Knowledge Curation

I was working with a group of folks the other day who wanted to redesign the site. They had a lot of ideas for one page. They had no ideas for the data that supported what they wanted to present on that page. The site collection already has very poor architecture. When one goes to the root site to the site collection, that person gets two redirections to the final page on a subsite. Whoever created it that way caused all of the lists and libraries on the root site to go untouched for about a year.

In my discussions with them, I had to give them the analogy of a kitchen remodel. One doesn’t just put in a new kitchen. You need plans. You need to do demolition work. You need to account for the electrical, gas, and plumbing that you cannot move. You also need to figure out what you are going to keep from your cabinets. They had a good 30 or more lists and libraries that hadn’t been touched. I’m not going to just leave those defunct lists and libraries there. A new page would be a mere façade over a weak structure.

Over the coming weeks, they are to look at the existing content and identify what they are going to keep and what they want to kill. This is always the first step in redesign work with SharePoint: Knowledge Curation. It could be information curation, but we need to identify why and they are vetting the value of the information, so I elevate this to knowledge. They aren’t just checking to see if something is properly tagged. They are doing more than content management, and it is grunt work because no one had previously built the tools for them to sift through it more easily.  To learn more about knowledge curation, here is an article I looked up from KM World.

The next step will be to identify the data definitions of those things they would like to present on the page like pictures on a carousel. I’d rather them not need to do a lot of work to keep their content there, so they need to identify what determines whether or not a picture will be displayed, how they want to add a new picture, if they link, etc.

We will go about creating their content management plan and will have a section for knowledge curation. It should be a continuous process, not something you do once a year. It is like brushing your teeth daily versus getting a scaling once a year by your dentist because the plaque looks like you have fused your teeth together. At some point, your dentist will recommend pulling your teeth and getting you dentures. This is why you see so many people start over with SharePoint sites. They neglect them for so long, they would rather just build a new one. It takes discipline, and it takes a plan.

Scott Brewster works for Data Analytics Solutions. He is got his Certified Knowledge Manager (CKM) credentials through the Knowledge Management Institute (KMI), and he has been working on both the farm administration and front end solution architecture of SharePoint since 2008.

Views Instead of Permissions?

Recently, a former Site Collection Administrator tried to convince me to use views instead of permissions. Why would anyone want to do this? Their thinking was to allow for easy document placement on different pages (one site collection) using views and filters. There are times when using views or audience targeting to solve what an audience can see is effective, just remember this is not always the case. Adding site pages can add an additional layer of security by requiring permissions to view the page first, and then the content on the page. Can we discuss the 2 kinds of users who can still find the content not meant to be seen? The first group of users are the ones who aren’t familiar with SharePoint or who aren’t “tech savvy” and just click around and find content by mistake. The second group of users are the more advanced users who will look at URL structures and navigate curiously through them.

Using views, a person can limit what information is seen by the naked eye. Those list items or documents are not secure by any means, just hidden from plain sight. Let’s never forget the basics of SharePoint. One of the main advantages of using different document libraries or lists are the fact that each one can be locked down with unique permissions. Segregating the data can make it more secure but also makes it challenging to present it to the intended audience in the exact way that is envisioned.

In SharePoint, there are always multiple ways to accomplish the same goal. Don’t skimp on security in place of functionality. Security is about risk & risk mitigation. In dealing with government networks and corporations, the stakes of security is extremely high. Content ranges from trade secrets to classified information. Even small and medium sized business have internal documents that only warrant certain eyes.

Security must always be a priority when designing SharePoint sites and content. Views can hide content from certain users, but security through obscurity can only be used when the content isn’t sensitive. First secure the content appropriately, and then figure out how to deliver it to those who need access.