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Three steps to improve your SharePoint data design and structure

24th Jun 2015

Following on from our previous two blogs on working with data for SharePoint, we move on to the design and structure before migrating your documents:

Step 1: Analysis your Documents
As part of the analysis process it’s important to consider the following observations:
Document Types – Reports, drawings, procedures for example are all types of documents which a business will create. The document types will potentially play an important role in the content types and Meta data used to identify and catalogue them. Look for consistency to the types of documents which are created and in which functions.
Functions/Disciplines – There are the areas which make up the business. For example engineering and marketing. Different documents and processes will be in use and will need to be captured and measured.
Locations – Documents come from all types of locations around the world within a company or with 3rd party and Vendor Company’s. This is a key process of pre migration as it may involve multi regional and legislation processes.
Matrixes and workflows – Who reviews and approves documentation. Distribution groups should be built in to the design of the site collections prior to migrating data.
Issue dates – This ties in to the retention of documents and knowing when documents were last issued will allow for the system to identify documents that potentially may be deleted due to their life cycle coming to an end.
Document Numbering – Multi functions might have different numbering systems in place, either by region or perhaps by function. Identifying this in the analysis will ensure the correct numbering identifies can be built in to the metadata going forward. It may also be the case that no numbering actually exists, which in turn might raise the need for some type of unique life cycle numbering to documentation.
Different versions/revisions – Tracking audit and change history is a key requirement for document control, being able to capture the superseded documents from the current approved one should also be highlighted and measured in this process.

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Once this full analysis is complete it will give the project scope and will also be able to identify potential metadata, content types, site library’s, taxonomy’s and lists for the data which requires migrated.

In order for the design to be successful the key is to ensure that document owners and company operating procedures are understood and incorporated in to the working dynamics of the system.

Having robust and clear administrator rules for permissions and access are also key for system security and accessibility, to ensure that users see only what they have access to.

Step 2: Fit for Purpose – structuring your documents
Once the initial process of analysis and data cleansing is complete – the next stage is to structure the documents in a way which is fit for purpose, below are some examples of how SharePoint can structure data and information in a more effective way:
•The first step to creating a structure that will allow you to manage your documents more effectively is to create a Site Collection template. Typically, a site collection template is used as this will help form a base with which all future site collections are structured. This template will typically include; document libraries, calendars, permissions, security policies, workflows, etc.
•Once you have created your site collections you can then look to create your Site Libraries. Site libraries act as a central hub used to create, upload, share, publish and maintain your files and/or documents. With in-built features such as SharePoint workflows and version history, site libraries allow you to establish even greater control of your files.
•To ensure your documents are loaded to the correct and appropriate site library, Structured and descriptive Meta data is used. Referred to as either tags, terms or Meta data, this information is used to classify and catalogue your documents. Title, department, revision, date issued, document type, etc. are all Meta data tags that are typically used to tag a document. Using tags as opposed to the older concepts of creating folders within network drives provides greater structure and allows you to search and locate your documents more easily.
•Not only can you tag a document using Meta data, you can also create Content types which allow you to determine what fields are and are not applicable to a specific department when loading a document i.e. a content type could be created for finance which would specifically allow the user to tag a document with a PO Number, a field that wouldn’t necessarily apply to someone loading an HR document for example.
Governance and Information Architecture – This lets users set expectations and guidance on how documents should be controlled and managed. This involves archiving, naming conventions, site templates and building specific models on how and who will manage what within each site collection.

Step 3: Factors to be aware of when migrating
1. Functional collaboration – Document owners and those teams who use documents must ensure they are involved in identifying needs and translating that in the design process. What works for one function will not work for another.

2. Cross function collaboration Documents will naturally pass through different functions and disciplines. To have a fluid document management system it’s important to have these processes mapped and incorporated.

3. Gaps between SharePoint Versions – Different versions of SharePoint work in different ways. Migration from 2010 to 2013 will result in different changes it’s important to identify what these changes are and what effect they could have on documents being migrated from different library’s and for example, types of workflows.

Contact us at if you need help with SharePoint/Office 365 in your organization.

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