Microsoft SharePoint 2013 enables organizations to build a document management solution specifically tailored to their organizational needs, and to better manage the life cycle of their documents. To make sure that this solution is both practical and at the same time comprehensive, a fair amount of planning needs to take place before the solution is built. This article describes how to plan an effective Microsoft SharePoint 2013 based document management solution.

The document management planning process consists of the following major steps:

Identify Users

The first step is to identify the users of an organization who interact with documents on a routinely basis. To identify these users, a comprehensive survey should be conducted to determine who creates documents and what types of documents they create. Furthermore, the survey should determine what roles the various users of a document have. These roles describe who creates documents, who reviews the documents, who edits them, who uses them, who approves them etc.

Analyze Document Usage

Once all the users that interact with documents in the organization have been identified, the next step is to collect information from them regarding how documents are used in the organization. The information should include the type, purpose, author, user, format and location of each document. Furthermore, if a particular document type is required to be converted to another format, or the location of the document type needs to change during its life cycle then that information should be recorded as well.

Plan the Organization of Documents

Based on the information collected in the above steps, the documents can now be organized in site collections, sites and libraries. Most of the document management features of SharePoint are delivered through document libraries. Based on the types of documents identified in the previous step, the types of document libraries that need to be created should be determined.

Plan how Documents Move Between Locations

Particulars documents, based on business requirements, are required to flow from one location and user to another in a document management solution. In SharePoint, this could mean moving documents from one site or library to another. There are different ways of moving documents between libraries and sites, both manually and dynamically utilizing SharePoint.

Plan Content Types

Content types are an extremely useful feature of SharePoint. It allows you to manage a particular document type in terms of properties, metadata, workflow, information management policies, templates and other settings in a centralized and reusable manner. Based on the document types that were identified in the ‘Analyze Document Usage’ step, content types can be created.

Plan Workflows

Most of the times there are a number of business processes that revolve around documents in an organization. These business processes can be implemented as workflows at both library and content type level in SharePoint. SharePoint comes with a number of out-of-the-box workflows which are based on common business processes related to documents. Apart from that, custom workflows can also be implemented to cater for more complex business logic.

Plan Document Governance

Governance of documents is an extremely important aspect of managing documents – and unfortunately, an aspect often overlooked. SharePoint provides versioning, approval and check-out functionalities to govern the usage of documents. Versioning allows maintenance of successive versions of a document. Publication of documents can be controlled through the approval functionality. Requiring users to check- out documents before they edit them gives better control of document versions and better captures metadata.

Plan Policies

Policies control who can access a document, what they can do with it and how long it should be retained. Policies enable an organization to comply with legally mandated requirements around documents. They can be implemented on both content type and library level. SharePoint provides several out-of-the-box policy features like retention, auditing, labeling and barcoding. In addition, custom policy features can be implemented to meet more specific needs.

FMT Consultants has considerable experience in designing comprehensive document management solutions based on Microsoft SharePoint 2013 If you’re considering using SharePoint for managing your documents or if you are struggling with your current document management solution in SharePoint, please do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss how we can help you.

Written by:
Bilal Amjad, Senior SharePoint Consultant
FMT Consultants

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