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8 Things to Consider when Implementing SharePoint with Another ECM engine

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Categories:MOSS; WSS; 2007; 2010; General Knowledge; 8 Things

Guest Author: Michael Elkins

1 -- Determine SharePoint’s role in the organization.

For some companies, SharePoint is the chosen collaboration and social networking engine and all collaborative content resides in SharePoint.  For others, SharePoint is more of an end-user experience and Intranet platform.  If implementing SharePoint with another ECM solution, it is important to truly identify what role SharePoint will have in the organization to ensure proper planning for the implementation.  There are a number of features within SharePoint that need to be taken into consideration before you implement. 

For example:

  • What aspects of the Microsoft Office integration are or will be deployed?
  • What areas of overlap exist between SharePoint and the ECM solution?
  • Will SharePoint be the primary access point for all content or one of multiple access points?
  • What vendor integration capabilities are provided?
  • How does SharePoint fit into the corporate records management program?

The more that can be identified before the deployment, the lower the implementation costs will be.  The project charter should clearly identify the reasoning behind the decision to combine the technologies.

2 -- Identify the repositories.

Most SharePoint installations begin with the assumption that people will collaborate and store content within a SharePoint document library, at least for a period of time.  When collaboration efforts such as projects are finished or when the documents become records, companies often require users to move the content to an existing ECM repository.  It is important to identify what content will migrate from SharePoint document libraries to an ECM repository.  If content will migrate, there’s much to consider including:

  • What metadata will migrate with the content?
  • Is the metadata defined consistently across systems?
  • Does the content need to be available from both SharePoint and the ECM system?
  • Should all information in the ECM repository to be available from SharePoint or just the content that has been migrated to the ECM from SharePoint?  (Note:  This may impact your backfile conversion strategy)
  • Do SharePoint Lists need to be saved as content/records in the ECM engine?

It should be noted that there are some users who choose not to implement SharePoint document libraries at all.  Instead, these companies have decided that the ECM vendor’s Web parts provide all of the document and records management capabilities.  This approach can reduce the complexity for the end users, while still maintaining many of the the social networking capabilities of SharePoint.

3 -- Know where your records reside.

For many companies, the reason for implementing SharePoint with another ECM solution is related to records management initiatives.  This is often due to previous investments in records management with existing ECM solutions.  Unfortunately, the records program is often an afterthought to the deployment of SharePoint sites.

For some companies, there is a clear distinction between records and non-records.  For others, all content is considered a record and must be managed.  Regardless of the school of thought, the implications on the implementation are great.  It is important to identify if records will be stored in SharePoint or not.  If records will reside in SharePoint, consider the following:

  • The records management policies must be applied to content within SharePoint and managed directly by SharePoint 

OR

  • The ECM vendor’s records management solution must be able to manage-in-place all content within the SharePoint repository

If records will not reside in SharePoint, great care must be taken to ensure that the process of declaring a document as a record and moving it to the ECM system is not so cumbersome that it discourages users from doing so, opening the company to increased risk.

4 -- Have a comprehensive information architecture.

In most cases, content will reside in both SharePoint and a separate ECM engine.  As a result, all efforts should be made to ensure that metadata and vocabularies are consistent across platforms in order to facilitate functions such as content migration, tagging and search.  Many SharePoint systems are implemented with little or no metadata beyond the default system fields.  Most ECM systems are implemented with more robust metadata definitions.  Without proper planning, content in SharePoint that is moved to the ECM solution could require additional tagging which could discourage users from migrating content, defeating the purpose of blending the systems.  A comprehensive information architecture will drive data quality, improve the end-user experience and save money in ongoing implementation and support costs.

5 -- Study the vendor’s SharePoint interface capabilities.

Nearly every vendor has some level of SharePoint integration built into their solution, but not all solutions are equal.  It is very important to identify exactly what capabilities are available from the vendor before beginning the implementation.  In most cases, vendors have developed Web parts that allow for search, browse and the ability to move content from SharePoint to the ECM engine.  The following is a list of elements to consider when evaluating vendor solutions:

  • How much of the needed ECM functionality is available through the Web part?
  • How many Web parts are needed to meet requirements?
  • Most solutions handle documents.  Does the solution also handle SharePoint lists?
  • With all of the merger and acquisitions in the ECM industry, it’s also important to determine if the supplied Web parts are available across the product portfolio.

6 -- Plan for effective search.

When a user performs a Web search and obtains a result, they don’t care where the resulting content resides as long as they find what they need.  Companies need to consider search as a key element in the implementation plan, and the user’s requirements play the key role.  Search plays a key role in end-user satisfaction.  Consider the following:

  • What enterprise search standards, if any, exist?
  • What search capabilities are provided by the ECM vendor versus SharePoint?
  • Is full-text search available and consistent in each platform?  
  • Do the users desire to have a separate search result from SharePoint and the ECM repository or a blended result?
  • What advanced search capabilities are required from each repository?

7 -- Align security requirements.

There are features within SharePoint and features within the ECM system that are unique to the system, and as such, will have security implications.  A user that may have site administration capabilities in SharePoint may have “read only” rights in the ECM system.  Most vendors have single sign-on (SSO) capabilities, but care must be taken to ensure that the capabilities a user has on each system are well thought out and understood.  

8 -- Incorporate both SharePoint and the ECM into a unified IT governance plan.

There is a lot of focus on IT governance related to SharePoint, and with good reason.  Without proper oversight, SharePoint can get out of hand very quickly.  When SharePoint is blended with an ECM system, uncontrolled change can have a very negative impact.  Because most ECM vendors do not provide templates for the oversight of their systems, take a look at the free examples at www.sharepointgovernance.org and adapt them to meet the needs of both systems.  Lastly, make sure to incorporate the business community into the governance process.  Oversight without buy-in from the business creates stress.

This article was originally posted on AIIM President John Mancini’s Digital Landfill blog which contains links to many other “8 things” articles. Some of the 8 things articles have been published as a series of free e-books, available at http://www.aiim.org/8things.

Guest Author: Michael Elkins

Michael Elkins (melkins@kestralgroup.com) is an independent consultant with over 17 years of experience helping global clients with the design and deployment of enterprise wide content management systems. His clients benefit from his ECM experience including strategic guidance, information architecture and ECM/data governance programs. His company, Kestral Group LLC, is based in Denver, Colorado.

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8 Things to Consider when Implementing SharePoint with Another ECM engine

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