SharePoint 2010 : Organizing Information - An Information Organization Project

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This section outlines at a high level the steps necessary to complete an information organization project successfully. The first order of business will be overcoming resistance to the idea that your company’s information really does need to be organized.

So, how do you get others in your company to accept the idea that they need to invest in an information architecture, and more specifically, in a project that leverages the information organization features in SharePoint 2010? This is never easy because the objections of decision makers are entrenched and familiar. Their objections usually center around difficult-to-justify costs and other excuses that there just isn’t space to list here.

Overcoming these objections is not easy, and it will take some real work on your part. To engage in an Information Organization Project for SharePoint (IOPS), you’ll need to understand that you’re asking for change in how information is developed, managed, and disseminated. Such change is not a small thing. It is likely that there are many information kingdoms in your organization, with people who already take personal ownership of that information. That is not necessarily a bad situation, but it is something that must be recognized and leveraged as part of your IOPS effort.

There are (essentially) six phases to an IOPS. The following sections outline each phase and provide you with tools for achieving your goal of establishing a successful IOPS.


MORE INFO There are other paths that can be followed to help you with your SharePoint 2010 implementation. For example, BearingPoint has released its methodology on how to organize information, which is an open source standard for information management. You can learn more about this at Moreover, the AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management, group has published several certifications that relate to SharePoint 2010 implementations. These are the Enterprise Content Management Specialist and Information Organization Specialist credentials. At the time of this writing, AIIM is introducing a SharePoint Specialist certification that bridges the gap between the SharePoint technology and their expertise in how to manage information. The phases presented in the following sections represent a suggested path on how to achieve a strong organization of information in SharePoint 2010. But this is only a suggested path. You might find that using the MIKE 2.0, AIIM, or another methodology will work better for your organization.

The information organization project introduced in the following sections is divided into six basic phases, as explained previously. The early phases are the most important, and each subsequent phase builds on the previous one. Moreover, the quality of success at each phase will directly impact the quality of success in the following phases.

1. Phase 0: Information Organization Assessment

In the first phase of the project, you’ll want to gather information about its scope, including who the main stakeholders will be. You will also want to inform yourself about the environment in which you’re working. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can bypass this stage because you are working on your own environment. Completing an information organization assessment questionnaire will enable you to collect what you need to know at the start of the project, to keep everyone involved informed of the project’s progress, and to set proper expectations on how the IOPS will flow.

The questionnaire should cover the following topics.

  • Definition of the documents that are in scope versus those that are out of scope

  • Definition of the systems that are in scope versus those that are out of scope

  • Definition of the processes and policies that are in scope versus those that are out of scope

  • Statement of the technical environment that currently exists and what changes must be made to support the IOPS effort

  • Definition of the problem that has given rise to the need for this project

  • Definition of the desired outcome, which should be stated in measurable terms

  • Discussion of the interview data that supports the project’s effort

  • Statement of the project’s sponsor, project manager, and champion

  • Outline of the communication plan for the project

  • Outline of the project plan

As you can see in Figure 1, there is more to this phase than mere documentation of the problem, solution, and current environment. You also should document explicit business needs (not requirements), and you should conduct a cost of doing business analysis (CODB). Writing out the business needs is really how you’ll define the findability problem in business terms. The persona interviews (explained later in this section) illustrate those needs in an easy-to-understand way, and the CODB quantifies the severity of the problem in opportunity costs.

Figure 1. Phase 0 of an IOPS: Assessment

In this first phase, you also need to conduct a CODB analysis. This is different from a return on investment (ROI) analysis. In nearly all companies, the value of their information doesn’t appear on the balance sheet, so it’s nearly impossible to calculate a hard return on investment against the cost of an IOPS. However, you can more easily calculate savings based on increased efficiencies as a result of an IOPS. Those calculations need to be completed in Phase 0.

Do not overlook the persona interviews, because they form the basis of a CODB. Having a business analyst document current processes and the cost of those processes provides the foundation against which the savings calculation can be made. Persona interviews are conducted with real people whose stories and daily lives in the workplace are folded into a composite person with a fictitious name. When you have developed that persona, this fictitious person is used as an example of how the IOPS will improve that employee’s life. It’s usually best if three to five personas are developed, because different employee types will be affected in different ways.

You’ll also need to do a findability study before you can create the statement of work (SOW). You’ll need to gather both anecdotal and measured responses concerning how well employees are able to find the information they need and how easy that transaction is. Don’t worry about measuring putability in this phase, since a poor findability solution will point out deficits in your putability processes.

When all of these activities are combined, you’ll be able to describe the problem in real terms, quantify the opportunity costs in real dollars, express how the IOPS will improve efficiencies, and illustrate how the day-to-day work lives of employees will improve. All of this is included in a statement of work and is usually connected to a request for additional funding to complete the next four phases. At the end of Phase 0, you have outlined the costs, the staff, and the cycles necessary to complete the IOPS.

2. Phase 1: Business Requirements Development

In this phase, you’ll focus on the development of the business requirements based on stake-holder interviews, the problem definitions from Phase 0, and a grassroots survey. You’ll want to document the requirements and then hold a series of requirements workshops to check the requirements and ensure that everyone agrees on the definition of the problem as well as what is required in the solution.

This phase, illustrated in Figure 2, is an important step that involves much writing and consensus building, but it will not complete the groundwork for your IOPS. However, developing the business requirements in this phase is a necessary step to prepare for Phase 2, which involves turning these business requirements into technical requirements.

It could be argued that the business requirement effort should be moved back to Phase 0, and in some environments this will be the right way to conduct the IOPS. Placing the effort to develop business requirements in Phase 1, after the project has been approved and funded (which occurs after Phase 0), usually makes more sense, however, because of the cost and time consumption required to develop requirements. You would move the requirements development to Phase 0 if you were working with a customer who didn’t need or want a cost justification for an IOPS, because they have already decided to get their information organized, and cost is a secondary consideration.

Figure 2. Phase 1 of an IOPS: Business requirements

3. Phase 2: Technical Requirements and Project Charter

In this phase, shown in Figure 3, you will focus on taking the business requirements and turning them into technical requirements. These technical requirements will connect your specific business requirements with the feature set available in SharePoint 2010. The technical requirements will also outline the current state of your organization’s hardware and software and then describe any changes necessary to deploy SharePoint 2010 for your information organization project. Also as part of this phase, you’ll need to document your current governance plan for SharePoint 2010 and then outline any modifications required as part of the SharePoint 2010 implementation.

The combination of the outputs from the first three phases will form the content and rationale for the project charter, which everyone involved should agree to before the project moves forward. Assume at this point that you have funding for the IOPS and the authority for those leading the project to make decisions, approve expenditures, and implement policy changes.

Figure 3. Phase 2 of an IOPS: Technical requirements and project charter

4. Phase 3: Audit and Analysis

Taking the output from Phase 2, you now need to inventory the documents and records that are in scope for the project and determine their security assignments. This should be an exhaustive inventory and will require third-party tools that can enumerate both the complete list of documents and well as their security descriptors.

This part of an IOPS can be rather difficult, because in the course of conducting the inventory, you want to discover old, outdated, or irrelevant data that can be discarded. You’re working with a multitude of content owners to help them decide which documents they need to keep and which ones need to go. You’re also uncovering security problems with documents and finding security processes and policies that will need to be updated to ensure the same problems don’t occur again.

As part of Phase 3, you’ll need to ensure that you have good communication with your users, because they will be guiding your decisions about which artifacts to keep and which to discard. It is not uncommon to encounter resistance at this phase from users who will claim that they don’t have time to help with this decision-making process. At the beginning of the project, this resistance should be anticipated and addressed. Some ideas for managing this resistance include gaining authority to discard files that are more than a specified number of months or years old or to move documents that have not been included in the inventory into an unsupported file server that will be excluded from the project. Figure 4 illustrates the activities for this phase.
Figure 4. Phase 3 of an IOPS: Audit and analyze your documents

5. Phase 4: Development of Putability and Findability

In Phase 4, you develop the operational taxonomies, user interfaces, tagging policies, and educational materials that users will utilize in their ongoing management of information. This is a busy phase and involves high involvement for your end users. This highly visible phase must go well to ensure that your project is successful.

In Phase 4, you will conduct nearly all of the tasks described in that section—the development of the business taxonomy can be conducted in parallel with Phases 0 through 3 in this larger methodology, but the rest of those activities will occur in the current phase. Refer to the detail provided in the previous discussion. Figure 5 illustrates the development of putability and findability in your information organization project. When you have planned the information architecture that will provide the structure for your project, it’s time to move on to Phase 5, in which you will address the governance and maintenance of your information organization systems.

Figure 5. Phase 4 in the IOPS: Plan the information architecture

6. Phase 5: Governance and Maintenance

Phase 5 is an ongoing stage that supports and maintains not only the SharePoint 2010 implementation, but also the ongoing organization of information within the SharePoint implementation. Information will change over time, so your company may need to adjust the rules that guide how the information is organized and tagged. By regularly reviewing how information is managed, tagged, input, and found, you will help ensure that your efforts to organize information in SharePoint 2010 have not gone to waste.

Also, as your company matures in the area of managing information effectively, the governance rules that guide end users and the enforcement of those rules also will necessarily change. Ensure that you have a process for this change in place, and that there are identified personnel who are capable and authorized to make changes to the governance rules. Also make sure that these people can communicate those changes to your entire organization clearly and effectively.

Figure 6 illustrates this last phase, which is never really complete. By their nature, maintenance, review, assessment, and training are ongoing tasks that must continue indefinitely. As your organization changes and grows, you will need to make sure your information architecture can adapt. And as new employees join your company, you also need to be sure that they are trained properly in using the system you have in place. Orientation materials for new employees should cover your information architecture structure, its policies and procedures, and the rules of enforcement so that your organization doesn’t experience incremental loss of use in information organization because of employees who don’t understand how the system works.

Figure 6. Phase 5 of an IOPS: Governance and maintenance

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