A Little Glitz

By DANIEL ANTION posted 11-03-2011 09:44


Selling my peers on the value of Content Management has always been an uphill battle. Of course, they know all the good and valid reasons why ECM is important, but people often point to one or more degrees of separation between them and most of those reasons. “I need to organize my content so someone else can find it easier.” On a daily basis, there is one degree of separation in that most common complaint. If I extend the scenario to include: “…in case there is a discovery request in the future”, I truly start to move ECM into the nice-to-have category. This argument, albeit a specious one, is that people feel their own content is organized well enough for their own consumption. Rather than fight that view, I have focused on drawing people into SharePoint with the allure of workflows that can make their job easier. Most people see right through this ploy, realizing that I am making ECM easier the way the big wheeled bin makes recycling easier – it still isn’t a job they want to be doing. Recently, I think I may have found a new hook, the dashboard.

Personally, I hate the way that “dashboards” are becoming trendy, but that’s mainly because most dashboards I’ve seen are either based on KPIs, whose value I question, or they are just a collection of feel-good summary statistics. Don’t get me wrong, performance indicators have their place in business, I just don’t think that content management is that place.

KPIs are arbitrary, unstructured content usually is not – Think about a real dashboard. Engine temperature, oil pressure, RPMs are all things that go from fine, to worrisome to damage-is-occurring. The points of those transitions are well known, and are not subject to interpretation or altered by explanation. On the other hand, how long it takes to prepare a report can be influenced by so many variables that to flash a red warning once we exceed 7 days, is dangerous. A better approach might be to show how long people are taking to prepare reports so that a manager can compare Joe to Sally, add his knowledge of his department and draw a meaningful conclusion. My favorite example of a bad business metric, and one I was once subject to, is “lines of code.” A good programmer might get an algorithm working in 200 lines of code, where a poor programmer might need 350 lines.

Dashboards need to support the context as well as the content – Dashboards need to be well-crafted to glean the information contained in the content and to present it in a useful fashion. In SharePoint, I think the tool of choice should be the Data View Web Part. Using DTWPs, we have the ability to dissect the various bits of metadata and present meaningful information about the content we have and/or the process generating the content. Simple indicators let me present the number of days to prepare a report. Thoughtful analysis, useful metadata and a bit of code lets me break reports into categories by type and degree of difficulty. I can also start to look at how many reports each person has completed and other factors that might influence the time required to complete a report. I might want to add metadata so I can know when other influencing factors are present. I am sure that once this display of information is in front of the right people, requests for additions will not be far behind. I am counting on those same people telling their peers about how helpful this information is – that may become an actual driver of ECM.

#metadata #DVWP #dashboard #dataviewwebpart #SharePoint #analysis