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SharePoint|The Reality Series 8
Implementing SharePoint 2010—An ECM manager’s view

It makes more sense to prep your content for the new environment before moving day. Here are four solid reasons why:

  • Labeling—According to four-time SharePoint MVP Todd Baginski, one simple and obvious but sometimes overlooked designing element is to label everything plainly. Embed descriptions that speak to why specific attributes are grouped together. That’s another advantage of broadening the base; an outside voice can flag cryptic references and question the clarity of purpose from a user perspective.
  • Detachment—According to Manoj Kumar, a business content architect with Blue Star Infotech, a best migration practice is to detach your databases rather than dumping them off in a single cartload—what Microsoft calls the database attach approach. That’s because without detachment you bring along the content without the configuration settings. Without them, you may find your new house ransacked through the slippage in your content views, style sheets and webparts. But you also lose the log files that tell the transactional story of the content you’re migrating. Is that ancient history or a telling diagnostic for your next KM platform?
  • Interface—Also it might not be worth preserving some of those UI conventions in the new environment, argues Christopher McNulty of Knowledge Management Associates. For example, many of the organizational and social aspects of your libraries, such as folder or taxonomy-based navigation, can now surface in SharePoint 2010.
  • Purging—Look no further than the pre-migration mantra to improve what never worked out in MOSS or might be best scrapped because it’s unsustainable or not worth the effort. For many enterprises, the ease of installing SharePoint is what leads down the rabbit hole of overbuilt and abandoned sites, assuming they even contain maintainable and populated libraries.

Taxonomies from scratch

From an ROI perspective, no reason for migrating to 2010 is more compelling than the emergence of SharePoint 2010 Managed Metadata Services (MMS). That’s because MMS is pivotal for boosting productivity through improved enterprise search.

Unlike the sales-driven, cause and effect of commercial Web search and pay-per-click advertising, the opportunity here is to jumpstart a conversation that has stagnated since the first intranet posted the first cafeteria menu. The great underserved purpose for the ECM migration team is to hold the mirror up to the face of an inarticulate user population and say: See? These are the terms you search on and here are some of the more common descriptions found in the documents they attract.

One way to begin the metadata conversation with your users is to assemble term sets composed of popular keywords and highly rated search results. MMS puts those pick lists in play. Paul Wlodarczyk, an information architect with Earley & Associates, encourages the use of taxonomic modeling tools from SmartLogic, SchemaLogic and Concept Searching to validate term sets and bring out the best of formal vocabularies and intuitive user tagging. Imagine a world where folksonomies and taxonomies don’t talk over one another but enrich the internal dialog within your organization. That’s a conversation these tools are ready to facilitate.

What’s new but requires your old house is in order before the new one’s built? That would be your content database, or more precisely the number that answers to your diversified content portfolio. That’s the case for staging your intranet, your legacy file shares and your crown IP jewels under the big migration tent. In SharePoint 2010, those groupings can share term stores, content types, workflows and permission structures.

Better still, says KMA’s McNulty, those content types are now stored in a central content type hub that can be leveraged to propagate across server farms and site collections. It’s really true. Updates to content types are no longer the domain of .net programmers and idiot savants.

A few more temptations to resist here include the overuse of content types. According to Shawn Shell, founder of Consejo, a sounder approach is to leverage inheritance in anticipation of the metadata updates that are sure to follow. Sue Hanley, president of Susan Hanley LLC, echoes the need for simplicity in her advice to keep metadata values unique, commonly understood and as brief as possible.

Big home improvement

What’s the ultimate success factor for your SharePoint 2010 migration in 2011?

The temptation is to keep the same configurations—the same content mapping, page groups and templates for motoring through your current site navigation. For some, perhaps the promise of new features and measured improvements is enough to trade up. Hey, I know more than a few gold partners who are primed to put you in a new portal today!

For those of us who value being productive as much as being fashionable, the migration is not just a rebuild within the comfort zones of the gatekeepers but a second chance—a wholesale reset around the priorities and resources of the community it serves.   

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