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What is document management?

Updated: February 26, 2009

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

Updated: 2009-02-26

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Document management controls the life cycle of documents in your organization — how they are created, reviewed, published, and consumed, and how they are ultimately disposed of or retained. Although the term "management" implies top-down control of information, an effective document management system should reflect the culture of the organization using it. The tools you use for document management should be flexible, allowing you to tightly control documents' life cycles if that fits your enterprise's culture and goals, but also letting you implement a more loosely structured system if that better suits your enterprise.

A well-designed document management system promotes finding and sharing information easily. It organizes content in a logical way, and makes it easy to standardize content creation and presentation across an enterprise. It promotes knowledge management and information mining. It helps your organization meet its legal responsibilities. It provides features at each stage of a document's life cycle, from template creation to document authoring, reviewing, publishing, auditing, and ultimately destroying or archiving.

The elements of a document management system

An effective document management solution specifies:

  • What types of documents and other content can be created within an organization.

  • What templates to use for each type of document.

  • What metadata to provide for each type of document.

  • Where to store documents at each stage of a document's life cycle.

  • How to control access to a document at each stage of its life cycle.

  • How to move documents within the organization as team members contribute to the documents' creation, review, approval, publication, and disposition.

  • What policies to apply to documents so that document-related actions are audited, documents are retained or disposed of properly, and content important to the organization is protected.

  • How documents are converted as they transition from one stage to another during their life cycles.

  • How documents are treated as corporate records, which must be retained according to legal requirements and corporate guidelines.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes features that implement all of these aspects of document management. To ensure that information workers can easily take advantage of these capabilities without having to depart from their day-to-day operations and familiar tools, applications in the Microsoft Office 2007 system — such as Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Word — also include features that support each stage in a document's life cycle.

The planning process

The document management planning process consists of the following major steps:

  1. Identify document management roles   Ensure that your plans incorporate the feedback of your organization's key stakeholders, that you have the right team in place to implement the solution, and that you know who will participate in document management processes. See Identify document management participants and stakeholders for more information about creating a document management planning team.

  2. Analyze document usage   After you identify who works on documents, determine the types of documents they work on and how they will be used. For more information, see Analyze document usage.

  3. Plan the organization of documents   You can organize documents in libraries, team sites, and portal sites. Office SharePoint Server 2007 offers a range of document organizing and storing features, from specialized sites such as the Records Repository to free-form document libraries for ad-hoc document creation and collaboration. Within a library, you can further organize content into folders and subfolders. For more information, see Plan document libraries.

  4. Plan how content moves between locations   It may be necessary to move or copy a document from one site or library to another at different stages of its life cycle. For example, the publishing process may include moving a document from a staging site to a public Internet site. If content needs to be converted from one format to another as it moves from site to site, you will also want to plan content conversions. For more information, see "Plan the flow of content" in the topic Plan document libraries.

  5. Plan content types   Use content types to organize information about types of documents, such as metadata, document templates, policies, and workflow processes. This is an essential step to help you organize your documents and enforce consistency across your organization. For more information, see Plan content types (Office SharePoint Server).

  6. Plan content control   You can plan the appropriate degree of control for each content type and storage location. For example, for a document library you can plan to require check-in and check-out and to protect documents from unauthorized distribution by using Information Rights Management. For more information, see Plan versioning, content approval, and check-outs.

  7. Plan workflows   By planning workflows for your organization, you can control and track how documents move from one team member to another as each participant collaborates in a document's life cycle. Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes workflows for common team tasks such as reviewing and approving documents. Office SharePoint Server 2007 also supports creating and installing custom workflows. For more information, see Plan workflows for document management.

  8. Plan policies   For each content type, plan information management policies to ensure that documents are properly audited, retained, labeled, and otherwise handled according to your organization's institutional and legal requirements. Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes policies that implement auditing, document retention, labeling, and barcodes (to ensure that printed content can be correlated with corresponding versions in document libraries). For more information, see Plan information management policies.

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This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:

See the full list of available books at Downloadable content for Office SharePoint Server 2007.

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