SharePoint and PDF—It's About the Content
The best way to promote adoption and enhance technology is to improve those points where people intersect with technology. These points are not only the user interface and features, they also include the content within it. A key best practice for Microsoft SharePoint is to ensure that the content is delivered to the right place, to the right people, in the right format for its intended use.
Much is written about the SharePoint user interface and capabilities in regards to being an ECM system—but what about the content? By improving the point where people and content/documents/data in SharePoint intersect, you can make them much more productive and thereby improve the value of your SharePoint deployment. How can this be done? By taking the volume and variety of content that is managed in your SharePoint-based ECM system and converting, combining and enhancing it into a format such as PDF that is more suitable for consumption by humans. Here are some ways to do that:
Deliver content in the right format. In most organizations, content (commonly generalized as "documents") is stored in the format in which it was originally authored or created. In most cases this is one of the Microsoft Office formats such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Other examples include:
- Scanned documents in TIFF or image-only PDF;
- Image files (JPG, TIFF, PNG);
- Email messages; and
- CAD drawings.
SharePoint is as much about delivering content as it is about authoring and managing content. Converting it into the right format for its intended use makes it easier to use and provides you with more control over how it can be used such as:
- Mobile—Making content mobile-friendly is increasingly important as employees leave their laptops behind and rely on smartphones and tablets. The PDF format is light weight and ideal for viewing on mobile devices.
- Security—Documents for reference and review are best left un-editable. Using security controls, people can't edit a PDF, providing more control over the use of information.
Don't bring "dead content" into SharePoint. Dead content refers to documents that are virtually impossible to find and/or use. These include:
- Scanned documents in image format; and
- Legacy documents from retired applications.
Organizations often import large volumes of content into SharePoint, especially at the point when they are on-boarding content into a new SharePoint deployment. The "tag it and bag it" approach will only serve to fill your repository with content that is difficult to find or use. Unless this content is searchable and usable within the organization, why bother? It's just costing you money to store it without adding value.
Before allowing dead content into SharePoint, transform it into a format that can be indexed, searched, easily opened and referenced by people. Using optical character recognition (OCR), scanned documents are "born again digitally" by converting them to a searchable PDF. This allows users to easily find them and even copy content from them if necessary without having to retype it. Documents from old legacy applications (remember WordStar, Lotus 123, etc.?) or specialty applications can also be converted to searchable PDF and their content made useful again.
It's also interesting to point out that Microsoft made significant improvements to the search capabilities in SharePoint 2010 making it more effective to organizations leveraging SharePoint for search-intensive processes such as e-discovery. These organizations understand that having all of their content searchable not only makes SharePoint search more effective but also makes employees much more efficient at their jobs.
Help users deal with multiple documents within SharePoint. SharePoint is great at dealing with single documents but how often are business proposals or projects summarized in a single document? Many business scenarios require collections of documents of various types that will eventually be assembled into a single report. Compound document assembly is useful for:
- Meeting books for executives/trustees/boards;
- Assembling RFPs;
- Business proposals; and
- Case and contract management.
Usually, creating a single package from a collection of documents involves going to a manual print and collate exercise, or removing the digital files from SharePoint and assembling them using a desktop application. The ability to create cohesive and usable content from a collection of documents in different formats such as Microsoft Word, financial information in Excel, PowerPoint presentations, engineering data in AutoCAD DWG format, etc., produces a more professional-looking result, and makes it much more efficient for the reader to use this information. A merged PDF file can be made much easier for users to navigate through its contents with the addition of a table of contents and PDF bookmarks for the entire document.
Move it out, don't throw it out. When a document reaches the end of its lifecycle and is moved out of the main repository into archive and records management, the usability of this content can be retained far into the future by putting it into the appropriate format for long-term digital storage, such as PDF/A. Leaving it in its original format will result in the creation of dead content in your archive.
With the increasing regulatory need to access documents and data for 10, and up to 100, years and beyond, long-term archival of electronic documents is not only a priority, but a growing requirement. Organizations in industries such as pharmaceuticals, financial services, public sector, manufacturing, legal, publishers and many more are challenged to choose an archival strategy that will enable them to access past data in a standard format on demand today or anytime in the foreseeable future.
Content is a critical intersection point for SharePoint users. The ability to enhance content brought into or created in SharePoint by transforming it into PDF—a more suitable format for its intended use and users—will promote adoption of SharePoint and significantly enhance its value.
As a Microsoft Gold Certified and Depth Managed Partner, Adlib is an expert in document-to-PDF transformation. Trusted by more than 5,000 international companies and government organizations, Adlib helps reduce the financial exposure and risk of non-compliance with regulatory agencies; reduce IT costs by centralizing document transformation; and leverage document-to-PDF as a shared service across the enterprise. For additional information, please visit: info.adlibsoftware.com/KMWorld12 or www.adlibsoftware.com.