Image by: Stewart Sutton, ©2015 Getty Images

A SharePoint steering committee meeting, which I was invited to by the chief executive officer (CEO), started off with: an operational executive telling information technology (IT) that they could not find some of the documents they needed in SharePoint; legal saying that during e-discovery, older records had been discovered in SharePoint that should have been disposed of in accordance with their schedules; the records manager politely responding to legal that electronic records stored in SharePoint were outside of their responsibility; and IT asking for funds to upgrade SharePoint. As the chief financial officer (CFO) called for a five-minute break in the action, I readied myself to jump in.

"The problem with SharePoint is not SharePoint," I told the group of battling executives. I then asked the following questions:
  • Had the organization developed a five-year enterprise electronic content management (ECM) budget (all costs), plan and roadmap?
  • Did IT help the user groups develop ECM application design(s) previous to implementing SharePoint?
  • Who owns electronic documents, and who determines what stays in SharePoint?
  • Had the organization's LEAN and Six Sigma experts been asked to be included in the design of workflow pattern structure, routing and measurements?
  • Did the organization assess its records information management (RIM) and governance status for both electronic and physical records?
  • Were records schedules updated previous to SharePoint deployment?
  • Was an electronic records management (ERM) electronic records module deployed?
I received the following answers:
  • An enterprise-wide plan had not been established. IT felt they had provided a tool set for the users and felt that it was the user group responsibility to request additional help or budgets.
  • There was no standard method deployed to develop SharePoint ECM applications across the organization. Individual and group users that asked for SharePoint were given training and permission to deploy SharePoint in the way they saw fit.
  • "The user groups own the electronic documents," said the records manager. "I gave them a records schedule, and it’s their responsibility to follow it."
  • "What is workflow?" the users asked.
  • "We already did LEAN for our processes," said the users, "to get rid of steps we thought were waste." The records manger said, "Yes, they got rid of records quality control steps they thought were a waste of time."
  • "We have been thinking of developing an information governance program," said the legal department.
  • "We looked at the ERM module," said IT, "but the users thought it was too expensive. Anyway, we back up everything so nothing will be lost." At that point, the general counsel reached for her aspirin.
"So, what’s your advice?" asked the CEO. I responded:

A five-year, enterprise-wide ECM plan needs to be developed. The plan needs to identify all costs, including planning, software, setup, integration, internal support and external/internal maintenance costs, and identify an organizational roadmap based upon individual and overall project cost/benefit. From this roadmap, SharePoint needs to be assessed as to where it fits “today,” not tomorrow. Where there is not a fit for SharePoint, other capture, ECM, workflow or ERM software needs to be included in the plan.

A standard method to assess ECM application requirements needs to be developed and followed, including documentation of project-specific capture, recognition, indexing, annotation, signature/authorization, storage, view, workflow, email integration, data system integration, retention/disposition and output requirements. The design needs to be a strong user narrative of business requirements. Once developed, IT and the records manager should help the user groups evaluate SharePoint for fit, cost, time to develop and risk. Where SharePoint is a fit, IT needs to help user groups set up SharePoint to meet application requirements. Where it is not, IT needs to help the user groups identify, set up or integrate other products to fulfill user requirements.

Processes related to ECM need to be inventoried and assessed as to potential benefit of structured workflow patterns. If structured workflow looks to be advantageous, process maps need to be developed, processes need to be cleaned up/improved (i.e., efficiency, quality, service) using LEAN, Six Sigma, business process management (BPM) or re-engineering techniques. A proper workflow pattern needs to be documented at the right level of automation and measurement. The maps should be used to determine SharePoint fit, type of automation proposed (e.g., point-and-click design vs. scripting) and risk. Where there is not a fit, IT needs to help the user groups identify, set up or integrate other products to fulfill user requirements.

An information governance (IG) plan needs to be developed and communicated, including record policies, procedures, RIM program and retention/disposition rules. IG rules need to be re-enforced through an ERM electronic records management module. The IG rules should also be developed and rolled out to support documents stored in shared network drives, email, paper, microform and other areas.

One of the executives responded, “This sounds like a lot of work. Do we have to do this?"

"It all depends how comfortable you are with your current situation," I said.

For more information on process improvement and paperless technologies, see the CRE8 Independent Consultant "Paperless Technology and Process Improvement" white paper at

George Dunn is the founder and president of CRE8 Independent Consultants and is a worldwide recognized consultant, speaker, instructor, contributing editor and author on business process innovation and improvement, paperless technologies and complex computer system replacement planning. He has over 25 years of experience in the advanced technology and process improvement industry.

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