Policies and Procedures : SharePoint document management features

As part of an on-going series of posts illustrating how SharePoint can help manage the life-cycle of a policy, this post explains how SharePoint’s document management features can be used to help manage the creation and revision of a policy or procedure.

SharePoint is big, really big!

SharePoint is now the worlds most popular document management system. Most organizations are using SharePoint to not only manage their documents, but also as an Intranet, search engine, application hosting platform, BI dashboard, content management platform, Extranet and news portal to name but a few. It’s now got such momentum that it generates Microsoft a mind-blowing 2 billion dollars per year. If SharePoint were a company it would be in the top 10 of the world’s biggest! Incredible figures!

Thinking of storing policies outside of SharePoint?

Why pay for another “external” system that has a different way of storing and managing documents? Why pay for a separate system that looks different and requires you to train staff in a yet another way to get their job done? Why pay for a system that can’t be easily changed as and when you need it?

If you are undecided whether or not to manage your policies and procedures in SharePoint then hopefully this article, along with others in our blog will help convince you that SharePoint is more than up to the job.

Store Policies in Document Libraries (not on the file system)

policy-procedure-document-librarySharePoint document libraries are one of the mostimportant components that are required to support the life-cycle of a policy. A document library is a repository in SharePoint that allows documents to be managed and versioned. Document libraries have many other benefits such as customizable views, ability to filter and sort, addition of new columns / metadata, ability to trigger workflows and the ability to customize in many other ways. They are an ideal for storing policies.

Get approval with SharePoint workflows

A SharePoint workflow, in the context of a document library, is an automated set of steps that a document should be passed through to gain approval from one or more people in the organization. SharePoint has many standard workflows built in that can be used, but can also be extended using a product called SharePoint Designer.

Take your work on the road with SharePoint Workspace

policy-procedure-offline

SharePoint Workspace 2010 is a client application that allows assets (such as policies) to be synchronized between a desktop and SharePoint. This means that local copies of documents can be worked on where there is no connection to SharePoint. Once a connection is made again, SharePoint Workspace will take care of synchronizing what’s on your machine with what’s in SharePoint. One other major advantage of SharePoint Workspace is that a browser isn’t needed to access files, potentially making it more convenient.

Co-author documents at the same time

Since the introduction of Office 2010 it’s been possible for more than one user to work on a document at the same time. It’s very easy to see who else is editing the policy at the same time and also what they changed via colored bars. This can save lots of effort with saving, emailing, re-opening and waiting.

Securing your policy

policy-procedure-security-permissionsSharePoint offers a very robust security model that allows you to control who can view, edit, delete ‘things’ in SharePoint. To make the management easier, SharePoint supports the ability to create groups and allocate users to the group. Permissions can then be assigned to the group level which then cascade to the members. There are several different types of permission that can be allocated to a user or group. Permissions can also be grouped into Permission Levels for ease of management. For example, a user with ‘Contribute’ is a user who can do actions such view, edit, delete, open and view document versions.

Store multiple versions of a Policy or Procedure

Nearly everyone will have accidentally saved a document and overwritten some changes that they wished they’d kept. SharePoint document libraries can be configured to turn on “version management”. This means that when a user checks-in a document to SharePoint a new version is stored. This means that you can always revert back to a previous version and / or compare changes with the most current copy. This is also key when it comes to circulating a policy to staff as it’s essential you store which version of which policy a staff member acknowledged and read.

Get notified when policies are amended with SharePoint alerts

policy-procedure-notifySharePoint Alerts serve to notify a user of a specific event in SharePoint. Many events can be configured to receive an alert on. For example, you can send a user an alert when ‘Anything changes’ in a document library or when ‘someone else changes a document’, or in our case a policy. These are an ideal time saver as they don’t require the interested user in periodically checking for new updates.

Document ID Service

The Document ID Service in SharePoint offers 2 major benefits. The first benefit is that each document (within the site collection) can be uniquely identified. As each document is allocated a unique id this means that this greatly reduces the risk of ambiguity where two documents are named the same or similarly.

The 2nd benefit is that the document can be accessed via a URL that doesn’t contain location specific information. This has the advantage that if the document moves, or the URL changes, the link will remain intact, making integration into other systems more reliable.

Different Views of your documents

SharePoint document libraries also support “views” which can easily be created to present the list policies in certain ways. For example, they can contain ‘Group By’ expressions, filters, sorts, totals and so on. It is also very easy to show a sub-set of documents by placing a web parts onto any SharePoint page.

 

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