SharePoint Folders

Since the beginning of computing someone had the brilliant idea that for storing files and documents the best way to classify them would be to create a hierarchy and structure of folders or directories and begin dumping them in there.

Today we have end up with hundreds and hundreds of folders in our hard disks with lots and lots of files. Sometimes I don’t even remember where I created a folder and even further what the files inside there represent.

And a simple explanation for this is that we as human beings don’t think like a hierarchy. Our memories are not stored in a hierarchical path that we follow to remember where we left the keys of our car yesterday. We just kind of make a full search on the brain for keys and the place just comes up. Now, that’s a way to store and look for things.

My suggestion here is that we try to stop using folders in general applications and in document management systems like SharePoint. Try to classify files in document libraries using meta data fields in SharePoint which get indexed by the search engine and also lets create filtered views about information. Folders will just complicate things creating a hierarchy of files. Investigate a little and you will notice that almost any folder can be replaced for a meta data property. And also you will get sharepoint workflow like an added bonus.

Why do a SharePoint installation and implementation?

Yes, you have to do it. No, don’t ask more questions about it. Yes, you will
need to learn a couple of things, and some of your colleagues are going to
refuse using it, but you have to. In the long run, you will increase your
organization productivity and you won’t be able to live without it.

Some of the things you’ll get:

  • Central document repository: no more storing files on your local
    hard disk or on a shared folder in the network. With SharePoint you will be
    able to store documents in a repository accessible via web. When some other
    person needs to collaborate on the document, they can just go the specified
    web site, open the document, edit it and save it back to the repository. No
    more documents lying around.
  • Document versioning: yes, will have a whole history of all the
    edits made on the document and go back and recover that version that you
  • One search: search for documents and information inside documents
    from a single place. When you install SharePoint Portal Server, you will get
    the ability to search across sites and document libraries everywhere. Now
    you won’t loose a document again.
  • Metadata fields: Add information about documents. Forget about
    folder hierarchies for classifying documents. Add metadata fields for
    describing and searching.
  • Forms: create a repository of standard forms used in your
    organization. Training requests, purchase orders, expense reimbursement,
    etc., etc., etc. Create and publish them in SharePoint.
  • Sites: create special sites for collaboration. A site for the
    sale department, human resources department. For that new project we are
  • Collaboration features: create calendars, meeting spaces, assign
    tasks and create contacts around documents and other objects of the
    organization. Everything integrated in one site created for that purpose.
  • It’s the future: yes, it is. We will have one environment,
    invisible in the background, where all our documents will live and all the
    collaboration information will be stored. Today is called SharePoint.

Of course, this are just some of the things you will get when deploying
SharePoint. There are a lot of other things you can do with it and customize it
to your needs.

After your implementation don’t forget to go a step further with workflow.
Add document approval and routing to those documents and forms in SharePoint
using our product, Procx. With it, you can really streamline processes and
really do more with less. Go, give it a look at our
SharePoint Workflow
site and our InfoPath

Forms with InfoPath, XForms and others

Every process in an organization is related to document or some other kind of
information. The majority of these documents are forms. From an expense request
form to a vacation approval form. Forms structure information, so these can be
more easily digested by others in the organization.

When you are looking to automate this processes you need to find a way to
also take these forms to electronic forms. Then users in the company will have
like a central repository for these requests, allowing them to fill them more
easily and at the same time reduce errors. For developing electronic forms you
have several options in the market:

- Microsoft
Office InfoPath
: It’s the product offering from Microsoft. You can easily
draw forms in a very intuitive way. It integrates with other Office products
like Excel, Word and SharePoint. The final produced form is an XML, which makes
it easy to integrate with other applications. For viewing and editing the form,
you need to have InfoPath installed on the client machine.

- XForms: is the W3C standard for
making web forms. It has a whole structure for developing and designing them.
Any organization can take their forms electronic using these technology. You can
view and edit the forms using one of the commercially available products or just
use the Firefox XForms plug-in
which is free. Also with XForms, the final produced form is an XML.

- Developed your own forms: You can also developed your own forms using the
technology you prefer (PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, etc.). The only thing to have in mind
is that the final output must be also an XML to be compatible with other

Procx allows you to
add workflow
to any type of the previous forms.
XForms or any other
XML file is supported. You can design the process and use the fields from the
form to build business rules and customized notifications. This provide an
integrated environment for developing forms and the workflow for handling the
requests. Real process automation.

SharePoint Workflow

I think SharePoint is one of the must have components everybody using Windows Server 2003 should have installed. As a free piece, the WSS version allows you to share files and collaborate with peers in the organization. It has document versioning capabilities in the web site and acts as central repository for document storage.

One of the coolest thing I find about it, is the integration with Microsoft Office InfoPath. InfoPath allows you to create forms that are routinely use in the business like purchase orders, expense reimbursement and management, vacation requests, etc. in an easy to use interface. Then you can publish these forms in SharePoint and every employee will be able to see them and fill them. Then you also have a central repository of forms.

The next step in this document and form collaboration environment is to add workflow or approval processes to these documents. That’s why we have made it easy to combine Procx and SharePoint workflow. Procx has features and activities for integration with SharePoint and InfoPath giving already established users of these platforms a huge return on their investments.

See more information about Procx and SharePoint here and see the movie here.