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When it comes to ECM, what is SharePoint 2010 and what is it not?

January 10th, 2012 2 comments

Sure SharePoint 2010 has its records center and sure you can build/develop a good Enterprise Content Management solution, but is that what you want? Or should we not forget the phrase, “Stick to what you’re good at”, when it comes to IT and flexible tools like SharePoint.

So: What is SharePoint 2010 and what is it not?

In the 25 years that I’m involved with IT and more specific Enterprise Content Management these are the questions that are most difficult to answer and the discussions are typically long:

  • Why an ECM tool when I can store documents also in SAP?
  • Why an ECM tool when I can create a link in Oracle to a document?
  • Why an ECM tool when I can store documents in BLOBs in the new databases?
  • And the final question for this blog: Why no ECM in SharePoint?

The longer I’m in this business the simpler I find the answer. The only problem is convincing the decision makers. That is the tricky one! In the end only the use of simple and clear examples works best.

For people who know something of the technique behind SharePoint I probably don’t have to explain what the challenges are when you use too many BLOBs in a relational database. After a while the database will shut down (performance wise). The base concept of a relational database is focused on structuring similar information pieces. One or two BLOBs within the whole database are no problem, but within an Enterprise it is never small and will always be relative large amount of BLOBs/documents. So storing Documents in RDBMS BLOBs is an easy technical No-No.

Microsoft is of course not so stupid, despite heavy pressure from the MS SQL team it is possible to use a FileShare as a standard feature in document storage and SP2010 now works well and quickly with this feature. Strangely, the fact still remains that it is not the default. When someone introduces SharePoint within a company often their ECM knowledge is limited to none and so they will not turn on this feature. Leaving you a mess to clean up later.

But as SharePoint can separate content from data, it is good to make an ECM solution? To answer this I’ll leave the technique behind and focus on the purpose of an Enterprise solution and the power of SharePoint.

The goal of ECM: After a long road of many different opinions and views it has become gradually clear what ECM solutions are:

Supporting the Enterprise by managing unstructured information which is important to the enterprise and ensuring that the requirements and wishes of the Enterprise around this information are being safeguarded and secure.

Some examples of requirements for an ECM solution:

  1. Documents rights are managed centrally and can be easily shown / reviewed
  2. The roles and groups that the solutions are used at an enterprise level and are clearly managed at that level
  3. The properties / meta-data of a document / file are determined by the demands on enterprise level
  4. The location of the document and the values ​​of the (other) metadata is recorded at enterprise level and is therefore available to everyone within the enterprise clear and unambiguous
  5. The management of who has what rights to what is imposed from an Enterprise level.

Now the power of SharePoint: Where SharePoint is often used and what makes the end user so happy with SharePoint. Maybe not an easy task but a number of things immediately jump out:

  1. It works so easily with Office.
  2. I do not need IT to a new project site to create.
  3. It works so intuitively.
  4. It looks so easy and user friendly.

All things that I believe precisely describe the power of SharePoint and this can be combined as follows:

SharePoint provides the end user a very simple user experience where the individual end user has great control over how it is used.

If you overlay the two sets of functionality it really puts you on the very spot where I think the problem lies. SharePoint should aim to have the perfect user experience. This means not only that it all looks very nice, but the user gets great flexibility to make their own choices when it comes to who gets access to what, where and how I’m going to save, etc..

So SharePoint and ECM: Naturally quite possible, but make sure you clearly separate the collaboration of the ECM or use another ECM tools and provide a seamless integration between the two.

Jeroen Jansen

Director

Path problems with the rich text editor

December 19th, 2011 Comments off

The rich text editor within SharePoint will often cause some problems. Except the fact that the created HTML code isn’t always that neat, it is also nearly impossible to use relative paths in your links or images since it will always include the domain you’re currently on in your link. This of course is really annoying, especially when you have a separate domain for editing your content.

However, a workaround is possible which solves your problem. With the help of JavaScript it is possible to change the value of all links on your page. By making sure this piece of JavaScript is included on every page you will never have the problem of accidently creating dead links anymore.

JQuery is a very popular JavaScript framework which is already installed on a lot of sites. Most of the time it makes JavaScript scripting a lot easier and less time consuming. You can use the next piece of script to change all links and images so that the right domain name is being set.


if (document.domain == 'www.publicurl.com')
{
 	$("a[href^='https://www.contenturl.com']") .each(function()
	{
		this.href = this.href.replace(/^https:\/\/www.\.contenturl\.com/, "http://www.publicurl.com");
	});
	$("img[src^='https://www.contenturl.com']") .each(function()
	{
		this.src = this.src.replace(/^https:\/\/www.\.contenturl\.com/, "http://www.publicurl.com");
	});
}

In the first line:
if (document.domain == ‘www.publicurl.com’)
a check is being done to make sure we are on the public domain at the moment. You don’t want the links to be changed when you are editing the content.
Next, all links are being searched which contain the value “https://www.contenturl.com”. After that a function is begin executed which changes the href of the link from “https://www.contenturl.com” to “http://www.publicurl.com”.

Exactly the same is being done for all images on the site where the “src” of all the “img” tags are being altered.

If JQuery is not already installed and difficult to install it is also possible to use ‘normal’ javascript for this. In this case it isn’t even that much more work to write.


if (document.domain == 'www.publicurl.com')
{
	for (i=0; i < document.links.length; i++)
	{
		document.links[i].href = document.links[i].href.replace("https://www.contenturl.com",";http://www.publicurl.com");
	}
	for (i=0; i < document.images.length; i++)
	{
		document.images[i].src = document.images[i].src.replace("https://www.contenturl.com","http://www.publicurl.com");
	}
}

This does exactly the same as the script above. It will find all links and images that contain “https://www.contenturl.com” and replaces this with “http://www.publicurl.com”.

SharePoint Governance

December 9th, 2011 Comments off

It has been a while now since the SharePoint Connections 2011 in Amsterdam (22/23 November) but I am still excited about the focus on SharePoint Governance. My company has a focus on Enterprise Content Management so I understand importance of Governance. SharePoint has a reputation for being easy and out of the box and it has not always been easy to convince clients of the importance of Governance when using SharePoint. That is why it is exciting to see increasing awareness in the community of the importance of Governance.
During the SharePoint Connections conference Dan Holme spent the keynote and another session talking about SharePoint Governance. A few months back I also attended the SPGov+IA workshop by 21apps and a common theme in both was the fact that often the definition of Governance is not clear and different people have different interpretations.

What is Governance?

SharePoint Governance means having an answer to the following questions:
1. Where
2. When
3. What
4. How
5. Who
6. Why
…knowing where you are now, where you want to go and how you plan to get there.
Below I will detail a few highlights from Dan Holme’s keynote speech. For the whole story you can see his presentation on http://bit.ly/danholme1111spointnl.
I can also recommend the SPGov+IA workshop (http://www.spgovia.com/) to get familiar with tools that can help you plan and implement your SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture.
Where
It is important to make sure the company has a vision and understands how SharePoint fits into the enterprise strategy.
When
Architect SharePoint as a platform that happens to first delivers a solution instead of only producing what is easy, cheap or quick for the current project.
What
Focus on the requirements to make sure you know what you are doing, why you are doing it, what is behind each requirement and how you can make sure it worked in the end.
How
Establish a process to define how you introduce and deploy solutions.
Who
Define roles & responsibilities.
Why
Make clear why you are doing the project. Involve your users in the change management process to help with user adoption.

It is our responsibility as SharePoint consultants to make sure these questions are asked and answered and to explain their importance to the business. I am hoping that with the wider spread awareness that Governance is a key factor for a successful project it will become a standard part of all projects.

Astrid Verhoef
ECM Consultant

SharePoint and Documentum competitors or partners in crime?

June 5th, 2010 Comments off

After a long but very interesting week of technical SharePoint sessions of devconn and the week before a long week of super sessions at Momentum it is time to make up my mind.
Should SharePoint and Documentum be seen as competitors or is the combination of the two a very good example of: the sum is greater than its parts.

1) Documentum: This is still the number one if you really want to control and manage your documents on an enterprise level (this has only little to do with technical scaling and high availability/failover) If you look for compliance support or need enterprise content management this is the best of the breed. Interfacing for knowledge workers who use word, excel project or PowerPoint is improved but still needs work to be accepted. The possibilities to really do collaboration or add social computing to your work environment is not possible.

2) SharePoint. With their new ribbon they are setting a new standard for interfacing with the desktop and editing applications like word, excel, project and also access, InfoPath and Visio. The possibilities of SharePoint to collaborate, use your personal social computing in a working environment, use tables and list to manage data (it does not matter if it is structured or unstructured) is the best ever. Creating good structure within your unstructured data, setting up clear version, enterprise security and content lifecycle management is difficult and still a long way of, of being enterprise ready. Workflow in SharePoint is still immature an if used widely unmanageable. Also setting up an enterprise ready solution in SharePoint is not possible to make it maintainable.

But the two combined: WOH,DOUBLE WOH. With the two integration modules of Documentum, the power of business process management, lifecycle management, records management and the new case management options seamlessly integrated with the interfacing and social computing power of SharePoint gives an enterprise finaly the possibility to create solutions with an exceptional good user experience and meet the current compliancy and enterprise demands.

But how will it work?

In my perfect (well let say a bit more perfect) information management world an enterprise will setup SharePoint in a small silo-ed approach. Technically it can be centralized, high avail etc.., but to make it functional maintainable you need to chunk in up in smaller functional pieces. In this users are able to really collaborate with the colleagues they work with. This interface will make the end-users happy and encourage them to make more use of ECM tools. Underneath this, your enterprise will need Documentum to guarantee a real enterprise and compliant ready solution. When documents/content needs to be managed on an enterprise level, according to rules and regulations, you can setup your SharePoint environment to automatically or manually declare a document controlled and make full use of the Documentum xCP and record management functions to suddenly control your documents on an enterprise level. All controlled and structured business processes will be fully managed by Documentum and depended on the type of worker you can offer them a full collaboration environment (A SharePoint interface to perform their controlled and uncontrolled tasks) or give them the focused and simple TaskSpace interface to perform standard controlled tasks. Last but not least for the real compliance/record freaks there is the record manager interface to maintain the filling plans, retention disposition, library functions, etc..

If you top this off with a Google search box to make real enterprise search (both structured and unstructured data alike) possible your ECM pie will be complete and tasty for everybody.