The promise of SharePoint is that document management is a major improvement over file shares and other content management platforms. It provides rich metadata for search, filtering, views, and much more. But the reality is that while SharePoint is an incredible platform for displaying data, doing that initial classification is a real chore. The burden is often on having the original author add the metadata. As a result, this process was often overlooked.
Most migrations (regardless of document source) perpetuate this problem. It's copy and paste (or run some copy process) and essentially dump the data into SharePoint document libraries without thought for adding whatever metadata might have existed in the source. Even from one library to another in SharePoint, care is often neglected to preserve the rich metadata.
MetaVis Technologies offers an answer to this problem with MetaVis Information Manager, a software solution that gives USERS versus SharePoint administrators more power to classify and manage content. Now users can bulk upload, bulk classify, add metadata or reclassify, add updated or new values across multiple fields, and approve/reject in bulk. With Information Manager you can enable authors to manage the hundreds or thousands of documents they are responsible for.
Information Manager is installed as a SharePoint site collection feature and shows up as a separate tab in the SharePoint ribbon:
Figure 1: MetaVis Information Manager Tab Integration into the Ribbon
After an administrator has installed the Information Manager feature on the server, any site collection administrator can activate it or have it activated as part of the provisioning process allowing content managers or site collection administrators to leverage a number of content management features right from the ribbon.
The Use Cases
There are a number of use cases for Information Manager:
- Getting files into the system with the right metadata (bulk Upload).
- Moving files around libraries, sites and site collection with the metadata in tact --or adjusted as necessary (Copy).
- Re-classifying/ tagging files -- changing content types, tags, document properties, etc.. (Classify/ClassifyAll).
- Bulk Approval of files or list items (Approve/Reject).
The out-of-the-box multi-file upload interface in SharePoint is limited to 50MB and 100 files, which can really add a lot of time to getting your data uploaded. By default, most of the critically important metadata on the files will fail to be captured into SharePoint, as new dates are added for core file attributes. To get files into SharePoint using Information Manager, you have the Bulk Upload feature. It allows you to bulk upload files from the file system, whether on a file share or from the desktop and map core properties to new or existing content types and columns. This feature enables to you to automatically add metadata, based on folder structures and hierarchies that you would otherwise have to manually add, risking errors.
Figure 2: MetaVis Information Manager - Bulk Upload
With Information Manager you can do a bulk copy and preserve metadata across sites. This requires that the feature be on across both site collections, but allows the content types and metadata to be preserved. Wow! What a pain that's been in the past. The bulk copy operation allows one to select the files they are interested in moving, then select the columns and map the content types across. Preserving metadata or adding additional metadata, based on one attribute and mapping it to another, enables scenarios that otherwise are very time consuming. Whether the need is consolidation or splitting up, moving or copying sites or content, this process can keep the data that's most important.
Figure 4: MetaVis Information Manager: Classify - Content Type Mapping Column Mapping
Now that you've got your data in the system, you likely have on-going tasks for document owners to add additional metadata or change it. Maybe you've added a new content type or need to move a number files to a new content type. Maybe you need to add new keywords to a number of files or add new properties altogether. In addition, it's important to note that any investment in creating these new mappings can be saved as classification templates for future use.
Figure 3: MetaVis Information Manager - Bulk Classify
Another feature of Information Manager is the ability to mass approve or reject documents. If you are someone who has to review a lot of documents, then this feature is for you. It's also meant to ease the process of reviewing documents with a number of related assets (like images and other related documents). Review everything, then select them all and approve or reject as a group.
My Thoughts on My Experience with Information
Personally, I have managed sites with a lot of documents and have felt the pain, wherein if I decided to use version control, I was worried about people not checking in documents. One of the features I know I'd use is the ability to check in documents in mass. Also, some of the biggest pains with SharePoint are what happens when you start consolidating sites. Migration is a big pain. Having these tools built right into the ribbon for copying and moving content including the bulk upload option enables users to focus on the tasks of managing documents and lists the way they need to do it. What they don't have to think about are complicated migration tools.
So what's the downside?
There's not much downside really. Information Manager provides functionality to users which is on top of the functionality they already have. My only note of caution is that Information Manager includes an ActiveX brower plugin for the bulk upload feature. The plugin is what enables Information Manager to capture to the file system's NTFS properties such as created and modified, security etc for the documents to be uploaded and since most organizations are already using Internet Explorer for SharePoint (and because SharePoint's own bulk upload function uses an ActiveX Control as well) this shouldn't be an issue. If this is a major concern for you, you can look at MetaVis's client tools for bulk uploading documents. I personally was hoping for something cross browser in this space.
Another potential concern is that users may not understand the power they have. Functions such as bulk uploading, re-classifying and moving documents have often been filled by roles in IT. But these are really functions best suited to content managers and information managers who deal with these types of activities on a day to day basis. What's important to point out here though is Information Manager is integrated with SharePoint's permissions model. So you can slowly introduce features of the tool to users to get them up to speed without over loading them. You can also restrict features from some users, ensuring that your best content managers have the functionality they need to do their job (and only the functionality they need).
MetaVis Information Manager can help simplify arduous tasks of information management and make life easier. Those tasked with managing SharePoint files and adding the filters to display SharePoint data will find that the ROI of discovery and search in SharePoint is based on good metadata in your SharePoint environment.
You can get a free trial of MetaVis Information Manager (Embedded SharePoint 2010 Ribbon Control for multi file upload, classify, and copy) and try it for yourself.
This product review is an unbiased review and a paid service by Joel Oleson. How did I do?