Introduction to document management

Document management focuses on the storage and organization of documents to support active work in progress, including content creation and sharing within an organization. When organizations do not have any kind of formal document management system in place, content is often created and saved in an unmanaged and decentralized way on scattered file shares and individual hard disk drives. This makes it hard for employees to find, share, and collaborate effectively on content. This also makes it difficult for organizations to use the valuable business information and data in the content.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 supports your organization's document management needs by providing a broad set of document management capabilities that enable you to do the following:

  • Store, organize, and locate documents.
  • Ensure the consistency of documents.
  • Manage metadata for documents.
  • Help protect documents from unauthorized access or use.
  • Ensure consistent business processes (workflows) for how documents are handled.

 Note   This article refers to an example SharePoint site created by Adventure Works, a fictitious company that manufactures bicycles, bicycle components, and bicycling accessories.

For example, the Technical Documentation team at Adventure Works, which produces customer-facing publications such as user manuals and product specification sheets, uses many of the document management features in Office SharePoint Server 2007. The team stores all of the content that it creates in a site that was created from the Document Center site template. In their Document Center site, the team members use major and minor versioning to track the development of documents through versions. They also use required check-out to ensure that team members do not inadvertently overwrite one another's work.

Store and organize documents in a Document Center site

The Document Center site template included with Office SharePoint Server 2007 can be used to create sites that are optimized for creating, using, and storing large numbers of documents. Sites that are created from the Document Center site template have specialized document management features such as required check-out and major-and-minor document versioning, which are turned on by default. Required check-out helps prevent conflicts and confusion over changes, because only one user can change a file at a given time. Versioning allows you to track changes to documents, and it helps you manage content as you revise it. Versioning is especially helpful when several people work together on projects, or when information goes through several stages of development and review.

Use content types to manage documents consistently

A content type is a group of reusable settings that describe the shared behaviors for a specific type of content. Content types enable organizations to organize, manage, and handle content in a consistent way across a site collection. You can define a content type for each type of document or information product that your organization creates to ensure that these different types of documents are handled in a consistent way.

For example, the Technical Documentation department at Adventure Works created two content types called User Manual and Product Specification. When team members go to the Document Center to create a new document, each of these content types appears as an option on the New button in the document library. Each content type specifies its own template, so that all user manuals and product specifications share a common format. Each content type also specifies its own custom columns, so that, for example, all user manuals contain metadata about which product models the manuals apply to. Each content type even contains its own workflows, so that the team can be confident that every user manual follows the same feedback and approval processes. And because product specifications are contained in a different content type, those documents can follow different processes and have columns that require different metadata.

Manage document properties

One of the primary ways that people find information that is saved on a Web site or in a document management system is by browsing or searching for the metadata (document properties) that is saved along with files. However, employees in organizations often do not take the time to add or update the document properties for files when they save them.

The programs and servers available in the 2007 Microsoft Office system help people to create and update metadata for documents. When you open or edit a document that is saved to an Office SharePoint Server 2007 site in a 2007 Office release desktop program, such as Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, you can edit the server properties for that document in the Document Information Panel that appears at the top of the file. If custom columns are added to the content type for that document or to the library where that document is saved, these column values are displayed as property fields in the Document Information Panel. By integrating the document-property editing experience into the content editing experience, the programs in the 2007 Office release make it easy for organizations to improve the quality of the metadata for their content.

Document Information Panel

Additionally, organizations can use Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 to create customized Document Information Panels that they can then add to specific content types.

Help protect documents

Office SharePoint Server 2007 also offers several ways for organizations to help protect documents that are saved to a SharePoint site from unauthorized access or use. Organizations can apply Information Rights Management (IRM) to an entire document library to protect an entire set of documents. IRM enables you to limit the actions that users can take on files that are downloaded from SharePoint lists or libraries. IRM encrypts the downloaded files and limits the set of users and programs that are allowed to decrypt these files. IRM can also limit the rights of the users who are allowed to read files, so that they cannot take actions such as printing copies of the files or copying text from them. IRM can thus help your organization to enforce corporate policies that govern the control and dissemination of confidential or proprietary information.

Office SharePoint Server 2007 also enables you to protect files in other ways. If you want to prevent people from reading drafts of documents in progress, you can set up a document library with major and minor versioning and then specify which groups of people are allowed to read minor versions (drafts). Drafts are the minor versions of files or list items that are not yet approved as major. If you set up that library to require content approval, then drafts are not published as major versions until someone with the appropriate permissions approves the document for publication as a major draft.

Another way you can help protect documents is by configuring permissions for individual folders, list items, or documents. If there are only one or two files in a document library to which you want to restrict access, you can edit the permissions for these individual items to change who has the permission to view or edit them.

Manage document-related processes with workflows

To support common document-related business processes, Office SharePoint Server 2007 offers built-in workflows that organizations can use to manage tasks such as document review, approval, and signature collection. Workflow is defined as the automated movement of documents or items through a sequence of actions or tasks that are related to a business process. Workflows help organizations manage document-related business processes more efficiently, because they automatically track and manage the human tasks involved in these processes.

For example, the Technical Documentation team at Adventure Works makes extensive use of the Collect Feedback workflow. Instead of sending e-mail to reviewers, a writer can start a workflow on the current document right from Office Word 2007. The workflow takes care of managing the process, including sending notification messages to reviewers, creating tasks for them, and tracking the status of those tasks. Reviewers can complete their tasks in Word 2007 or in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007.

Additionally, by using Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 or Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Extensions for Windows Workflow Foundation, organizations can develop and deploy custom workflows that manage business processes that are unique to their organizations.

 
 
Applies to:
SharePoint Server 2007