TechTarget defines Content Management (CM) as “the administration of digital content throughout its lifecycle, from creation to permanent storage or deletion”.
Most IT professionals probably think about content in terms of web pages, images or videos on public-facing websites, but this post takes a step back to look at Intranet content. Of course, Intranets host web content, but they can also include many other types of documents and lists that hold organizational information for internal use.
Many organizations find that simply storing content isn't good enough; it needs to be accurate, relevant and easy to find. This is where the management aspect comes in. When content is managed, it'll typically progress through the stages of creation, editing, publishing, oversight and finally disposal.
SharePoint has established itself as a very capable CM product over the years, and in this post we’ll see how Office 365 continues this trend with SharePoint Online.
Environments for CM
Office 365 Sites are the organizational and security building blocks of a SharePoint Online intranet. Sites can be set up for teams, projects or communities to collaborate, and they act as a logical go-to location that users can identify with.
Site security is designed to support transparency by default, enabling SharePoint's powerful Search feature to help users discover content easily, but it can also be tightened to ensure only authorized users can access confidential content.
Management of sites can also be delegated to users, so an organization can either centralize the responsibility for maintaining content, or let sections of the business take ownership of their content; whichever they find more efficient.
Lists are the main structural component used to store and organize content within sites. There are many list types to support the different content types a business may use, from Libraries that store documents, images or video, to calendars that store events and other collaboration list types such as Contacts, Tasks and Discussion lists.
SharePoint also supports the creation of custom list types that can store business data that previously had to be stored in spreadsheets. Storing data in SharePoint lists has many benefits. The data is stored centrally in the cloud and is fully searchable, and there's also the option to edit each list item individually. For example, a list with 100 rows of data can be edited by 100 different people simultaneously as long as each user edits a different row.
It's possible to record a version history on items stored in lists. This is a clear benefit for documents in recovery or compliance scenarios, but even with other list types this feature offers basic auditing capabilities that isn't possible with spreadsheets. Which brings us neatly to the fact that you can still connect Excel to the list data when it comes to reporting and analysis tasks.
Storing this content in Office 365 is all good and well, but we should remember that users want their data presented to them in a user-friendly format. Fear not, as the SharePoint Online user experience is highly customizable when using both web parts and app parts.
App parts are a subset of web parts, and are automatically created for each list or library created in SharePoint. These can be added to a web page and customized to display a filtered, sorted or even personalized view of library or list contents to users.
SharePoint has long had wiki and blog capabilities, and this remains true within Office 365. Business data that's less formal is well suited to being captured in wiki pages, or if you prefer a more personable format, blog pages.
No enterprise content management solution would be complete without fundamental features like Check Out and Check In, Versioning and Content Approval. SharePoint boasts these as well as more powerful features like Content Types, Workflows, Document Sets and Managed Metadata. Office 365 builds on this great foundation by including Office Web Apps and Yammer integration.
Office 365 not only provides a solid content management toolkit for today’s intranets, it's forging ahead with innovative functionality with the Office Graph, which promises exciting new capabilities for content management.
Microsoft’s first Graph application is Office 365 Delve, which uses machine learning to search all information in a user’s own documents, email and calendar. The really clever part is that it then analyzes how this information might be useful to other users by looking at the interactions that one individual has with their colleagues. Finally, Delve presents this information to the user on a personal dashboard, or Board.
This idea of automatically surfacing relevant content to a user will without a doubt have an impact on the publishing phase of content management, but it'd be premature to suggest that Delve can replace your intranet. We look forward to seeing how the power of Office Graph is used in other Office 365 applications to give content editors smarter and more powerful tools.
How do you think these Microsoft products will impact Content Management?