Most corporate legal teams wish colleagues would get rid of more content in a timely fashion. Many documents we create in the course of our work are not considered records, and therefore are not governed by the document retention schedule. These are just the types of content that should be purged regularly. At the same time, there are actual records that should not remain findable in a digital workplace after their useful life. Old copies of policy, for example, should not be found in an intranet search.

There are two methods we typically suggest clients use to ensure old content gets deleted or archived in a timely fashion:

  1. Scheduled, automated prompts to review and update content
  2. Peer site audits

I've discussed these methods in previous columns, but we’ve recently outlined a more detailed program for a client, so I thought I’d share some of the insights from that program.

Content Review Prompts

SharePoint can prompt delivery of an email to a content owner requesting review within a certain timeframe. Many organizations leverage content typing--tied to a document retention schedule--to dictate when certain types of content are reviewed.

We generally see review prompts of at least 12 months, but shorter timeframes are common. One of our clients has content collection on a rotating three-year review, with each page having its own review date. The client often winds up making changes before the three-year timeframe is over, so I think a 12- to 14-month review makes more sense.

Another of our clients provides several deadlines in the workflow. If the content owner misses the last of these, the content disappears for users until the review is completed. At this point, SharePoint also informs the owner’s supervisor. Sounds extreme, but the client has said the process has helped ensure content quality.

Peer Audits

Some of our clients make peer audits a mandatory requirement of site ownership. In such cases, each site owner must audit two to three sites (ones they do not own) each year. There are a number of important benefits:

  • Every site gets reviewed annually
  • Errors and outdated content are identified
  • Site owners learn from seeing what others are doing

In other cases, our clients will make peer auditing an opt-in process. If a site owner opts in, he or she is then responsible for auditing other sites in order to receive feedback on his or her own site.

Regardless of the approach, a request to audit would be automatically sent by SharePoint workflow via email with links to the site in question and the audit tool. Once completed, the owner’s name goes into the queue for another audit at a future time. If the reviewer fails to respond to the audit request, the request is escalated to his or her supervisor.

The audit template should direct the reviewer to observe and document the following:

  • Currency of content
  • Quality of content
  • Use of functionality (metadata, Web parts, etc.)
  • Leverage of social tools (activity lists, dialog tools, etc.)
  • Integration of other systems and resources, including linking to resources that exist elsewhere, that build trust

Audit results should be published to the owner, but might also be published for the rest of the owner community as an educational service. If you do the latter, have a subject matter expert weigh in with recommendations and validation of findings.

These two simple--and largely automated--governance approaches can save you from going through a difficult content migration or massive content clean up in the future. Moreover, you gain greater value from your SharePoint investment in the process.

If you are interested in these and other governance issues, catch me at Advanced Learning Institute’s Intranet & Digital Workplace Summit in Chicago later this month. I’ll be teaching a workshop focused on governance, and you get to take home the entire Eloquor intranet governance toolkit.

Stacy Wilson, ABC, Eloquor Consulting, helps companies communicate more effectively with employees in the digital workplace. Her specialty is supporting governance, usability, content and adoption for digital workplaces/intranets, along with change communication for technology change such as ERP implementations. Connect with Stacy at LinkedIn or on Twitter, or with Eloquor on Facebook.