Keeping Your Content Alive, With or Without SharePoint

Last week I called SharePoint a legacy system and that there were many document graveyards/coffins out there built upon SharePoint. I also said that SharePoint was just the latest Content Management system to host document graveyards. This lead to an entertaining discussion as well as related articles by Ron Miller questioning the point of Content Management and Billy Cripe discussing the need for a new focus for Content Management Systems.

Before moving forward, I want to clarify. I was not slighting SharePoint. If anything, it was a recognition of what SharePoint has achieved as a legitimate Content Management system.

Let’s now take a step back and look at keeping Content alive.

The Tools

I learned years ago that no one tool is right for every job. While this is true in the Content Management space, for many challenges, multiple tools could be effective. What usually defines “success” is the planning and governance involved.

Let’s face it, SharePoint is generating a lot of document graveyards because it is being deployed a lot. It isn’t a weakness of SharePoint. It is the same weakness that existed before SharePoint when organizations threw Content Management solutions over the wall and expected them to stick.

If there aren’t already, there will soon be graveyards built upon Box. It is a sign of success of the platform and a sign of failure by Information Professionals.

Granting Life to Content

Gabor Fari (who should write a post on this topic) and Billy both say that a strong collaborative system, properly designed and implemented, can give Content life. I think Billy puts it best when he says that Content should be exhibited.

I think that this type of system where Content is developed and readily revisited and leveraged is great.

It just isn’t the only way.

A well designed Case Management can give life to Content. Why? Let me give an example…

Let’s say I’m performing Correspondence Management. A piece of correspondence comes in and I have the responsibility to respond. I should be able to quickly locate other items on the same topic or from the same person. I can look at the previous responses and craft the new response appropriately. Meanwhile, metrics can be run to identify trends and see what is happening.

All About Context

What both examples have in common is that the Context of the Content is providing the value. Whether that Context is provided collaboratively or through using proper use of processes, that is the value. The sum of the information around that Content and its Context is the value.

No tool will give that to you. Only a well thought-out design, implementation, and proper governance will give it to you. Sure, some tools will fit some business problems better than others, but the tool cannot provide Context. That is up to the people using the system.

Is it frustrating that there are a lot of document graveyards? Yes, without question. Does it mean that my career has been wasted? Absolutely not. I’ve created many systems that aren’t graveyards and I’m proud of those systems. There are also a couple graveyards that I had a hand in building.

The existence of these graveyards existing universally should be a wake-up call. We as Information Professionals should strive to eliminate them. If you are reading this, it is your responsibility. These systems should not be dumping grounds. If people can’t find what they need or decided it isn’t worth looking, then why store the Content at all?

That is the real question. If nobody accesses the Content because it is buried, why not just kill it once and for all?

6 thoughts on “Keeping Your Content Alive, With or Without SharePoint

  1. Good article, Laurence. Let me make two other postulations: ‘Content is Knowledge’ and ‘You cannot manage the Corporate Truth if you cannot manage Content’. So how would anyone be able to capture and retain Corporate Knowledge, and manage the Corprate Truth, if you cannot find a way to manage Content? The alternative is Content Chaos. I think Content Chaos is an even more acute scenario than content graveyards in many companies. I also found it interesting that you dedicated a paragraph to Context, as this is exactly what I wrote too in my comments to your earlier postings. Content without Context is incomplete – I have a whole Blog posting dedicated to this. So if we take that ECM is a Practice, then we can marry this practice with a system that manages content and context, ties together seamlessly the authoring front end and the back and, and infuses Content with Collaboration. And this is exactly what forms the core strengths of SharePoint. And now we have a chance to keep content alive and meaningful, and to avoid Content Chaos, or Information Chaos. The latter requires the right information architecture design and implementation and governance, so it should all be covered by the practice of ECM.


  2. I am in total agreement with you, but I am still amazed that it took that long for people to catch on. Both the archiving and the keeping alive aspect of content is a relationship to processes. The context is the relationship to its processes and other content. I said in the end of the Nineties ‘There is no process without content and content without process is irrelevant.’ Yes, if you don’t have the context or don’t need it why store it at all?

    The point of this is that one does not to just store the content (and we need to consider both inbound and outbound) but one has to also store the processes in the archive. I want to be able to go back and see who did what and when with the content and how it relates to everything else. This is the process!

    I don’t think that ‘exhibiting’ the content is the right thing to do, necessary or even sensible in the light of security requirements. Full text search of all content is a waste of time and resources if you have process context archived.

    BUT YOU ARE WRONG IF YOU SAY THAT NO TOOL WILL GIVE THAT CONTEXT TO YOU! (Sorry for the caps but it really upsets me …) That is exactly what we do. It doesn’t need a lot of governance and implementation, but just do what you always do with your content and processes and we keep track of it. The complete process with all its content and all its relationships to all other processes and other content is stored to the archive. One can even restart the process where you left off ten years ago should that be in any way sensible.

    Is it frustrating that there are these content graveyards? Immensely, because i have been fighting both the graveyards and the BPM straightjackets for more than a decade! Maybe now that you are at AIIM and don’t have to sing a vendor song you can do something about that???


  3. One more note: Content Authoring is not really relevant for BUSINESS content. People who talk about that have no idea about process management and how content relates to that. Business content is an application definition that takes content resources and builds a content instance for a particular process need with business rules and merges it with business data. The other kind of content application is to take an an instance of an incoming content, classify it, extract data and text and map it into a business process. That is content management.

    Both inbound and outbound business content are really difficult to handle without these capabilities. Just storing a blob is not really content management at all. So I do not see Sharepoint as a content management system.


  4. @Max: I should have written collaborative processes to better accommodate what you are saying. It all belongs together, and you need several things in place to avoid Information Chaos, and Governance and Process Management are on top of the list. I do agree that Process Management is important, but I also disagree with your clearly biased view that it is the only thing that is important. Content Management is not all about ingestion, extraction, classification and BPM. That is a use case of Content Management, and BTW full text index is important too, but incomplete without metadata (i.e. context). It is also a completely off base that content authoring is not relevant for business content. Of course it is. If Business Data gets included in the content being authored (be it in the form of charts and tables, structured content or metadata tags), then it is absolutely relevant and in fact business critical. You could not be further off base about SharePoint that it is about Blob Storage. You just missed the other 95% that is important.

    And why are you getting upset anyway? Calm down – the weekend is here. Chill out and have some of that excellent Feldschlosschen beer or some other good suds from Switzerland 😉


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