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Evolution of SharePoint 2010 as an Enterprise Content Management Solution

Essentially SharePoint was designed as a collaboration platform which makes it easier for people to work together. It allows people and organizations to share information among themselves and with others, help manage documents and information libraries and publish reports for improved decision making.

However over the years SharePoint has evolved as an Enterprise Content Management System with Focus on managing Documents, Records, Web Content and Rich Media Content.

In this article we will be reviewing a few areas where SharePoint 2010 has evolved from earlier versions of SharePoint as an ECM Platform and also areas which require further improvements.

Web Content Management Solutions have a set of objectives which needs to be reviewed while designing the solution. Some of these objectives are:

  • Utilizing corporate web sites as a source for sales leads
  • Allow Customer Self-Service
  • Centralizing content Life cycle across all digital assets
  • Management of Content Life Cycle
  • Providing Content control to content owners
  • Promoting thought leadership
  • Complex Approval Process Requirements to adhere to regulatory and compliance needs
Keeping these objectives in mind some of the Key Feature enhancements and capabilities provided in SharePoint 2010 Content to make it a viable ECM option are:

  • Enhanced Web Authoring Experience which includes editing content, applying customized styles and themes and using the New SharePoint UI to change the page layouts and structure. SharePoint 2010 has an improved Rich Text Editor (RTE) which provides "Word like" editing experience like rich formatting of text, live preview of formatting options, easy embedding of images and videos directly into the RTE and drag and drop capability to place images and video wherever required. SharePoint 2010has enhanced its theming capabilities to apply a new set of colors to your site. The New Ribbon Interface of SharePoint 2010 allows text formatting options like styles, fonts etc. which is easy to use.
  • Document Sets is another feature which has helped enhance the ECM capabilities of SharePoint 2010 as they make it faster and easier to work on Project related documents and artifacts.Features which make document sets more useful then folder archiving and management in earlier versions are:
    • A Welcome page webpart which displays the contents of the document set and can also be customized to display information other than documents.
    • On creating a document set some default documents can be automatically provisioned.
    • Shared metadata enforces the same metadata on all items inside the document set.
  • SharePoint 2010 provides an enhanced Content Query Web part (CQWP) which helps which supports filtering metadata on items being queried or value passed to the page in the url query string. This feature helps in supporting dynamic content viewing.For example if a page is used to display News or Announcement in an intranet portal and we need to display all the news which is related to current news or announcement, the CQWP will help us to filter the required information from the page.
  • The New Managed Metadata service of SharePoint 2010 helps in representing corporate taxonomy. It helps in defining a hierarchical collection of terms and their further usage as attributes for Items. The terms can also be helpful in tagging content in SharePoint, driving dynamic navigation and Search Engine Optimization.
  • Improved reliability of Content Deployment feature in SharePoint 2010 which helps in deploying content from authoring/staging environment to production environment.For improving reliability better logging information is available which provides insight into Content deployment jobs and their issues. Also database snapshots can be used to work on authoring a site while Content deployment jobs are in progress.
  • Improved Flexibility in publishing approval process depending on type of WCM deployment. Also workflows can be modeled using Microsoft Visio 2010 and imported into SharePoint Designer 2010 and then reused to apply on content types and site templates.
  • SharePoint 2010 provides a new range of Web Analytics capabilities to monitor different aspects of site usage, thereby providing an understanding of a web site's performance. One of the important features added in SharePoint 2010 is "Search Insights" which helps in monitoring what visitors are searching on a site, what the top search queries are, which search queries are failing etc., which can then be used to enhance fine tune content and meta tags to enhance user discovery and experience.
  • SharePoint 2010 has made significant improvements in social collaboration capabilities such as blogs, wikis and social networking capabilities like discussion forums, ratings and comments.
  • A New Offline Client - SharePoint Workspace, helps in managing SharePoint content offline.
  • Improved LOB (Line-Of-Business) Integration capabilities using Business Connectivity Services (BCS).
  • Improved Search Capabilities due to integration with FAST Search Server 2010.

Although significant improvements have been made in SharePoint 2010, there is still a long way to go to make it a mature CMS Platform. Part of it can be attributed to the fact that SharePoint was not primarily designed as a Content Management Platform. A few areas where traditional Content Management Platforms score over SharePoint 2010 are:
  • Low upfront and Total Cost of Ownership.
  • Ease of development, administration and end user adoption.
  • Managing multiple Browsers, devices and languages.
  • Extensive dependency of SharePoint on IT resources compared to other CMS Platforms in terms of tools to enable capabilities like content targeting, multi-site and multi-device deployments. SharePoint business users need extensive training to use the CMS capabilities to manage complex websites and applications compared to other CMS platforms
  • SharePoint offline capabilities are still not comparable with other WCM platforms.
  • Content targeting in SharePoint is still weak.
  • SharePoint 2010 is not a good option for high-volume transactional content applications, the reason being that SharePoint has been strategically built with the objective of allowing users to share documents and information on corporate intranets and internet portals which do not require any high volume transaction capability.

According to Forrester Research, enterprises need not adopt SharePoint 2010 as an ECM Platform just because it has been successful in collaboration and intranet applications. There are certain areas where solution objectives may be achieved with customization but that comes at a cost. Forrester suggests that organizations should invest in SharePoint 2010 only if they are looking for a solution with a wide reach rather than a targeted point solution like a KMPortal or public facing blogs.

For further information of using SharePoint 2010 as a Content Management solution, refer to this CMS Report article here and ECM blogs on MSDN.


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