Low end document management / starting at a new company

Subject: Low end document management / starting at a new company
From: "Gil Yaker" <gyaker -at- designdata -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2002 13:51:53 -0400

Hey all,

After being laid off by WorldCon back in April, I am now employed at a
small Managed Services and Consulting company. Once again I'm the lone
tech-writer on staff supporting maybe 15 engineers, 4ish Sales people,
and 6ish Management/administrative people. This is the environment that
I like most. It seems that there's lots of downtime at this job so
hopefully I'll be reading and contributing to techwr-l more.

I was talking to my direct manager, trying to figure out my place here
in detail and I asked him why we use these Public Folders in MS Outlook
to store all of our major documents - which is the extent of our
documentation management system. (For the most part I write and edit
these dox, other people make technical edits as necessary, but we use
these Outlook Public Folders as our shared/public storage structure).
The existing directory structure is way too detailed in that it seems to
take 6 or 7 clicks to get the single file/folder that you want. I've
seen everyone complain about this.

So during our discussion I asked him what he liked, didn't like about
the system, motivations for change, etc (it's funny how mid conversation
I'm realizing that I'm leading our discussion like an interview and
taking notes - I wonder where I got these skills from :) and here's what
I found out:

The previous system employed around the office used Groupwise (netware
based?) for document management. (note - all documents here are either
text files, visio files, jpgs, .nfo, or .html, and primarily Word 2K2
files) He said they were able to check documents in and out of what they
used for storage, I'm unsure if this was the Groupwise product itself or
the underlying Netware system or what. Proper file locking occurred so
that two people couldn't edit the same file and you were assured of
working on the latest version. I'm actually not familiar with this
software/file server and digging around on Novell's site didn't do too
much good. Can someone out there maybe explain what was going on? He did
NOT like how even opening notepad invoked low-level file control (but
I'm a bit confused on this point).

Now the reason they changed was that none of our clients seem to use
Groupwise anymore - everyone uses exchange - so it was an attempt to
standardize tools. Also, I'm gathering there were employee issues when
he mentioned that one of the previous TWs kept current versions of
documents on his personal computer and in a pinch the staff could not
find the latest documents which was obviously troublesome.

He further mentioned that they were considering using a program called
MS Sharepoint to share and keep control over documents, but that at
first glance it was too much trouble to configure for our needs.

That's the background - other than we have several hundred documents to
keep track of - and rule seems to be that no document exceeds more than
100 pages. Just about all the documents are in the same format (audits
of clients' systems in MS word and supporting graphics).

So my primary goals are:

- suggest a system that doesn't include so much navigation through
directories to reach the document you want to read or edit.

- set up a document management system that's not as convoluted as what's
in place (this is part of the first point really) -checking documents in
and out if possible so only one person can work on an active document at
a time.

Knowing that I have a lot of flexibility with changing things once, but
I better get it right from the start:

- Does anyone have any general suggestions for this situation?

- What are your feeling of Outlook Public Folders vs. standard shared
drives and just a smart way of planning directories to reflect our work

- Can someone give me background of the joys of Groupwise/Netware in a
PC environment (that my manager misses) and how to mimic it in a MS-only

- Has anyone used Microsoft Sharepoint with success?

I'm wondering if merely a better planned set of public folders on our
file servers is the best way to go. Admittedly I'm working with very
small scale stuff (small documents and not really too many of them)
compared to what I read most of you dealing with.

However I always thing that at a base level getting other tools to take
care of glorified filing (like using sharepoint or using Outlook's
Public folders) really only gets in the way

TIA and feel free to respond publicly, privately on some or all of my
questions :)


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