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Social Collaboration without Social Communication?(*)

(*) Not to be mixed up with one of the previous blog post ‘Social Communication without Social Collaboration’



Every employee in an organization is an individual who works in one or more teams or groups: project team(s), workgroup(s), committee(s) and/or business process(es). The common denominator of all these groups is that the members of the group have a collective objective to deliver something[1].

Part of the ‘working together’ in these groups is the sharing of information and working on that information together:

  • Documents
  • Tasks / to do’s
  • Calendar(s)
  • Other sources of information.

Not very long ago, this information was exchanged by mailing it around to the group members (note that the wording is different: ‘exchanging information’ in stead of ‘sharing information’). Nowadays the information is shared: this means that it is stored centrally in one location where all team members can find and update it. By doing so, everyone knows where to find the latest version of the information, and works on the same information That is certainly already true for documents, but not always the case for task lists, to do’s, calendars, etc. – there’s still some work to do on these.

The key words are: centralized and shared.



However, one piece of information that is missing from the list above is: internal communication. Team members still communicate with each other using e-mail. But e-mail is stored in local, personal mail folders. E-mails are still ‘exchanged’, not ‘shared’. This means e.g. that the communication about the project is invisible for team members that might join the group later on, and that the communication is lost when people leave the group (or when the group is ended, as is the case for project teams). So although communication very often contains useful information, it is not part of the shared information pool of the group.

This is where Social Communication steps in. Social Communication is ‘Facebook-like’ communication where a conversation is initiated by one person in a central location, and other people react and respond to it publicly . All people ‘following’ or ‘be-friending’ the person who initiated the conversation can participate in the communication. In other words: those conversations are centralized and shared!

Many people will argue that Facebook conversations are meaningless and futile, but that doesn’t mean that the mechanism isn’t very powerful. First of all: imagine that you cannot only follow people, but also ‘’groups” (like in ‘Project Team’). Imagine that you can subscribe to the conversations of the project(s) your are working on, the workgroup(s) you are participating in, etc. This would mean that you can follow the conversations that are held in these groups, and participate in them, openly. All the communication in a group can now be centralized and shared, and become part of the collective memory of the group.

But there are more advantages: by openly communicating in a group, answers to questions are often received more quickly, have a higher quality, and/or are more innovative. The whole team would benefit from this.

Another ‘reactive’ reason to start working with Social Communication is the fact that a new generation of knowledge workers is entering the job market for which this type of communication is the only natural way to communicate in a network.

REMARK: once you get the hang of it, you will learn that all this is not only true for ‘internal communication , but that you can also invite customers, suppliers or other external parties to these conversations (as long as they subscribe to the collective objectives of the group).

The tooling is there: SharePoint and Yammer

SharePoint and Yammer How can you achieve this? Probably the best tools to use are Yammer ( for the conversations, and SharePoint for all the other group content. The trick is to create a team site in SharePoint for each project team, work group, etc. to store the shared documents, shared tasks, calendars, and to create a corresponding group in Yammer to hold the social conversations. Then you embed the Yammer conversation on the home page of your team site, and voilà, you have a shared and centralized environment that comprises documents and conversations.


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Marc Vanderheyden - Picture


Twitter: @mceev11



And for Lotus Notes users: (in Dutch)


[1] This is different from communities, which don’t have an objective to produce something collectively other than ‘helping each other’

I went to the SharePoint Conference 2011 in LA and I brought back …

SharePoint Conference 2011The SharePoint Conference 2011 in Anaheim, CA, USA is over. 7500 IT professionals and users (approx. 1/3 of the participants had a business profile!) attended some 250 sessions in 3,5 days.

Here are my personal takeaways.

Project Server 2010

Brilliant product built on SharePoint 2010 (‘you can’t have one without the other’); includes portfolio management from request gathering over portfolio selection based on business objectives, all the way to planning and execution; integration with Team Foundation Server for progress follow-up, even in an Agile Development scenario; integrated Business Intelligence (one of the reasons why it requires the Enterprise Edition of SharePoint).

Here are the titles of some Project Server sessions:

– Microsoft Project and Project Server 2010 Overview

– Best Practices for Deploying Project Server 2010 on SharePoint Farm

– Leverage Project 2010 with Office 365 for Project Management Success

– SharePoint Lifecycle Management Solution with Project Server

– Solving Agile and PMO Problems by Integrating Project Server 2010 with Team Foundation Server 2010


SharePoint and Social Computing

Inspiring ideas on how to combine tagging of content on one hand, and search or content query web parts to display content in various contexts (who has contributed, to which services/products content applies, etc.) on the other. Aka: ‘Taxonomy based content targeting’.

Technical deep-dive in Claims-based authentication to use e.g. Facebook credentials to filter content on your SharePoint site. Very powerful.

In many sessions Microsoft demonstrated how they ‘eat their own dog food’.

Some session titles that should get you interested:

– More Than My: How Microsoft is driving social adoption and intranet change through shared services

– Integrating Social Networks into SharePoint Internet Sites


Content Management

Various sessions talked about how to analyze and structure content in SharePoint (no surprise). Some sessions were very business oriented (‘Document Management – Planning For Success’) and others very technical (‘The Nuts and Bolts of Managing Enterprise Content Types At Scale’ or ‘Creating an Easy To Use File Plan Builder for Your SharePoint Records Center’).

I personally appreciated very much the sessions presented by Susan Hanley,Essential SharePoint 2010 co-author of the book ‘Essential SharePoint 2010’. in one session she talked about measuring the value of your SharePoint 2010 investments. And believe me, it was not a high-level, theoretical talk about ROI and alike: it was a very convincing talk about ‘serious anecdotes’ and users who say ‘”Don’t take it away”.

Her second presentation was all about ‘a practical approach to SharePoint Governance’. Again full of tips you can start using tomorrow (or today?). You can read it all in her book.


Check it out

All the content of the conference is available on the web site of the  SharePoint Conference 2011.

The Buzzwords: Portals & Collaboration, Content Management (incl. Case Management), Workflow, (Self-service) Business Intelligence & Digital Archive

There are (too) many words for describing the digital sharing and processing of documents and other types of content. ‘Document Management’ is one that is often used. What flavors does it have? (And yes, they can all be implemented with SharePoint).




Portals & Collaboration

Portals & Collaboration refers to the single entrance (‘portal’) that people get to loads of information. It also refers to the unstructured, loosely defined collaboration they can set up using the portal. ‘Collaboration’ refers to the fact that the way in which people work together on documents is not organized in a formal way. Who is allowed to add content, modify it, etc. can be configured by using the authorization mechanisms that are available. But the sequence of events who is supposed to do what and at which moment is not formally defined. Collaboration therefore equals communication without formally defined rules.

Still there are various mechanisms (also all available in SharePoint) to ‘collaborate’:

– Centrally stored documents that can be accessed – and modified – by authorized users (using a check-out/check-in mechanism or not)

– Wiki’s to share knowledge

– Discussion Groups

– Announcements

– Task Lists

– Team Sites


Content Management (incl. Case Management)

Content Management is a different ball game. It almost the opposite of collaboration in the sense that here the way in which content is managed is as structured as possible. The whole life cycle of each document type is analyzed and defined, and finally implemented: who can create content, who should review added or modified content, who should approve the added or modified content before it can be published, etc.

Content Management without versioning is inconceivable. Content Management without workflow is hardly conceivable (see next chapter).

A special form of Content Management is Case Management. Where most people think of individual documents or single items of content when they talk about Content Management, Case Management is about sets of documents (files, dossiers, cases whatever you call them). In Case Management the same principles of structured content creation, review and approval apply to sets of documents (aka ‘Cases’).

And yes, you can implement Case Management with SharePoint too.



Workflow is the mechanism that is used to automate the processes related to documents and other types of content. The content reviews and approvals that are mentioned in the previous chapter can be fully automated with workflows.

By automating workflows, you take away the risk that the prescribed way of working is not followed. People can make mistakes. People can forget. Or you can forget to train people to work in the correct way. When procedures are really important (e.g. for compliance or liability reasons) it can be very helpful to automate the process by means of workflows.

Tip: before you start implementing workflows: read our blogs about Process Modeling.


(Self-service) Business Intelligence

Why write about Business Intelligence (BI) in the context of Document Management?

First of all, because a Portal is the perfect place to publish your reports and figures, especially when they take the shape of dashboards and scorecards.

Secondly because reports can be considered to be ‘content’ like documents, having similar properties: collaboration, meta-data, life cycle, authorizations, etc.

So why not take advantage of the platform you already have to make the right version of your reports available to the right people at the right time?

The possibilities of BI in SharePoint are countless, and yet most people don’t even know about it.


Digital Archive

What is the relationship between a Digital Archive and Content Management? The content Life cycle!

One of the simplest rules in Content Management is: what gets in, must get out! For each type of document, and therefore for each document, you must know when it is going to be removed from your content database at the moment you add it to it! Sounds impossible? Can be done!

And because people don’t like to throw away things, or because the legislator or compliance committee may demand that you keep record of specific types of documents, you need a (digital) archive to store documents that are no longer ‘active’.

In the archive, your content starts a second life that eventually ends with the permanent deletion of the content.

The key concept here is: content life cycle management!


… and CRM?

This may seem like an odd one. What is the relationship between CRM and Content Management?



Document Management is about collaboration. Collaboration is about communication. Organizations communicate with their external contacts more and more through portals in stead of through e-mail. By sharing documents on a portal with customers, partners, members, etc. the communication becomes so much more efficient: everyone shares the same version of a document, everyone can modify that version (if authorized) and so on.

CRM is about keeping track of your contacts and of the touch points you have with those contacts. So if you want to keep control over your touch points with customers and other external parties, it does make sense to integrate your CRM with your content management.



If you want to hear more about projects we realized in this context, or want to learn how this may apply to your organization, don’t hesitate to contact me or the company:

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