Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 represented Microsoft’s first entry into Enterprise Content Management (ECM). In SharePoint 2010, Microsoft has dramatically changed and improved its ECM offering by simplifying how users participate in ECM solutions as well as extending the capabilities of the platform.

It helps to look at Microsoft’s approach to ECM before exploring what SharePoint 2010 has to offer. Analysts including Gartner and Forrester have shown over the years that the majority of ECM deployments don’t succeed or meet their full potential. This is a disturbing fact considering ECM deployments are expensive and demand significant resources in terms of equipment, personnel and time.

The precise reasons for this troubling fact aren’t known. However it can usually be attributed to two things: lack of user adoption and participation and the inability of records managers to find content and effectively manage the solution.

Microsoft is taking a different approach to ECM in SharePoint 2010 from other competing solutions in the market. Typically users have to submit their content to an ECM implementation for record-keeping or to comply with establish policies.

SharePoint 2010 is different in that it brings ECM capabilities to the users where they do most of their content creation and collaboration: right inside the SharePoint sites. This addresses the challenge around user adoption and participation.

When users can easily check in and check-out documents, and mark them as records or assign tags where they are used to working and collaborating on the content, they are more likely to participate. For records managers, SharePoint 2010 includes capabilities simplifying eDiscovery (finding content), auditing, and setting up holds for content involved in litigation.

ECM For the Masses - Featurization of ECM Capabilities

The previous version of SharePoint, MOSS 2007, took a very different approach to ECM than what is in SharePoint 2010. Microsoft provided site templates to help manage documents and records. It was in these two templates, the Document Center and Records Center, where users found ECM capabilities like the ability to mark content as a record or to establish holds.

In SharePoint 2010, these capabilities, along with many new capabilities, have been refactored into SharePoint Features, enabling site collection and enabling site owners to add these capabilities to sites based on any template. For instance, pages within a wiki site or posts within a blog site can now be designated as a record.

Managed Metadata

Among all the ECM improvements in SharePoint 2010, one major investment is around managed metadata. Users will quickly find metadata throughout SharePoint in any place where content can be created.

In previous versions of SharePoint, this has usually been tied to lists and document libraries, allowing users to add fields to items to provide a more detailed description of the content.

SharePoint 2010 takes metadata much further in that it provides additional capabilities to create reusable enterprise taxonomies and folksonomies.

Metadata is used in many more places throughout SharePoint,  such as refining search results, filtering and navigating content within SharePoint lists and document libraries using the new list Metadata Navigation Settings as well as in social solutions enabling users to tag pages.

Management and syndication of metadata is facilitated with the new Managed Metadata Service (MMS). The MMS lets users create and manage taxonomies and folksonomies.

Taxonomies are hierarchical sets of terms, or tags, usually centrally defined. Folksonomies are similar to taxonomies in that they are a collection of terms, but they have no organization or hierarchical structure. SharePoint 2010 supports both taxonomies and folksonomies.

Taxonomies can be defined either as global or local. Global taxonomies are available to all site collections in web applications associated with the MMS. Local taxonomies are defined and managed at the site collection level and aren’t shared across site collections.

Administrators serving the role as librarians, information architects, or records managers use the Term Store Management Tool to manage the taxonomies and folksonomies. To launch the Term Store Management Tool, you select the MMS instance in Central Administration on the Manage Service Applications page and click the Manage button in the ribbon.

Each MMS implementation has a single term store which contains one or more groups of term sets. Groups are used very much like site column or content type groups in that they simply make it easier to find relevant term sets. Term sets, also known as folksonomies, can be used in many different ways through a SharePoint deployment.