SharePoint CMS Taxonomy

Tech Trek Log – 2010.01.20

My daughter is in 3rd grade and I saw her doing the following question to understand structural concepts in their Science subject: What are the things you would have to decide when designing a new building?

Similarly, we can apply this question by considering what should be the taxonomy when designing an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) implementation. Taxonomy is defined as follows in

A systematic arrangement of objects or concepts showing the relations between them, especially one including a hierarchical arrangement of types in which categories of objects are classified as subtypes of more abstract categories, starting from one or a small number of top categories, and descending to more specific types through an arbitrary number of levels.

Thus, the biggest question that comes to mind within the two camps of thought will be – if your company shall organize things in a centralized or distributed manner. Now, as in any solution there is no silver bullet which can address all of the requirements to fit your organization. Instead, what I’d like to present here are the factors that can likely affect such Information Architecture (IA) decisions.

Based on experience, this will make or break the successful implementation of a Content Management System (CMS) since unless the users can find the information then your corporate portal will be just storage equipment that nobody uses and/or will likely contain data duplication resulting into frustrated user base. An independent survey by IDC found that the average information worker (IW) in the United States spends approximately nine-and-a-half hours per week searching for information (IDC: The Hidden Cost of Information Work, April 2006). Here are some of the key things for considerations:

  • Corporate Culture
    • How open is the organization in sharing information to its employees and partners?
    • What types of collaboration are encouraged in your organization?
    • Are there any organizational barriers, or intergroup conflicts that need to be considered?
  • Information Confidentiality
    • How sensitive is the information that needs to be published?
    • Does your organization have any restrictions to corporate sensitive information?
    • Are there any public regulations that have to be considered for compliance purposes?
  • Administration/Cost
    • Who will manage the information that will be contributed to the portal?
    • Does your company have the resource to manage the information?
    • Will there be willing participants in each department to manage their own content?
    • Is the company willing to invest in 3rd party rollup solutions?

The above mentioned exercise is not much of a technical endeavor but rather collaborating with an influential Project Sponsor that understands these variables to best address them when rolling out the system. The key element here is somebody who has the decision making authority to drive the vision and who will also be using the system, thereby, acting as corporate evangelist. The solution is only as good if the organization is on-board since no matter how technically savvy or elegant your knowledge management (KM) system – if nobody uses them then it’s a waste of resources.

In SharePoint alone, here’s a sampling of areas that will raise such structural question:

  • Portals – Central or Divisional
  • Sites – By Department, by Function, or by Project; formal or informal groups in Organizational Behavior (OB) terms
  • Security – Site Users and Permissions
  • Document/Form Libraries – Corporate Forms, Policies and Procedures
  • Picture Libraries
  • Lists – Announcements, Event calendars, Contacts, Links, Tasks, etc.
  • Search

This topic applies regardless if you have another CMS product, or any upgrade releases to SharePoint. For Architects or Developers, it would be wise to understand these factors since that will drive your design and your role is to assist in the decision making process that minimizes any structural impacts in the future. Your bottom line is the ease of use for both the end-users and the content administrators who will manage the information.

Organizational Behavior course taken from ASU


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