a lengthy form to save a document, and will end up selecting defaults or entering minimal detail.

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