Industrial Strength’ document management with SharePoint

An insurance company in San Francisco, a manufacturer in Germany, a professional services consulting firm in Toronto - all looking to use SharePoint 2010 as their document management platform, but finding that they cannot satisfy their requirements by using SharePoint’s ‘outof- the-box’ functionality. Noel Williams looks at how requirements were met by using a combination of SharePoint 2010 and add-on software from the MacroView Document Management Framework.

An incident that brought home to me how organisations are looking for ‘industrial strength’ DM features in their SharePoint-based DM solutions was an enquiry that we received from a Life Insurance company based in San Francisco.

They were scanning incoming paper documents and storing them as PDFs in SharePoint. They wanted to implement processing workflows based around these PDFs, but were encountering significant difficulties as they attempted to re-save PDFs that had been opened from SharePoint into Adobe Reader or Acrobat. Resaving the PDF was causing the existing copy of the PDF to be deleted, so that metadata needed to be entered again ‘from scratch’.

The SharePoint integration available from Adobe Systems for Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat is very limited both in terms of metadata capture and volume handling. We were able to address these requirements by using add-on software called PDF SharePoint Save. Installing this software adds ‘Save to SharePoint’ customisations to Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. These customisations allow a PDF to be saved or re-saved to SharePoint, with full metadata capture. On re-saving a PDF that has been opened from SharePoint, PDF SharePoint Save automatically navigates to the document library from which the PDF was opened, prompts for a new version (if versioning is enabled for the library) and displays alreadycaptured metadata so that it can be viewed, and if necessary edited.

The need to re-enter all metadata values is eliminated. PDF SharePoint Save is part of the MacroView Document Management Framework (DMF), and as such has the added advantage that it copes efficiently when saving and re-saving to even very large SharePoint document stores.

Unique document numbers

A second such enquiry was from a German manufacturer. As part of its Quality Management system it prepares extensive process and product documentation in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Each item of documentation is required to have a unique Reference Number and to be subject to Version control.

The firm recognised that SharePoint 2010 could handle the assignment of unique document numbers to documents as they are saved or uploaded. However what it really needed was for the unique document number and the current version number to be displayed in the footers of documents that were retrieved from SharePoint into Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This functionality is well supported by document management systems such as Documentum, Autonomy FileSite and OpenText eDocs, so it was frustrating that it was not offered in SharePoint 2010.

The firm had created a partial solution using field codes in footers of Word documents but this approach was not feasible for Excel and PowerPoint documents.

We showed the German manufacturer how they could satisfy their footer requirements by using MacroView Unique Document Numbering – another DMF module. MacroView UDN adds value to the Unique Document Numbering provider that comes with SharePoint 2010 by improving the integration of SharePoint 2010 with Microsoft Office applications so that these unique document numbers and other metadata are automatically displayed in document footers.

Experience with ‘traditional’ document management systems inspires much of the demand for more sophisticated features in SharePoint-based solutions. Organisations are feeling confident that SharePoint 2010 provides the platform ‘plumbing’ for storing and searching serious volumes of documents and their metadata. To create a feasible business solution however they also want interface features and functionality that at least match those provided by the DM systems that were available long before SharePoint I saw a good example of this in my recent discussions with a professional services consulting firm in Toronto, Canada.

It had been licensing Autonomy (previously Interwoven/iManage) FileSite for many years and users liked the way FileSite allowed them to perform all their DM activity while working in Microsoft Outlook. The firm noted the irony that while Outlook and SharePoint were both Microsoft products, the out-of-the-box integration between Outlook and SharePoint was particularly poor – so much so that they could not even drag and drop to save email messages to SharePoint.

We showed them the market-leading integration of Outlook and SharePoint that is provided by MacroView DMF. Installing DMF adds a new pane to Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010.

This DMF pane enables accurate viewing, efficient navigation and drag-and-drop saving of emails and attachments to all areas of a SharePoint document store. The new pane also provides a convenient and intuitive interface for searching for documents stored in SharePoint, based on their content and / or metadata.

MacroView DMF adds other functionality that users expect based on their experience with traditional DM systems, such as previews, full-function document numbering, easy to use document level security, and enhanced version handling.