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How to Effectively Manage Documents with SharePoint Document Management Features

David Francoeur February 18, 2022

7 MIN READ

The most fundamental way your SharePoint and Microsoft Teams experiences are intertwined is through documents shared and stored in MS Teams. The reason for this is straightforward; all document management in MS Teams is actually just a window into what is happening in SharePoint. Whether you choose to access the documents in SharePoint or Teams, they nevertheless exist in SharePoint. This makes sense given the history of the SharePoint platform and its roots as a Document Management System. Microsoft Teams adds upon the existing SharePoint document management layer with other features like Conversations, Apps, and other integrations.

Let’s go over the available SharePoint document management features, explain how they can assist your teams in working together, along with take aways for you to apply within your organization.

What is SharePoint Document Management?

While Document Management is not always seen as an exciting topic, it nevertheless continues to underpin a huge proportion of our collaborative activities. For the purposes of our conversations, it is helpful to take a broader definition of a Document as almost any file that a team will use (e.g., Word Documents, PowerPoint Presentations, Excel Spreadsheets, PDF, Images, CAD Drawings, etc.). No matter the type of Microsoft Teams’ team, its members are continually creating and updating documents as part of their day-to-day interactions.

SharePoint Document Management Features

In SharePoint, documents or files are stored in a container called a Document Library. Each Site (and its attached Microsoft Teams’ team) begins with a single document library called Shared Documents, but many more can be added if desired. Some of the available features for Document Libraries include:

Version History

SharePoint offers a great built-in version history that is enabled by default and captures changes made to a document by all editors over its life. Past versions are all stored in the background against the document but can be viewed and restored at any time. This not only provides a way to review the history of a document but also allows for reverting to past versions if subsequent changes are not desirable.

sharepoint document management features - version history
Image: View Document Version History in SharePoint Online
sharepoint document management - view version history in doc
Image: Look at the Version History within a Document

How to Best Utilize Version History:

  • Make use of the built-in version history to reduce unnecessary clutter and duplication
  • Eliminate the practice of embedding versions into document names (e.g., Project Horizon Learning Plan v5.1.docx) which have cluttered file shares for years.

Metadata

Metadata, sometimes called Tags, is simply information we append to our documents to ensure they are properly identified and categorized. While the usage and implementation of metadata can fill multiple blogs easily, the benefits of metadata cannot be underestimated, as they:

  • Provide a tool to organize information;
  • Provide a method to logically separate content;
  • Help search engines find more accurate results;
  • Allow for more flexibility in how and where content is stored;
  • Facilitate flexibility in navigating information based on the situation or the end user;
  • Support the creation of multiple pre-set “views” of the same content​ (more on Views below);
  • Enable a level of consistency and control over how content is labeled;
  • Provide a mechanism to support good governance practices (e.g., ownership, retention, etc.).

Certain metadata is always available in SharePoint and becomes applied to content automatically, such as Created By date, Created By User, Modified By date, Modified By User, Version number, ID, and many more. Where metadata really shines, however, is when additional situation-specific metadata is applied to content in a library. Several types of metadata are supported, including Text, Choices, Numbers, Dates, People, and something called Managed Metadata which allows an organization to create a centralized dictionary of terms that are then reused across SharePoint and Teams. With these types available, metadata can be used to classify the status of a document, its type or category, its owner, and even its sensitivity or confidentiality; to name a few use cases.

How to Best Utilize Metadata:

  • Utilize Managed Metadata (also known as the Term Store) whenever a list of choices should be centralized for reuse elsewhere (e.g., a list of Departments).
  • Always add at least one additional metadata field to your libraries.
  • Avoid going overboard requiring too many metadata fields unless it is truly required, as this can work against platform adoption efforts.

Approvals

Another topic worthy of multiple blog articles on its own, SharePoint supports reviews or approvals within Document Libraries. Suffice to say there are two primary methods to enable approvals or reviews of documents: via the Content Approval method in SharePoint, or via integration with Power Automate. Either way, Approvals provide a way for contributors to make edits to a document while retaining the ability to review steps before the document is published. Approvals can be configured to ensure that regular users do not see proposed changes to a document until they have been approved.

sharepoint document management features - approvals
Image: Updating the Approval Status of Documents in SharePoint

How to Best Utilize Approvals:

  • Leverage Approvals but only where it makes sense. Overuse of approvals can be frustrating for users and can become an unnecessary bottleneck.
  • Ensure the experience to submit documents for Approval or Review is intuitive and self-explanatory otherwise documents will forever sit in a Pending status.

Permissions and Security

SharePoint Sites and their attached Microsoft Teams’ teams have permissions that establish who has access to perform what activities. In SharePoint, Document Libraries use the concepts of Readers, Editors, and Owners; reflecting a spectrum of permitted activities from very few to very many. If multiple Document Libraries are used on a site, they need not all have the same security applied to them. Actually, this is one of the most common reasons for creating additional libraries.

Security in Document Libraries is, by default, inherited from the Site where it is contained – greatly simplifying the management of security. While it is possible to apply security at a very granular level including folders, and even individual items within a Document Library; this is not recommended. Always apply security at the highest possible level, with the Site or Team being the preferred option. Avoid applying security exceptions (breaking inheritance) unless an exception is truly required (e.g., a Document Library specifically created for storing Invoices within a Project Team may be restricted to a subset of the larger team).

sharepoint document management - permission levels
Image: Permission Levels of Documents in SharePoint

How to Best Utilize Permissions and Security:

  • Avoid item-level permissions, and only break inheritance when absolutely required. If it is essential, consider doing this at a Library (or Site) level rather than at a folder level.

Syncing

SharePoint Document Libraries have excellent integration with Microsoft 365, and with Teams and OneDrive in particular. The integration with OneDrive allows for users to ‘Sync’ entire libraries, or folders within libraries, to a user’s machine to facilitate easier entry to a list of commonly used document libraries. This functionality is a tremendous asset when conducting change management and adoption efforts for users accustomed to working within File Shares as this replicates a similar experience for them to access documents.

How to Best Utilize Syncing:

  • Introduce OneDrive sync as a means for users to locally access SharePoint Documents directly from their Windows Explorer experience.
sharepoint document management - file sync
Image: SharePoint Document Management with OneDrive File Sync
sharepoint document management - syncing to onedrive
Image: Synced SharePoint Documents

Folders

Historically, many document management systems have relied on folders to organize documentation into a nested hierarchy. Folders introduce a physical structure to categorizing or classifying information, whereas metadata does not. The challenge with deeply nested folder structures is that they have often grown organically over time but without a pre-existing architecture framework in place to guide their growth. Furthermore, folder structures are often designed by a single user in a way that makes sense to them, but not necessarily to anyone else. Often, we see the use of folders as an unfortunate shortcut for change management, or simply because a file share structure was migrated “as is” into SharePoint. In either case, this often represents unrealized benefits of moving to a more modern platform like SharePoint. When used with care, metadata can typically replace the need for folders.

For Document Libraries connected to Teams (such as the standard Shared Documents Library), adding folders introduces further complexity and often results in confusion as an attached Microsoft Teams team already generates a folder for each Channel of the Team.

sharepoint document management features - folders
Image: Structure with Folders for SharePoint Document Management

How to Best Utilize Folders:

  • For Libraries attached to Teams, do not move content into the top level (above the folders) as it will not be found.
  • For Libraries attached to Teams, do not create additional folders in line with channel-based folders.
  • Use metadata instead of folders in other situations requiring categorization.
sharepoint document storage
Image: Do not Store Documents Above the Top Level in SharePoint

Views

Document Libraries offer support for creating pre-set Views of information. A good way to think of views is a defined “lens” by which to look at the information. Views are incredibly flexible and can be Public (accessible to anyone) or Private (accessible to the user who created it). They allow for consolidating information in fewer libraries and folders by using Views to segregate content, show and hide information when it is appropriate, or simplify what information is shown about documents at a given time.

Some common and useful views include:

  • Content created/modified by Me
  • Content sorted by date
  • Content awaiting approval
  • Content flattened (without folders)
  • Content grouped by a piece of metadata (e.g., show documents grouped under their current “Status”)
  • Content filtered to a certain type of information (e.g., show documents filtered to only “Reports”)

More recently, SharePoint has offered additional ways by which we can configure views, to better tailor the display of content for the type of information. For example, a Tiles View shows all content in a gallery-like layout, which can be more suitable for libraries with images.

sharepoint document management - tile view
Image: The Tile View in SharePoint Online

We can also format views with custom formatting to help call attention to particular information or create our own custom layout (more on this in a future post in this series).

How to Best Utilize SharePoint Views:

  • Utilize the power of Views to give users flexibility in how they want to navigate the content of a Library.
  • As a site owner, set up useful views for your users based on common needs and use links, or tabs in Teams to point to these views and make them easily accessible.

Co-Authoring

Real-time co-authoring is an amazing feature built-in to SharePoint Document Management. It allows for multiple users to work together seamlessly. Many of us in the SharePoint world will remember the constant headache of files “locked”, which, fortunately, has largely been eliminated. Now it is easy to see who has the document open, and even what area of the document they are currently working on.

sharepoint document management - co authoring
Image: Co-Authoring Documents in SharePoint

How to Best Utilize Co-Authoring Capability:

  • Encourage users to work “live” and discourage downloading copies of documents to work on locally (see Sync above for a better option) as this makes collaboration difficult.

Enhance the SharePoint Experience with Orchestry

SharePoint Online is a critical piece in the puzzle of effective collaboration. Given how Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online are entangled, it is imperative to give the document management platform adequate attention and help organizations structure it so that it is utilized to its full potential.

At Orchestry, we are focused on ensuring a seamless collaboration experience for all organizations leveraging Microsoft 365. In future parts of this series, we will build upon this foundation to create larger experiences that can then be extended into Microsoft Teams. Stay tuned to enhance the collaboration experience in Microsoft Teams, as we share best practices and practical examples for your teams to make work simple in Microsoft 365. If you have any questions about leveraging SharePoint feel free to send in your questions at hello@orchestry.com.

About the Author

David Francoeur Image

David Francoeur

Orchestry Director of Product Delivery

As a speaker, author, and consultant operating across industries, David brings to Orchestry a diversified perspective on solving problems in the Digital Workplace. Working cross-functionally to guide products from conception to launch, he carefully connects the technical and business worlds. Passionate about user experience and design, David thrives on outcomes that are not only successful from a technological perspective but more critically; adopted, championed, and valued by the business.

Beyond his passion for the digital workplace, David enjoys spending time with his spouse and daughter, playing soccer, or reading a good book.

Introduction

This Privacy Policy explains what information Orchestry Software Inc. and its associated entities (collectively “Orchestry”) collect about you, why, what we do with that information, how we share it and how we handle the content you place in our products and services. It also explains the choices available to you regarding our use of your personal information and how you can access and update this information.

Privacy Policy Scope

Our Privacy Policy applies to the information we collect when you use one of our services, or when you otherwise engage with Orchestry Software, including, but not limited to:
when you visit our websites (“Websites“);
when you contact us for assistance;
when we connect with you as a prospective customer or as a customer;
when you attend customer or prospective customer events;
when you meet us at third party events, gatherings or meetups.
Orchestry is committed to protecting your privacy. This Privacy Policy applies to our websites (Websites), including www.orchestry.com, www.success.orchestry.com and www.app-dev.orchestry.com, owned and controlled by Orchestry.

This Privacy Policy governs our data collection, processing and usage practices. It also describes your choices regarding use, access and correction of your personal information. By using the Websites, you consent to the data practices described in this Privacy Policy. If you do not agree with the data practices described in this Privacy Policy, you should not use the Websites.

Information We Collect

We collect personal data that you submit to us via our website or third-party tools including, for example, when applying for a job via our website or requesting support in relation to one of our services.
You are free to explore the Websites without providing any Personal Information about yourself. When you visit the Websites, we request that you provide Personal Information about yourself, and we collect Navigational Information.

Information Collection & Access

Orchestry acknowledges that you have the right to access your Personal Information. If requested to remove data we will respond within a reasonable timeframe.

We may transfer Personal Information to companies that help us provide our service, such as those organizations as part of our Global Partner Alliance. Transfers to subsequent third parties for the sole purpose of responding to requests from Websites in the appropriate geography service territory.

“Personal Information”
This refers to any information that you voluntarily submit to us and that identifies you personally, including contact information, such as your name, e-mail address, company name, address, phone number, and other information about yourself or your business. Personal Information can also include information that you enter into on the Websites, and information about you that is available on the internet, such as from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google, or publicly available information that we acquire from service providers.

“Navigational Information”
This refers to information about your computer and your visits to this website such as your IP address, geographical location, browser type, referral source, length of visit and pages viewed.

We use Navigational Information to operate and improve the Websites. We may also use Navigational Information alone or in combination with Personal Information to provide you with personalized information about Orchestry.

Information About Children

The Websites are not intended for or targeted at children under 13, and we do not knowingly or intentionally collect information about children under 13. If you believe that we have collected information about a child under 13, please contact us at hello@orchestry.com, so that we may delete the information.

Information Usage

We use the information we collect only in compliance with this Privacy Policy.

In addition to the uses identified elsewhere in this Privacy Policy, we may use your Personal Information to: (a) improve your browsing experience by personalizing the Websites; (b) send information to you which we think may be of interest to you by post, email, or other means; (c) send you marketing communications relating to our business.

We will never sell your Personal Information to any third party. However, we may share or disclose your Personal Information as follows:
we may provide your information to our business partners, vendors or service providers who perform functions on our behalf;
in connection with, or during negotiations of, any merger, sale of company assets, financing, or acquisition of all or a portion of our business to another company;
as required by law, government officials, or other third parties pursuant to a subpoena, court order, or other legal process or requirement applicable to our Company;
when we believe, in our sole discretion, that the disclosure of personal information is necessary to prevent physical harm or financial loss;
to report suspected illegal activity or to investigate violations of our agreements.

Reviewing, Correcting and Removing Your Personal Information
Upon request, Orchestry will provide you with information about whether we hold any of your Personal Information. If you provide us with your Personal Information, you have the following rights with respect to that information:
To review the user information that you have supplied to us.
To request that we correct any errors, outdated information, or omissions in user information that you have supplied to us.
To request that your user information not be used to contact you.
To request that your user information be removed from any solicitation list that we use.
To request that your user information be deleted from our records.
To opt out of being solicited by Orchestry or third parties.

To exercise any of these rights, please contact us at hello@orchestry.com or by mail to Orchestry Software Inc., 422 Richards St, Suite 170, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2Z4, Attn: Privacy. We will respond to your request to change, correct, or delete your information within a reasonable timeframe and notify you of the action we have taken.

Retention of Personal Information

We retain Personal Information that you provide us as long as we consider it potentially useful in contacting you our services, or as needed to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes and enforce our agreements, and then we securely delete the information. We will delete this information from the servers at an earlier date if you so request, as described in “Unsubscribe from Communication” below.

Customer Testimonials and Comments

We post customer testimonials and comments on our Websites, which may contain Personal Information. We obtain each customer’s consent via email prior to posting the customer’s name and testimonial.

Security of your Personal Information

We use a variety of security technologies and procedures to help protect your Personal Information from unauthorized access, use or disclosure. We secure the Personal Information you provide on computer servers in a controlled, secure environment, protected from unauthorized access, use or disclosure.

Social Media Features

Our Websites include Social Media Features, such as the Facebook Like button and Widgets, such as the Share This button or interactive mini-programs that run on our sites. These features may collect your IP address, which page you are visiting on our sites, and may set a cookie to enable the feature to function properly. Social Media Features and Widgets are either hosted by a third party or hosted directly on our Websites. This Privacy Policy does not apply to these features.  Your interactions with these features are governed by the privacy policy and other policies of the companies providing them.

External Websites

Our Websites provide links to other websites. We do not control, and are not responsible for, the content or practices of these other websites. Our provision of such links does not constitute our endorsement of these other websites, their content, their owners, or their practices. This Privacy Policy does not apply to these other websites, which are subject to any privacy and other policies they may have.

Public Forums

We offer publicly accessible blogs, message boards and community forums. Please keep in mind that if you directly disclose any information through our public message boards, blogs, or forums, this information may be collected and used by others. We will correct or delete any information you have posted on the Websites if you so request, as described in “Opting Out and Unsubscribing” below.

International Transfer of Information

To facilitate our global operations, we may transfer and access Personal Information from around the world, including the United States. This Privacy Policy shall apply even if we transfer Personal Information to other countries.

Corporate Events

If we (or our assets) are acquired by another company, whether by merger, acquisition, bankruptcy or otherwise, that company would receive all information gathered by Orchestry on the Websites. In this event, you will be notified via email and/or a prominent notice on our website, of any change in ownership, uses of your Personal Information, and choices you may have regarding your Personal Information.

Cookies & Similar Technologies

Orchestry uses cookies or similar technologies to analyze trends, administer the website, track users’ movements around the website, and to gather demographic information about our user base as a whole.

The cookies we use on this website are broadly grouped into the following categories:

Essential: Some of the cookies on our website are essential for us to be able to provide you with a service you have requested. You may not be able to use our website effectively without these cookies.
Analytics: We use analytics cookies to help us understand how users engage with our website. An example of this is for counting the number of different people coming to our website, visiting a particular page or using a particular feature. Without this cookie, if you visited the website once each week for three weeks, we would count you as three separate users and this wouldn’t be a true representation. These cookies do not let us identify specific users as the information is aggregated.
Social sharing: We use cookies to allow you to share content directly to your social networking sites for example Facebook, Twitter and Google+ i.e. clicking Like on Facebook and Share on Twitter.
Interest-based advertising: You may have noticed that when you visit websites, you will be shown advertisements for products and services you may be interested in. Cookie information about certain pages you have visited on our website helps us be more relevant in our advertising. Having these cookies does not increase the number of adverts you will be shown on these specific sites. These ‘persistent’ cookies last no longer than 90 days, or until you clear them. These and the other cookies we use do NOT allow us to see what other sites you have been visiting, they simply act as a record of our web pages and advertisements that you may see.
Opt Out of Cookies
When you first visited the websites you will have been shown a status bar notifying you that this website uses cookies and inviting you to review this cookie policy. Once you have clicked to go further into our website, the cookie prompt will disappear, this confirms that you consent to us using the cookies detailed in this policy.
Please note that we can’t always control third party cookies (such as from social networks) stored on your machine from our website and where this is the case you will need to visit the relevant third party’s website directly to understand their cookies stored on your machine by them. Please see our ‘third party cookies’ section below.
If you want to reject cookies we use from this website you will need to:
Delete the cookies from your browser. Most browsers also allow you to prevent all or some cookies being stored on your machine in the future. For more information on how to delete or disable cookies from your browser please use the ‘help’ function within your browser, or alternatively visit www.allaboutcookies.org. By deleting our cookie preference cookie, the next time you visit our website the cookie status bar will appear again inviting you to again reconsider your preferences.
AND/OR: If you only want to reject the Internet Based Advertising cookies we store on your machine, you can opt-out of receiving these cookies at any time by going to the Internet Advertising Bureau website at http://www.youronlinechoices.com and following the opt-out instructions.
Please do be aware that disabling cookies may impact the functionality of this website.
Third Party Cookies
Some of the cookies described above are stored on your machine by third parties when you use our website. We have no control over these cookies of how the third party uses them. They are used to allow that third party to provide a service to us, for example website analytics. For more information on these cookies and how to disable them, please see:
Internet Advertising Bureau website at http://www.youronlinechoices.com/ where you will be able to opt-out of receiving Internet Based Advertising cookies from some of the third parties, such as Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
The use of cookies and web beacons by any tracking utility company is not covered by our Privacy Policy.

Log Files

We may collect demographic information, such as your region, preferences, interests and favorites using log files that are not associated with your name or other personal information. There is also information about your computer hardware and software that is automatically collected by us. This information can include: your IP address, browser type, domain names, internet service provider (ISP), the files viewed on our site (e.g., HTML pages, graphics, etc.), operating system, clickstream data, access times and referring website addresses. This information is used by Orchestry to provide general statistics regarding use of the Websites. For these purposes, we do link this automatically-collected data to Personal Information such as name, email address, address, and phone number.

Clear Gifs (Web Beacons/Web Bugs)

We employ a software technology called clear gifs (a.k.a. Web Beacons/Web Bugs), that help us better manage the Website by informing us what content is effective. Clear gifs are tiny graphics with a unique identifier, similar in function to cookies, and are used to track the online movements of Web users.  In contrast to cookies, which are stored on a user’s computer hard drive, clear gifs are embedded invisibly on Web pages or in emails and are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. We use clear gifs in our HTML-based emails to let us know which emails have been opened by recipients.  This allows us to gauge the effectiveness of certain communications and the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns. We tie the information gathered by clear gifs in emails to our customers’ Personal Information. If you would like to opt-out of these emails, please see “Opting Out and Unsubscribing”.

Advertising

We partner with a third-party ad network to either display advertising on our Web site or to manage our advertising on other sites. Our ad network partner uses cookies and Web beacons to collect non-personal information about your activities on this and other Web sites to provide you targeted advertising based upon your interests.  If you wish to not have this information used for the purpose of serving you targeted ads, you may opt-out by clicking here: http://preferences.truste.com/ (or if located in the European Union, by clicking here: http://www.youronlinechoices.eu/). Please note this does not opt you out of being served advertising.  You will continue to receive generic ads.

Unsubscribe from Communications

You may unsubscribe from our marketing communications by clicking on the “unsubscribe” link located on the bottom of our e-mails, or by sending us email us at hello@orchestry.com or by mail to Orchestry Software Inc., 422 Richards St, Suite 170, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2Z4, Attn: Privacy.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy or our treatment of the information you provide us, please write to us by email at hello@orchestry.com or by mail to Orchestry Software Inc., 422 Richards St, Suite 170, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2Z4, Attn: Privacy.

Changes

We may amend this Privacy Policy from time to time. When there are changes to this Privacy Policy, we will update this page. The date on the bottom will always indicate when we last made changes.
Last Updated: July 28, 2020

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