Five Things I Hope to Learn at the 2011 SharePoint Conference

By Greg Clark posted 09-30-2011 13:55


The 2011 Microsoft SharePoint conference is coming up next week and I'm excited to see what's new from the hype machine that is Microsoft. I'm also excited to have my family join me for our first pilgrimage to Disneyland but that's another story.

As regular readers of the AIIM Community blogs will surely know SharePoint is the hottest topic in ECM right now. SharePoint is a polarizing topic; supporters believe it to be a cure-all for their content management woes and detractors feel it still isn't ready for prime time.  In true consultant style, my answer is "it depends". The business problem to be solved, governance maturity and organizational history with ECM are all significant factors in determining whether SharePoint is right for your organization.

I'm very interested to learn more about the use of SharePoint in real-world document-centric business scenarios. As noted there are strong opinions on both sides and I am hoping to be able to find out what's possible (and prudent) in SharePoint and what's not.

As always, it's important to recognize that technology is not usually the determining factor for ECM success. A solid, business-focused deployment plan with a strong governance model and user support will succeed almost irrespective of the technology chosen. That said, my hope is to find out the truth behind the hype.

Here are the five things  I'm hoping to learn next week:

  1. Who's using SharePoint as a high-volume, complex, integrated, standalone ECM system? Yes, I know SharePoint can scale to manage thousands (or even millions) of documents. But can it really stand up to use cases involved complex engineering documents?  Compound documents? Obscure file types? Again, I suspect the purely technical answer is "yes" but I'm interested to learn about actual organizations that have had success using SharePoint in this mode without the need for a traditional ECM system.
  2. How are companies using SharePoint Managed Metadata Services? Can this expedite the migration from network shares?  The concept of centrally managed metadata is new in SharePoint 2010 and the platform has been around for about 18 months now, but I haven't seen any clients I have worked with fully leverage this new functionality and my personal experience tells me that most Microsoft partners don't fully  understand this important aspect of SharePoint. Most still seem to be using site collection-level content types and custom columns. I'd like to learn more about real cases of enterprise metadata attached to real Office documents that are created/accessed/edited by real users to the point where network shares go away. Again, this is technically possible in SharePoint but what does it look like in practice?
  3. Real cases of very large document management solutions (millions or tens of millions of documents) and associated war stories. I know that SharePoint can technically scale to handle very large document sets but I'd like to hear from actual organizations that have done it. Is there a practical limit where it is no longer practical or prudent to store data in SQL Server and an external document store is required?
  4. How well does SharePoint scale globally? What are the architectural considerations and opportunities for making large content sets available around the world and across multiple languages. Who's done it and what are the challenges?
  5. Examples of hard-core records management in SharePoint. And by this I mean managing millions of electronic records (in place ideally) along with many millions of physical objects in an auditable, discoverable and user-friendly system.

I'll report my answers to these questions (and anything else exciting I learn) when I'm back the week of October 10th. 

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