In-depth Analysis of SharePoint Document Management System, Its Versions & Features:
In this article, we will discuss what is SharePoint, how to create a SharePoint Document Management System, the pros and cons of using SharePoint, and different download types.
Managing a huge amount of documentation in any organization can be very exhausting both in terms of time and labor and it still can be prone to errors. However, it is critical to keep all the documents in place for the project to run smoothly.
All organizations need a robust system to keep their documentation stored safely and in the right order. Let us dive deeper into one of the most robust document management systems provided by SharePoint-a Microsoft product.
What You Will Learn:
- What Is A Document Management System?
- What is SharePoint?
- Pre-Requisites To Create A Document Management System In SharePoint
- Creating a Document Management System in SharePoint
- Features of SharePoint Document Management System
What Is A Document Management System?
A Document Management System is a software, which controls and tracks the complete life cycle of the documents. The life cycle of a document has various steps to it, right from its inception to its deactivation.
By using a document management system, a document that is created can be stored and traced through each version of the same, covering every changing feature of the document, including every detail of its modification, revision, and use.
What Is The Document Life Cycle?
The five basic steps of a document life cycle are:
The planning phase is where a plan of what the document must contain is sketched. The way the document needs to be structured is thought through and the necessary data is collected to create the document
At this stage, a draft version of the document is created and numbered. For example- version 1.0; during which the author creates the document ready to go for a review.
In this step, the draft version or the first version of the document is passed on to a reviewer. The reviewer carefully reviews the document and suggests any changes needed.
During editing, the author or sometimes an editor agrees on changes required and works on the document to incorporate the changes.
This is the final step, during which the document goes in for approval by a subject matter expert who is authorized to sign it off.
The above steps of a document life cycle may have more steps included, based on the terms of the organization and the project capacity. Such a complex life cycle of a document can be handled with ease using a powerful tool such as SharePoint.
In the next section, we will see what SharePoint is, and how it can be used for document management?
SharePoint is a collaborative platform that allows parallel usage and multi-user activities in organizations to store and manage simple to complex data management solutions.
SharePoint was launched in the year 2003 by Microsoft. Since its inception, Microsoft has developed various versions of SharePoint products and downloads to suit various customer needs.
1) SharePoint Online
This is a cloud-based service that allows a business to subscribe to SharePoint Online services and maintain document transactions with all stakeholders using the cloud platform, instead of installing SharePoint locally on-premises.
2) SharePoint Server
Based on business needs, SharePoint can be installed and deployed on-premises using the SharePoint Server version.
Apart from the above two types of downloads, there are a few other available versions.
The SharePoint Foundation, which is an older version of SharePoint, available only in SharePoint 2013. This is still widely used. Also, there is a SharePoint Designer 2013 used to build workflow-enabled solutions. The popularly known OneDrive, which has its version for businesses called OneDrive Business sync.
So, based on the requirement and capacity of the business, customers can download the respective version of SharePoint to meet their needs.
In this section, we will see how beneficial it is for an organization to choose SharePoint for its Document Management.
Pros of using SharePoint for Document Management:
1) High Security and Integrity
The security features of Microsoft SharePoint are so robust, that the user will never have to worry about unauthorized access to classified information files or failed integrity of the application.
SharePoint is built, keeping in mind all levels of stakeholders that can use this tool, and hence it is designed in such a way that it is easy to use for all users.
3) Administration with a totality
SharePoint features a console for central administration, using which the administration will have access to append its features, settings, and configuration with complete control.
The level of customization provided by SharePoint to the developers is very vast, using this; the tool can be tweaked and completely customized as per business requirements.
This is the best and one of the most important features of SharePoint that helps all users of SharePoint in the business to stay collaborated and updated and to stay current with every phase of the Document Life Cycle. The latest version of SharePoint also provides streaming of information in real-time.
No matter how good a system is there will always be some cons. But, it is important for the user to determine priorities and usage requirements to weigh the pros over the cons.
Cons of using SharePoint for Document Management:
As we know, accessing SharePoint needs the Internet, which needs a solid network, and even a solid network connection is prone to fail sometimes. At such times, using SharePoint becomes impossible due to its dependency on the Internet.
2) Package of many tasks
We know that SharePoint has more potential than just storing documents, such as automated workflows, etc. Hence, for a small business that just needs a tool for document storage online, there are other more suitable tools in the market.
Every new employee that gets access to SharePoint, needs a payment made for his subscription each month, which could turn out expensive for organizations with lesser requirements and lower budgets.
Before we create and dive into the navigational aspects of data management in SharePoint, here we see the requirements that need to be in place:
1) Determine the type of documents that will go into the system:
Based on the type of document that goes into the system, the users will be able to set up a template for each type of document, so that it is ready for use.
2) List out the kind of information that must be collected for every document:
It is most important to have the Metadata in place for the document uploaded, thus, it is necessary to list out and set up the fields to be filled in for metadata, so all users have all the necessary information about the uploaded documents. Also based on this, one could decide the location or the path, where the document is placed in the system
3) Work with Metadata:
Unlike the traditional setup of folders and subfolders that occupy immense memory and still do not keep everything organized, the way it is expected to, in SharePoint we use Metadata to make it more systematic and more accessible.
So, here is how we make the SharePoint system set as per Metadata- Every document uploaded must be tagged with the appropriate and pre-defined metadata. With this, searching with keywords gives the most appropriate/accurate results.
4) Content Types:
It is also important to organize the content types in the document management system. A content type is nothing but literally- the type of content. You can categorize the documents based on the type of content that you have.
For example: If there are ten counts of word documents that are HLDs, five excel sheets of Test Cases, and two counts of word documents of Test Plans then, based on the type of content, they can be classified. In more SharePoint specific terms, Content Types contain the Metadata Types that the content is classified based on.
The Content Types can be reused for different scenarios and requirements. In SharePoint settings, there are a whole lot of options to create new Content Types and to also include the content type into a more searchable group for future use.
5) Control Access:
Based on the above points, the access control can be given, to allow users to keep their documents secure and accessible only to selected users.
Also, setting up roles for different users with varying degrees of control over the document (creating, reviewing, deleting, and approving the document, etc.) is possible.
6) SharePoint 2013 also incorporates Policies for documents to ensure that it meets corporate guidelines and legal requirements.
This section explains how files are uploaded into the SharePoint system and the possibilities of using the files.
1) With SharePoint’s easy to use interface, a file can be uploaded by simply using the ‘upload’ functionality or the upload button. Exactly the way you select a file to attach it in an email.
2) After uploading the document, a whole lot of entries can be filled based on the project. For example, if it is a project with many modules, then you can have fields to be filled with details to denote which module the file belongs to.
3) After filling in all details, you can save the file, and the file is uploaded into the system with some auto-populated metadata like, who created the file, when the file was created, version number, etc. and a few filled in data like the module details, etc.
4) Every time a document is modified, the version is listed in its history and the users can see the version history of the document – either just to view it or for restoring the file to a particular previous version.
5) After the document is uploaded to SharePoint, there is always a link created for every file. This link can be shared for two purposes – to view or to edit it.
6) If you have Office 365, you can also search for any document in SharePoint with the search functionality in the local machine.
7) Documents can be created, modified, and deleted with appropriate permissions, at any given time based on the changing business requirements or needs.
When a document file is created for a project that has continuous improvement and changes, modification of the concerning document also becomes an ongoing process. A decade ago, even with the use of cutting edge technology, while multiple users could access shared folders and drives, only one person- the admin, would have the rights to make any changes to the files in the shared drives, which would be insufficient.
Today, with the use of SharePoint, we have many interesting features that give equal opportunity to all its subscribers, to meet demands of their roles, without having to compromise their own work or work being done by another person on the document.
Also Read => Best Document Management Software
Here are a few features that make SharePoint interesting:
SharePoint allows every user to read or make changes to the same document file, and gives every version of the document a unique version number, accompanied by user comments, stating what changes have been made at this stage or in this version of the document.
2) Locking the file
A person using a file to modify it locks the file using the Check-out feature so that there is no conflict in maintaining the correct version of the file and every change made is recorded correctly in sequence.
After the person finishes working with the file, he/she uses the Check-in feature to unlock the file, to allow another user to take control similarly.
For example, if user A has to modify the data in file X, and user B also has the task of modifying the same file. User A accesses the file X on SharePoint at time 00:01 and user B accesses it at time 00:03, then user A accesses it, does a check-out to modify the file so the user B can not modify it at the same time. Once done, user A does Check-in. After check-in by user A, user B gets notified, so he can now access it, check-out and do his modification and then Check-in once done.
SharePoint provides detailed information on the current status of a file like- when was the file modified, who modified the file, if the latest modification has been approved or not, a link to the document, etc. Such detailed status of the document helps every business stakeholder who has access to the file, gain a complete insight into the current status.
SharePoint Document Management System is a collaborated repository of files, whether, cloud-based or server-based platforms, it is easy to use and has built-in security features.
Although there might be many such tools in the market, which may be less expensive and easier to use, Microsoft’s SharePoint has excellent features for a robust Document Management System.