I recently had a discussion with Mark Dunkel, one of the education group’s experts on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), about the challenges our customers are facing today with MOSS deployments. Here are the main thoughts that came from that discussion.
Most SharePoint customers that we’ve dealt with struggle – really struggle – with the following:
• Information Architecture (define requirements, goals, challenges)
• How and When to use MOSS (web apps, app pools, site collections, doc libraries, doc repository, records repository, content types, lists, firewalls, auth providers, messaging, etc…)
These are the pillars of good content and document management. The challenge is that Higher Education requirements vary drastically from school to school and from university to university. For instance, many institutions already use a variety of content and document management solutions. These solutions may share the content and document management responsibilities with SharePoint. Also, schools will have different requirements due to compliance, politics, existing technologies, and business goals.
In the private sector decisions are made and deployments are mandated by management. In education, almost everything is done by committee. This gets me to my next point…Governance. Since Higher Education is so de-centralized it is difficult to “mandate” anything. Governance applies to any scale from a department portal, to a school portal, to a campus-wide portal and becomes more difficult in Higher Education when you add groups (i.e. no campus-wide governance model). The Governance body can determine scale, quotas, virus software, taxonomy (site structure), navigation, branding, technical considerations, development processes, maintenance, 3rd party additions, strategic vision (1-year, 2-year, 5-year), document and content management policies; and is crucial to the long term health and consistency of the portal.
Customers also struggle with control. Do we lock down the portal or do we let our users simply create anything they want? This also varies from customer to customer. Very controlled portal deployments limit what end users can do, which can adversely affect adoption. Alternatively, loosely controlled portals empowers users to control their own content, build their own solutions, and design the structure, features, and functionality without IT involvement. This method of deployment generally comes with high user adoption; however, the loosely controlled nature can quickly turn ugly. Inconsistent navigation, branding, taxonomy, content and document management between sites will leave customers frustrated and looking for “best practices.” This can all be achieved with “governance.” And, the latter method is the best method assuming you do have governance.
In conclusion, culture, politics, requirements, existing technologies, and audience all are important factors to consider. Governance is the foundation to implement a consistent and useful content and document management strategy. The particulars of Higher Education are not as important as having a vessel to mandate a consistent user experience for all. Understanding the 5 pillars to good content and document management are universally important to any sector in the world using SharePoint. Here are a couple links to Microsoft’s Governance Homepage and a public link to a good Resource Guide for Education.