RE: Locating buried documents?

Subject: RE: Locating buried documents?
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: "Geoff Hart" <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Parrott, Kathleen E." <kathleen -dot- parrott -at- ngc -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 11:18:37 -0400

Geoff Hart suggested...

> Kathleen Parrott wondered: <<Can any of you kind folks tell me how you
> have resolved the problem of users being unable to locate documents?
> Our online system is huge and the options are endless, but it seems no
> one can find what they're looking for...>>
> Teaching your colleagues where things are stored is a useful solution,
> but hard to implement for large systems, particularly if you have high
> employee turnover or if the storage system is at all chaotic (most are
> unplanned and grow spontaneously); managers tends to forget to train
> new people in such environments (they have other priorities), and old
> pros tend to forget the training and remember only the documents they
> routinely use. When it comes time to find something new...
> The better solution is to create something like a portal page in a
> corporate intranet. Based on an understanding of the categories of
> documents and why/when/how users try to access them, you can create
> multiple portal pages (one per user type or user purpose). Because the
> portal pages gather information together into a logical hierarchy,
> they're also a great solution when there's little or no control over
> where documents are stored: it no longer matters where they are
> physically located because the portal avoids the need to know this
> information.
> This approach also lets you assign one person to keeping those portals
> up to date, responding to reports of problems, and making
> Adding an online index of keywords is also useful and effective, but
> far more work. Of course, maintaining such an intranet can easily
> become a full-time job, and people responsible for creating new
> documents must be somehow coerced into making the intranet manager
> aware of the new files so they can be added to the hierarchy. Not a
> trivial task sometimes.

Our company recently invested in a SharePoint server, and at this time
our group is making more use of it than any other department or team in
the company. The way we are doing this is by creating just the kind of
portals Geoff describes. We have a long-term ongoing project to work
through the departments and their teams mining documentation from the
servers, creating lists, and abstracts of documents and then working
with team leaders to determine what documentation should go on a
SharePoint site for the team. Within each site we create document
libraries that break down by function, topic, product, or whatever
organizational scheme works best for each team, and fill the library
with the appropriate documents.

Once we build the site and initially populate it with users and
documents, we teach someone in the department or team how to maintain
the site and go on to the next group. Having a Technical Writing team is
fairly new to this company, so this exercise gives us a good opportunity
to go out and see much of the outdated, incomplete documentation that
exists and has generated a project list several hundred items long of
documentation that different teams would eventually like updated,
re-written, revised, and/or re-created.

I don't know that SharePoint is an ideal vehicle for this, but being an
organized document repository is one of the few strengths that
SharePoint has. A lot of other things it claims to do seem dreadfully
clunky, overly complicated, and grossly inadequate; however, it's fairly
easy to create and customize document libraries and present them on a
team's "home site" in a way that allows quick access to the most
important and most frequently used reference and procedure documents
they need to complete their daily tasks. It also allows creation of
sub-sites and the ability to control access to documents (who can read,
who can edit, who can add, delete, or even access the team's site).

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