Using Sharepoint for Content Management

Can Microsoft SharePoint be used for Enterprise Content Management?

Last Saturday I attended and presented at SharePoint Saturday Atlanta. Before I give you a brief recap of my presentation, let me first thank Dan, Ron, and the entire team that helped put on SharePoint Saturday as well as the sponsors, and especially the 350+ attendees. It was truly a great SharePoint conference.

The presentation I delivered was entitled “Enterprise Content Management for Microsoft SharePoint”. The video of the presentation is available here and a link to the slides on SlideShare is available here.

The session runs for roughly an hour, but for those who just want the “twitter version”, I am going to indulge you.

The main question posed was: “Can Microsoft SharePoint be used for Enterprise Content Management?” The answer to this question, in my opinion, is a resounding YES! If you are already supporting or plan on supporting MS SharePoint, then the answer SHOULD be yes due to the following reasons:

  1. You are already using SharePoint – why would you want to put content in two places? Putting content in two places means maintaining and supporting two different products and the infrastructure to support them.
  2. It’s not ENTERPRISE Content Management if you split your content across multiple silos or applications. I have seen way too many customers with “buyer’s remorse” when they realize that users without access to the ERP system still need access to content stored in their ERP system.
  3. Your IT staff probably have little interest or motivation in supporting niche ECM products. I can’t tell you how hard we have had to fight to get even one resource to support a niche ECM product at many of our clients. But, mention a SharePoint project, I have five IT resources beating down my door to be involved.
  4. Resources are easy to find. There is a veritable army of SharePoint resources on the market. From the online echo system of blogs and articles, to consultants, to full time employees, there is no shortage of information or talent when it comes to SharePoint.
  5. It’s built on the Microsoft Stack. I have confidence when I sell an ECM solution built on top of a billion dollar company’s software stack. They WILL be here in five years and they WILL keep up with technology trends.

Hopefully you are convinced of the why, but we still have to answer the question: “Can SharePoint be our ECM system?” It certainly can, but we have to find solutions to some things that SharePoint doesn’t do or doesn’t do well enough out of the box. Functionality such as:

  1. Scanning / OCR
  2. Automated Document Import
  3. Image Viewing and Annotation
  4. Integration
  5. Workflow
  6. Electronic Forms

There are a lot of third party vendors that can assist us here and we discussed several in our presentation including: Content360, Knowledgelake, Nintex, and K2.

So, yes, I am saying SharePoint needs third party help to do Enterprise Content Management. The third party products we recommend run inside SharePoint and add next to no additional infrastructure that has to be supported. All of the reasons above for using SharePoint as your ECM solution still hold true. I may be adding software, but I am adding it on top of the existing infrastructure and native functionality of SharePoint. So, all of the native SharePoint security and other functionality are still available. Below are just a couple of examples to help illustrate the point:

  1. I scan through a web/app part installed in SharePoint. When I am done scanning, the documents are stored in document libraries with column values. I didn’t install a completely separate scanning interface and I am not just presenting documents in SharePoint from some other system. I can use all of the native security and SharePoint features on these documents just like I can with any other SharePoint document.
  2. I search using a targeted Search web/app part. I am still just searching on documents stored in SharePoint libraries and I can search using the built in SharePoint search if I want.

SharePoint is like no other software when it comes to solving our clients’ ECM needs. It can be installed on infrastructure and with software our clients’ already own and are supporting – which means a lower overall cost of ownership while still gaining the ECM functionality the organization needs. That is the reason why we are so excited about getting this message out to as many SharePoint users as possible. If you use SharePoint for office document storage, portal, or team sites, then there is no reason not to consider using it for your high volume ECM needs like Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Human Resources, and Student Services.

Thanks again for a great SharePoint Saturday!