The introduction to this chapter highlighted the fact that SharePoint’s ECM functionality covers the management of all content within an organization, from documents such as Excel spreadsheets and Word documents, to web-based content and the functionality traditionally provided by web content management systems. In this section, we’ll look at the document management–specific aspects of SharePoint ECM.
Content Management Users
A few elements are common to any content management system, and these can be more easily explained by considering the three main users of content management systems:
Content Creators Content creators are users who create the content that is stored within the system. In an organization, these users typically cover a wide range of disciplines and use a variety of tools to create the content they will publish. Typically, content creators are nontechnical users who are experts in their own specific fields.
ReadersReaders are users that consume the content published by the content management system. These readers may be anonymous or identified and may be subdivided into particular groups or audiences for content targeting purposes.
Editors/AdministratorsEditors and administrators are responsible for the management of content within the system. Typically, they will set publishing guidelines and define processes to ensure that content meets these guidelines.
When a content creator is working on a particular piece of content,it’s important that no other user can make changes at the same time without the creator’s knowledge. This is managed via a check-in/check-out function, whereby a content creator must check out a document before he or she can make any changes to it. While a document is checked out, only the user who has checked out the document can see the changes that are in progress; all other users will continue to see the last checked-in version.When an updated document is checked in and versioning is enabled, a new version is created. SharePoint 2010 takes this functionality a step further when managing Office 2010 content: now it is possible for multiple content users to collaborate on the same document at the same time, with all users seeing an indication of the changes made by others in real time.
Although documents are commonly stored in folders and permissions are applied to those folders to determine who has access to their contents, if this was the lowest level of security granularity available within a system, folders would quickly become security containersrather than navigational aids and this would greatly complicate any folder hierarchy. A more flexible approach is to allow permissions to be defined at the individual item level. Of course, forcing all permissions to be defined at this level would be an administrative nightmare, since any changes would have to be made to each and every document. To get around this problem, in SharePoint 2010 permissions are inherited from containing folders, document libraries, and ultimately web sites. More often than not, folder ordocument library–level permissions are appropriate. However, on the rare occasions that a specific file requires different permissions, inherited folder permissions can be easily overridden.
We’ve looked at a few of the tools that make life easier for content creators, but what about editors and administrators? How can they ensure that content is created in accordance with appropriate procedures? The answer to this problem is workflow. As content is created, edited, or deleted, editors have the facility to specify business process that should be followed.These processes, when encapsulated in a workflow, are automatically enforced by the SharePoint platform to ensure that editors and administrators achieve the level of control that is the raison d’être of any content management system.
NOTEWorkflow is a large subject touching on more than just content management business processes. More comprehensive coverage can be found.
Another new feature introduced in SharePoint 2010 is the ability to create document sets. Often when you’re creating complex work products such as an annual report or a sales presentation, many elements are required to make up the final product. For example, a report may contain multiple Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and Adobe Acrobat documents. In previous versions of SharePoint, each of these documents could be managed only in isolation, which meant that facilities such as versioning and check-in/check-out functionality had to be manually enforced on all documents in the set to ensure that they remain consistent. With SharePoint 2010, the document set allows all documents to be managed as a group while still retaining the ability to manage individual documentsin isolation if required. To use document sets within a site collection, take the following steps:
The Document Set feature makes a new Document Set content type available for use within the site collection. Before we can create content using this new content type, we need to attach it to a document library. Note that although we’re manually attaching the document set content type to a document library in this example, certain site templates have this behavior enabled by default—for example, the Document Center template.
When creating a document set, the standard user interface that you’ve seen in other document libraries now contains an additional section that offers details of the document set and links to additional properties. By selecting Edit Page from the Site Actions menu, you can see that this user interface contains a few additional web parts, most notably the Document Set Properties web part. If you make changes to the layout of this page, the welcome page for all document sets based on the same content type will also be changed for the current document library. Document sets are based on the new Document Set content type. However, this is only the beginning of the story; we can create our own custom content types that derive from the Document Set and configure them better to meet our requirements. For example, we can add columns or add default content. We can also specify which content types can be contained within our document set. Document Set option configurations can occur either at the Site Collection level, making it possible to cascade the changes to all instances of the content type on all document libraries within the site collection, or at the document library level. To configure at site collection level, do the following:
To configure at the Document Library level, do the following:
This chapter has extolled the virtues of metadata at every opportunity; hopefully, you’ll agree that when it comes to managing high volumes of content, metadata is the way to go. However, as a consequence of the more flexible approach to document storage that metadata permits, often the URL to a document is not as predictable as it might be if a well-designed hierarchical structure were in place. Furthermore, when saving a document to a drop-off location using the Content Organizer functionality, the final location of the document may change, making it difficult to determine the ultimate URL for the document.
To get around this problem, and to make documents easier to find generally, SharePoint 2010 includes a Document ID service. The Document ID service generates a unique identifier for every document and allows documents to be retrieved using a single static URL in this format.
To configure the Document ID service, take the following steps:
Although we’ve configured the document ID service, behind the scenes SharePoint uses timer jobs to activate the service and make the necessary changes to document libraries within the site collection. As a result of this, the changes that we’ve made may take some time to be implemented. To check on the progress of these timer jobs or to run them manually, take the following steps:
NOTE As an alternative to using the built-in Document ID generator, you can create a custom ID generator if identifiers must meet a specific format or must be synchronized with an external system.
You’ve seen how metadata is used for content management and how, by using the Managed Metadata field, metadata can be captured within the SharePoint user interface. However, when it comes to document management, things work a bit differently. More often than not, the content creator user interface for a document management system will be a document creation tool such as Word or Excel. I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to learn that all products in the Microsoft Office suite offer tight integration with SharePoint via the use of the backstage area that you’ve seen in various examples throughout this. As well as providing the high level of integration that allows us to save and open documents directly from SharePoint, products such as Word also provide a document information panel that can be customized by developers to capture appropriate metadata in the content-creation interface.
Records management is a specific branch of document management that deals with the processing of critical documents. One example of a critical document may be a sales contract. Changes to an executed contract should follow a rigid process, and retaining an original version of such a contract is absolutely critical. Documents such as these are known as records, or documents of record, since they are often electronic records of specific events or actions. Original records can never be changed after the fact and are usually subject to some retention policy. Determining which documents should be considered records and what policies should be applied for each record is often the task of an organization’s compliance or risk department. Certain businesses are subject to a greater degree of statutory compliance regulation, and as a result records management may form a significant part of any document management strategy. For other businesses, records management may be a much simpler affair.
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