SharePoint for ECM: 5 big enhancements

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(LAS VEGAS) Lest you be tingling with excitement about the potential enhancements to your less than spectacular content management system, there are two realities for SharePoint 2010: what is promised, and what is hoped for.

 

Those working with MOSS 2007 can be forgiven for the vacuous deflating sound from their proverbial balloons – those familiar with 2007 promises that don’t materialize as promised (e.g. People Search); others attending the annual SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas can be forgiven for their rapid inhalation of hot air as there is great reason to be optimistic, even excited.

 

Nonetheless, I’ve been both impressed and underwhelmed with what I’ve seen, but more time is needed for Microsoft to complete the beta testing and final refinements before 2010 ships to customers in the spring of 2010. When I asked SharePoint chief Tom Rizzo to explain how he thought the content management functionality compared with other market leaders, Rizzo – speaking as a proud, if not slightly defensive father – instead turned the question back on me: “I challenge all of the other vendors to offer as comprehensive a platform as SharePoint – nothing comes close.” Touché!

 

Here are five of the biggest impact, promised improvements to enterprise content management (ECM) that I’ve seen with my own two eyes, and even used (albeit with mixed success as the ‘lab’ demos are not all working as promised, and a demo is in fact just a demo):

 

1-     Publishing platform – the entire publishing platform is, in essence, a wiki. You can choose to lock down wiki or public authoring rights, extend them to some, or extend them to all. However, it is possible to create sites as wikis. The wikis come with complete version control, history and permissions, and the rich editor or “ribbon” functionality (as seen in Word 200).

2-    Web content management (WCM) – communications professionals rejoice: publishing news and other static content just got a lot easier. The new publishing includes the new “ribbon” user tool that opens when you click on a page or a document, or you simply hit the edit button at the top of a page. Instead of opening a content ‘template’ the new publishing features in-context editing: click on whatever piece of content you want to “edit”, and edit right there on the page (just as you would a wiki). New image tools allow for better control and manipulation of photos, and you no longer have to make the extra step of uploading a photo to a document library before you input it into the page – you can now pull images right from your hard drive, or a website URL.

3-    Records management (RM) – Microsoft has invested a lot of money in improving RM in 2010. Among the many features that have impressed, users or administrators (or someone else that has permission to do so) are able to lock down a document in a document library, as a record. And with a right click, can send that document to a Record Center with confirmation. Additional Life Cycle controls have been added.

4-    Digital asset management (DAM) – yes, SP 2010 actually includes DAM – you no longer have to use a third-party option to professionally manage images, video and other multimedia.

5-   Taxonomy & meta data – perhaps the single, most impressive upgrade or enhancement to SharePoint is the addition of true taxonomy and meta data  controls. All content now comes with a Managed Meta Data Service Term set that can be inherited from the global taxonomy (site collection), can be built upon or controlled by an administrator, or open to all users (or a combination). In other words, when content is created, be it a page, document, wiki, meta data can be added on the spot, as determined by the publisher or limited to a pre-determined set or tree of terms that is locked down. End readers and users can ‘tag’ the content as well with term tags, ratings (1-5 starts) and “I like it.” What is most encouraging about the use of meta data is that it can be “forced” or a “mandatory field” for all content (we all know that most organizations have options to input meta tags on content, but most content authors ignore it if given the choice).

 

Other taxonomy features:

В·        Term ‘nesting” or “threading”(think of the tree with parent & children categories)

В·         “Fill-in” choices as an option in locked-down taxonomies

В·        Different taxonomies at different levels: site collections, sites, libraries, etc.

В·         Managed meta data service can be consumed by multiple farms

В·        Multilingual taxonomy support (taxonomies using multiple languages)

В·         Taxonomy workflow (invite specific people to contribute or review the taxonomy)

В·         View and filter documents by term:

o              Geography

o              Product Category

o              Vertical Industry

o              Content Type

o             Deal Size

o            Folders

o              Etc.

 

While not all of these promised improvements were working in the hands-on labs in my time spent using MOSS 2010, this is in-fact only the beta version (in fact, one of the MS officials helping me through the hands-on labs told me that some of the tutorials are in fact still alpha versions. In fact, the first time I used the new wiki I was convinced it was the 2007 version as I could see not a single improvement to it). There is still some 6 or 7 months still to pass before Microsoft has to work out all the bugs, kinks, and refinements (planned release to existing MOSS 2007 customers is at the end of April, though I would not expect something for installation much before the summer; new customers will have to wait even longer).

 

Finally, it’s worth noting that MOSS is a massively complex, and powerful system. It’s to be expected that some of the promised functionality may not work for some time, or without serious additional development and customization. In fact, any organization considering an upgrade may do well to wait until after the first service pack, or simply trial the new SharePoint Online which will have close to feature parity with the installed, on premises version.

 

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