Designing the perfect Document Management System

Posted 2 February 2015 12:00 AM by Matthew Quenby, Business Development Consultant @ ClearPeople

In my opinion, there are only a few things that separate SharePoint from being either one of the world’s worst or best platforms for Document Management.

  • The first concerns the choices you make when designing the user interface and experience – taking into account (or not) the user’s day to day experience (so over 80% of the user’s time is still today in 2015 spent in MS Word or Outlook).
  • The second is how you design a sensible information architecture (IA) that will withstand the pressures of today and the changes over time.
  • The third is how you manage, maintain and control the IA day to day, avoiding it getting out of hand, while not constraining the business from using the portal for what it was intended (collaborative and flexible document management).
Generally speaking, our team spends lots of time talking about and advising on how to avoid the most common mistakes and how to take best of advantage of SharePoint for what it is. I won’t cover these more general points, but you can read more about them in the Guidelines for SharePoint 2013

From a user’s perspective, one of the greatest shortcomings is often the first point mentioned earlier. The interaction between Microsoft Office applications Outlook, Word etc. and SharePoint itself. 

In this series of blog posts my colleagues and I will cover this point in detail but we will also discuss how SharePoint can deliver high intensity/volume document management to a level that will not only match but be more versatile and applicable than traditional DM systems.

As a taster of what is possible from a user’s perspective, the below screen shots show a SharePoint document set folder being surfaced in Outlook including a site/library/folder structure in the right hand panel. This example is delivered by combining a SharePoint DM portal with a third party product MacroView DMF to provide a great user experience. More about this in future posts.  

document management 2 

document management 1
And - of course - I will also cover how social and communication features (mainly Yammer and Lync) layered into the Microsoft product suite is reducing the need for email communications and content sharing, but I want to balance this with facts. Because the fact is that the majority of information workers still rely heavily on email and indeed spend most of their working day using Outlook. Irrespective of that, social features do have an impact on all three key points above, so they cannot be ignored by anyone designing DM systems today.


For those of you that deal with information management – the key challenge is: how do we maintain, manage and secure all the information sent and received through different channels when our users are given so much freedom and power with the technology tools we are handing out. A tough question – which I look forward to discussing further soon. 

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