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Getting more from SharePoint-Part 3: Metrics, content processes and governance policies

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Tagging processes
The amount of content that is correctly tagged provides a useful measure of adoption and compliance. How do you know if content is tagged correctly? Taking a representative sample of content and checking whether tagging is aligned with the intent of the content publishing design will detect inconsistencies or errors in tagging. The percentage of content that is tagged at all is an indicator. One organization left a default value that did not apply to any content—the first term in the dropdown was aardvark. If users left that value in, they were not paying attention and the quality of tagging was impacted. Measuring the percentage tagged with aardvark allowed for an inverse indicator—when the aardvark index declined, the quality increased. The quality of content can also be measured with crowd-sourced feedback. Up-voting or down-voting content can trigger workflows for review or boosting in ranking.

Change triggers
Metrics tell the organization something—whether something is working or not working. But what action is triggered? A metrics program has to lead to action—a course correction to improve performance. The change cycle can be characterized by conducting interaction analysis to measure the pathway through content and how it is used (such as impressions or reading time). If users exit after opening a document, that exit could be because they found their answer or because the content was not relevant. It is only by looking at the next interaction (another search, for example, or a long period of reading the document) can it be determined whether the content was high value or whether it did not provide an answer. Based on this analysis, it is possible to identify a remediation step (create missing content or fix a usability issue, etc.).

Search interactions also provide clues for action. When top searches return no content, the wrong content or too much content, the root cause can be addressed with an appropriate action (improve tagging, create content, tune the ranking algorithm or search experience with best bets, auto-complete, thesaurus entries, etc.).

By reviewing and troubleshooting content interaction metrics, patterns may emerge that point to problems with the publishing process or compliance with tagging guidelines.

Content processes and governance policies

SharePoint governance consists of decision-making bodies and decision-making mechanisms for developing and complying with rules and policies around SharePoint installations. This is the glue that holds SharePoint deployments together. Mechanisms for standing up new team sites and collaboration spaces need to go through a process of review to ensure that redundant sites are not created. Abandoned sites need to be retired or archived. Content needs to be owned and reviewed for relevance. If content is not owned and abandoned sites not actively removed, the installation becomes more and more cluttered.

Without clear guidelines for how and where to post content and ways to apply metadata tags, users will tend to post content haphazardly, and eventually libraries will be cluttered with junk. Over time, people will dump content in SharePoint because they are told they need to post it for sharing but no one will know how to find valuable content. Site administrators must understand the rules of deployment and control how users are utilizing SharePoint to prevent sprawl and keep the system from becoming cluttered with poorly organized content.

Consider that every element of SharePoint has a lifecycle and that lifecycle has to be managed. Those elements range from design components that are created based on the needs of users and rigorous use cases (including taxonomies, metadata structures, content models, library design, site structures and navigational models), to the sites themselves that are created according to a policy and process and disposed of at the end of their life, to the content within sites that needs to be vetted, edited and approved for broad consumption. All of those are managed through policies, intentional decision-making and compliance mechanisms developed by a governance group.

SharePoint governance needs to be a part of the overall information governance program of the enterprise. It is part of content and data governance with particular nuances based on how the technology functions. In fact, many tools are designed into the core functionality of SharePoint to help with governance operationalization. The overarching principle is to consider the audience and the breadth of audience the content is designed to reach.

One analogy is that of an office structure. The lobby, which has a wide audience, limits what can be displayed. The lobby environment is visible to all, so it needs to be managed rigorously. But walking into a cubicle in the office building will reveal the personality of its inhabitant—personal photos, papers on the desk, individual and idiosyncratic organizing principles. A messy desk perhaps. A shared work area might be someplace between the orderliness of the lobby and the messiness of the individual workspace.

Those gradations are the local, personal and departmental level spans of control analogously managed in SharePoint. Information that has an enterprise span needs to be carefully managed and controlled. In a collaboration space, things can be a little more chaotic. In fact, the one thing to keep in mind is that content has a different value depending on the context and span and will increase in value as it is edited, vetted, tagged and organized for specific audiences and processes.

Segment the high-value content by promoting it from a collaboration space to a shared location and apply the tags that will tell the organization that it is important. Separate the wheat from the chaff. Manage high-value content and differentiate it from interim deliverables and draft work in process. Throw away the junk or take it out of the search results so they are not cluttered with low-value information.

Many people complain that they can’t find their content in SharePoint and they want search to work like Google. The answer is to put the same work into managing and processing content as search engine optimization departments do for web content, and the search engine will return the results that you are looking for.

SharePoint requires an intentional approach to design, deployment, socialization, maintenance and ongoing decision-making. The rules are simple—there is no magic. They need to be applied consistently and intentionally to get the most from the technology.

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