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SharePoint governance--information architecture's role.

Features and functionality offered by SharePoint 2010 for implementation of governance require an in depth understanding of organizational content. The first step is in development of a content model, which becomes the blueprint for the overall content architecture.

What does architecture have to do with governance? Everything. We need to understand content life cycles in order to assign review and approval processes. We need to differentiate various types of information to understand how that information will be disposed of or archived. Ownership of information may be organized around things like content type (in the context of a particular site or library within a site). Conducting an audit of the existing environment is an important initial activity that helps identify not only the types of content that exist, but also unique characteristics inherent to the information itself.

The scope of the content audit is to review and evaluate a representative sampling of documents with the result typically captured in spreadsheet format, usually containing columns for the following information:

* Document type--Identifies the general type of content represented by the document. Generally speaking, this document is a <blank>, where <blank> is a policy, procedure, FAQ, job aid, bulletin or notice, etc.

* Volume of content--Estimation of the total amount of content for this document type. Intended to provide a general scale of overall scope.

* Special characteristics--Notation of qualities that stand out, such as format (does it make use of a standard template or use consistent naming conventions?); metadata attributes (how is it tagged--status, owner, topics, language, sub-types, audience, reference data, etc.?); are there multiple versions and is it still relevant (when was it created or last modified)?

* Relative value--Identifies the importance of the information to the organization overall. Not all content is created equal, and those types identified as having higher value will require special methods for handling areas such as enrichment and life cycle.

* Source--Location in the source repository where the document is stored.

* Samples--Listing of sample titles of documents typically representing the type of document.

Designing content types

The question is what does the content analysis have to do with governance? This phase of the information architecture process helps identify important information types that can then be managed within SharePoint through the application of content types. A content type in SharePoint is defined as a reusable collection of settings that describe behavior, management and properties for a specific type of information including metadata attributes, information management policies, workflow and standard templates.

While many content types are provided out of the box, they are generic in nature and in no way representative of the uniqueness of organizational information. The purpose of the audit process is to help identify an initial set of document types required to be considered for implementation as content types. Approaching the management of content using content type definitions often begins with the design of a foundational type with a core set of standard metadata attributes required to be applied to all content items. The core content type becomes the parent for all other content types that then inherit the basic properties defined. Additional traits for children and grandchildren, etc., are added to describe the unique characteristics of each additional content type that is required. Once an initial set of content types is identified, further design detail around each is required, including:

* Metadata schema--Identifies unique attributes used to describe the inherent nature of the type of content as well as requirements for enrichment intended to improve findability through access mechanisms like search and navigation.

* Taxonomy and term store management--Identifies facets and controlled vocabularies for consistent application of terminology across the SharePoint solution, regardless of location in the hierarchy.

* Information life cycle design--Consists of modeling processes around creation, capture, management, retention, archival and/ or disposition. Includes defining information management policies and standard processes for periodic review to ensure accuracy, quality and relevancy of content. Design activities are closely aligned with the development of workflow, retention and compliance mechanisms.

Creation, however, can get out of hand, and, therefore, instantiation of new content types cannot be allowed to be an ad hoc activity. Governance processes around management of content types need to be established and must include policies and procedures for creation, modification and deletion.

Additional considerations for design include scope of use. Some content types may be required across departments, geographic regions or lines of business, while others may be localized within a specific business unit. Those identified as global require centralized management within a specialized site collection known as a content type hub. They can then be made available for use in subscribing site collections through syndication.

Metadata schemas

As mentioned before, a common approach to designing a global metadata schema begins with identification of a core set of attributes required to be applied to all content items in the SharePoint environment. Those attributes are attached to a core content type as columns and inherited by each individual content type as a base set. Unique metadata requirements are then layered on top of the core to support both management and enrichment by describing the inherent nature of the type of content. A formal process for defining what the additional attributes are begins with the audit and ends with a schema representative of each content type. Management of metadata attributes for any particular content type must then be subject to formal governance procedures around creation, modification and/or deletion.

Taxonomy, controlled vocabulary and term store management

Taxonomy within the SharePoint environment is typically applied to content through the application of controlled vocabulary. In SharePoint 2010, that is surfaced via managed metadata, which represents a hierarchical collection of predefined and centrally managed terms that are applied by publishers as metadata attributes to content items. Terminology surfaced as part of the publishing process originates from within the term store, which provides centralized storage and management for standard vocabularies through the following constructs:

* Groups--A flat list or hierarchical collection of related attributes comprised of one or more term sets.

* Term set--A flat list or hierarchical collection of related terms that belong to a group.

* Term--A word or phrase that can be applied by publishers and system users as metadata to content.

Those constructs must themselves be designed to be flexible enough to evolve with the business over time. The evolution, however, must be both predictable and controllable. Not anyone can be allowed to make changes on a whim to the term store structure because all managed metadata fields throughout the solution use it as the source for controlled vocabulary. Term store administration must be considered within the realm of information governance and include change control that addresses formal review processes important for quality assurance and consistency, standard practices for adaptability to changes in the business environment and an evaluation of costs and benefits of proposed modifications including the impact on the existing environment in terms of retagging of content and retraining for publishers and consumers. The chart on page 14 provides an overview of standard roles, along with tasks that each is able to perform.

The governance structure must take those into consideration when defining ownership, responsibility, security and permissioning that address group, term set and term management within the term store for actions such as:

* Creation or insertion of new terms (e.g., new product or product line).

* Renaming existing terms (e.g., change to a product name).

* Splitting terms (e.g., a category becomes too voluminous and needs to be split into multiple sub-categories).

* Merging terms (e.g., too few items across sub-categories).

* Adding a new facet (e.g., new activity or business process).

* Deleting an existing facet or category (e.g., product discontinuation, selling of a line of business).

* Deleting a term (e.g., an activity, business process or line of business cease).

* Moving a category or merging terms (e.g., changes in business or organizational structure).

* Term reuse (polyhierarchy).

Automating information life cycles using policy, workflow and compliance

A lack of information life cycle design is an important contributor to the accumulation of content that has become redundant, outdated or trivial (ROT). SharePoint implementations that begin and end with a technology-centric approach to design and implementation often end up evolving into generic dumping grounds for content and ultimately end up becoming significantly more difficult to both manage and use. The resulting information abundance causes substantial decreases in findability, which eventually leads to degradations in the user experience, particularly in the area of search as users are forced to sift through pages upon pages of irrelevant results.

SharePoint provides capability to implement information management policies with out-of-the-box policy features that include:

* Retention--Ability to ensure that content is not retained for unnecessary periods of time.

* Auditing--Provides the ability to audit user behavior against defined policies and procedures by tracking operations performed on content, such as viewing, opening or downloading.

* Labeling--Capability to attach labels to physical copies of documents so they can be correctly identified.

* Restrictions on print--Ensures that the printing of sensitive content items is restricted.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Retention schedules can be associated with content to enable automation of processes that ensure relevance and timeliness of information by addressing review, archival and/or disposition on a regularly scheduled basis. Attaching retention actions and workflow to specific content types allow for increased control over the behavior of that content. Retention stages defined within the settings for a content type include:

* Event definition--Identify what needs to take place in order for the retention stage to initiate. Typically based on values captured within date fields that represent the passing of a specified amount of time since a previous event took place on the document, such as creation or modification.

* Action--Identify the action required to occur once the event has been triggered. Actions are frequently associated with workflow and typically include archival, standard review or permanent deletion.

* Recurrence--Identify the time period for which the retention stage is required to be repeated, which is often associated with the passing of a specified period of time since successful completion of the previous retention stage.

Workflow is an important requirement for ongoing management of content in the SharePoint environment and is required for managing phases that fall within a content type's life cycle (creation, capture, modification, disposition and/or archival). SharePoint offers simple predefined workflows out of the box that include:

* Collect feedback--Sends a document for review.

* Approval--Sends a document for approval, often as a prerequisite to publishing it.

* Disposition--Manages document expiration and disposition.

* Collect signatures--Routes a document for signatures.

As with content types, the workflows provided often do not meet the needs required to automate management of the content. There may be more general workflows that can be created that can be used across content types and custom ones that might apply to a single content type. (See image above.)

Measuring success

The success of SharePoint in any environment will be measured by the ability of users to easily find the information required at the time of need. Information architecture and governance establish the foundation for findability by providing a methodology for modeling both content and user needs and creating a set of standards and processes that are consistently applied to organizational information. Consequences of their absence include:

* Insufficient resources to keep content up to date or to correctly tag and organize information in support of business objectives.

* Lack of ownership and accountability leading to content that gets lost, stale or disorganized.

* Decreased findability through search and navigational access mechanisms, resulting in poor good will, low productivity and frustration among users.

* Expected efficiencies and cost saving are not achieved.

* A lack of future opportunities if foundational capabilities are not developed over time.

When designing for information governance organizational culture and maturity must be key considerations. It cannot be something that is imposed upon or establishes obstacles or barriers to productivity. Overall structure must be created in collaboration with stakeholders and subject matter experts. Communication and socialization is required to ensure understanding about how controls put in place are intended to reduce or eliminate content management and findability problems.

Governance is not a one-time thing, but rather an ongoing process that has operational components integrated directly within the SharePoint environment. It needs to be thought of as an extension to the information architecture process and viewed as the establishment of a solid foundation required for information management success.

Jeff Carr is a senior information architect and search consultant at Earley & Associates (earley.com), e-mailjeff@earley.com.Seth Earley is president and CEO of Earley & Associates, e-mail seth@earley.com.
ROLE            TASKS THIS ROLE CAN PERFORM

Farm            * Create a new term store.
Administrator   * Connect to an existing term store.
                * Add or remove term store
                  administrators.

Term Store      * Create or delete term set groups.
Administrator   * Add or remove group managers
                  or contributors.

                * Modify the working languages
                  for the term store.

                * Import term sets.
                * Create, rename, copy, reuse,
                  move and delete term sets.

                * Modify a term set's
                  description, owner, contact,
                  stakeholders, submission
                  policy and whether the term
                  set is available for tagging.

                * Create, rename, copy, reuse,
                  merge, deprecate, move and
                  delete terms.

                * Modify a term's description,
                  labels, default label and
                  whether the term is available
                  for tagging.

Group Manager   * Add or remove contributors.
                * Import term sets.
                * Create, rename, copy, reuse,
                  move and delete term sets.

                * Modify a term set's
                  description, owner, contact,
                  stakeholders, submission
                  policy and whether the term
                  set is available for tagging.

                * Create, rename, copy, reuse,
                  merge, deprecate, move and
                  delete terms.

                * Modify a term's description,
                  labels, default label and
                  whether the term is available
                  for tagging.

Contributor     * Create, rename, copy, reuse,
                  move and delete term sets.

                * Modify a term set's
                  description, owner, contact,
                  stakeholders, submission
                  policy and whether the term
                  set is available for tagging.

                * Create, rename, copy, reuse,
                  merge, deprecate, move and
                  delete terms.

                * Modify a term's description,
                  labels, default label and
                  whether the term is available
                  for tagging.
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Author:Carr, Jeff; Earley, Seth
Publication:KMWorld
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2011
Words:2300
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