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Managing information is critical in today's enterprises. Building information management solutions can be a difficult task if you are unsure of what you are doing. When using tools such as SharePoint and Office 365, you are also faced with a variety of options for creating your solutions. I present a few key considerations to help you make your decision when implementing information management on these or any other platform.
1. Identify the Scenarios
Before jumping into solutions for Information Management with products such as SharePoint, you first should consider what scenarios are appropriate. Not every scenario is appropriate, and your scenarios might be different depending on whether you plan to implement on premise, online, or in a hybrid approach. As such, you should start by identifying what you hope to accomplish as well as what your options are for deployment.
2. Identify and Architect the Information
Identifying the information to be managed would be a key first step to any information management solution. SharePoint offers robust support for managing nearly all types of data as well as providing features for working with that data. This ranges from managing assets such as images and videos to working with feature such as WebDAV, Excel exports, mobile devices, Outlook synchronization, workflows, reporting, and document sets. Integration can occur with external metadata, CMIS, Exchange, and other systems. There is the ability to work with metadata management, search, security, rights management, and auditing functionality as well. In records management, you also might want to work with document retention, discovery, EDRM, document conversions versioning, approvals, and more.
SharePoint provides support for these areas. Identifying what areas your solution needs should be a part of the initial architecting of your Information Management solution.
3. Capture the Content
Once you've identified the information to be managed, the next step is to capture the content. You need to have data before you can manage it. Not only do you need access to it, but you need it accessible in a manner that lets you pull information from it. Capturing this data, which is your content, includes uploading the information and importing it into a system for manipulation. For an ongoing information system, it is also important to make sure that you build processes for the continued capture, uploading, and/or importing of data beyond an initial load.
In addition to pulling existing data, capturing content also can involve using forms and other systems for acquiring new data. With platforms such as SharePoint and Office 365, the ability to build eForms makes it easy to build such entry systems.
When capturing the data, it is important also to include any additional attributes that help define the content. This can include adding metadata tagging and other markup that is stored along with the original bits of information.
Capturing data is the cornerstone for a successful information system strategy. With the focus on capturing the data comes a variety of issues such as data synchronization, replication, content context, and much more.
4. Create a User Experience
Stepping back, it is important to mention the most important feature of any system, whether it is an information management system or a simple application that does something basic. If you don't build an interface or experience that engages your end user, they won't use it willingly. You need to make sure that when you create an information management system, you need to make sure that it provides what the user expects and needs. It needs to not only get them to what they need quickly and easily, but also should be intuitive. The system should provide a navigation structure that is clear. Because information management systems focus on providing customized looks at unique data, it is important to also provide the users of the system with the ability to customize the views they must access to get to the content.
5. Build or Configure Findability
Even if you have every bit of data you need, and even if you have a customizable user interface that provides easy usability, if you can't find the specific information you need, the system will fail. Creating an effective search plan will therefore make or break your information management system. Not only do you need to consider what you need to search, you also need to understand and tap into the relationships between the various content within an information system as well as consider connections to sources outside of your system. Understanding the properties of your data and tuning your data to be accessed and searched efficiently are core elements of an information management strategy.
6. Insure Security
Up to this point, data and access to data have been discussed. Most information management systems are going to include content that is proprietary or confidential. Although security is only now being covered in this article, it is not something that should come so late in the process of planning an information management system. In fact, it should be a consideration at every level of your information management system, starting with the processes you build—including the tools you choose, such as SharePoint or Office 365—and going all the way through the information and interfaces you present to users.
Security should include not only access to the content, but also to auditing, rights management, loss protection, and more. This can involve not only coding efforts such as encryption and access, but also policies and procedures around your system.
7. Implement Management, Including Retention and Discovery
Finally, there are a few other areas that should be considered when building and implementing an information system. This includes areas such as retention and discovery.
Even though an information system is about obtaining and accessing content, there also are times when content should be archived or removed from a system. It is important to have a plan in place not only for content acquisition and retention, but also for what should happen at the end of life for pieces of content. A plan on how to archive, back up, or even destroy data should be in place. Although storage can often be considered cheap, there is still a need to balance the impact of having that data versus the noise it causes, the risk having unneeded data can pose, and other factors such as discovery that could be costlier than the simple storage space.
Summarizing Information Management Considerations
I've presented seven areas that need to be closely considered if you are planning to implement your own information management system. These range from capturing your content to securing and accessing it, but also including the idea of knowing when to have an end of life for such data. To cover the details on how to do this with any given system would fill a book or a full course.
For developers using the Microsoft toolset, SharePoint and Offic,e 365 provide a variety of tools that address all the areas mentioned. In fact, there are courses, such as Implementing Information Management on SharePoint and Office 365, that provide a deep dive into the details of each of the areas mentioned. Because the accuracy of an information management system is critical, taking the time to work through all the steps in advance could not only save you an exponentially larger amount of time later, but also help insure the accuracy of the knowledge you pull from your system.