6 Replies Latest reply on May 27, 2013 1:24 PM by tmaurer

    How do you combat document sprawl, disorganization?

    davidfcarr

      It seems to me the downside of making it easy for people to create and post content in a social collaboration system is that you can wind up with a mess of web documents that aren't all that much better organized than folders of files on a file server. I know when I search for company policy documents, I often get search results that include several versions from past years, which may rank higher in search results than the current version I'm looking for.

       

      I'm curious what tactics you're using to weed out old, irrelevant documents or somehow organize things better so the most relevant and useful documents are also the easiest ones to find.

       

      This is research for the "Collaborating on Content" chapter of my Social Collaboration for Dummies book. Answers need not be "on the record," but I'm interested in your ideas.

        • Re: How do you combat document sprawl, disorganization?
          ChristopherHall

          We have a group established specifically for owners of spaces and groups that they are invited to when they create a new space or group. In that community is out "Community Owner Handbook" which outlines the typical community lifecycle. Our community owners are encouraged to review content in their communities every 6 months and delete anything they don't need as well as update tags.

           

          The most important thing here isn't the review process, but the locking down of community creation. While recognize that this is a social collaboration environment, open and unrestricted creation of spaces or groups within Jive undoubtedly will lead to the same pitfalls of file shares and SharePoint-like platforms. Communities will be duplicated or forgotten which can lead to duplicative content within those communities. Worse yet, I've seen several presentations from Jive customers that have 1000's of communities, many of which are secret; forget about finding anything uploaded to a Secret community (We only allow Open, members-Only, and Private, except when absolutely necessary).

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          • Re: How do you combat document sprawl, disorganization?
            Dennis Pearce

            We've had Jive for a little over a year now, and like a lot of organizations we are transitioning from many silos to a more open environment.  I think silos provide a kind of "pseudo-organization" of content -- it is still a mess at the enterprise level but it's not noticeable to most employees because they have only a narrow, restricted view of all the content.

             

            As we have migrated many of our silos into Jive (we now have close to 60,000 documents in it), we have begun to hear the kinds of complaints you describe -- multiple versions of documents, spaces and groups that have similar or ambiguous names, etc. (you would not believe how many spaces have a subspace called "Presentations").  So I try to remind our users that we are not making a new mess, we are making the existing mess visible which is a good thing.  The first step to cleaning up the mess and organizing is knowing that it needs to be cleaned up.

             

            We don't have much in the way of formal taxonomy in our business, plus I personally am a big fan of letting the structure of our content emerge organically as much as possible, so we encourage users who find duplicate content, old versions of documents, or redundant groups and spaces to get with the owners and resolve among them which content needs to stay, where it needs to go, and what the place should be called.

             

            But as Chris Hall said, the key to this is openness.  It has to cause some pain in order for someone to be motivated to do something about it, and the more people there are who can see across the whole system (or large parts of it), the more likely one of them will feel the need to do a little clean-up.

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              • Re: How do you combat document sprawl, disorganization?
                davidfcarr

                Dennis, I thought you summed it up nicely and would like to quote from your remarks. Let me know if that's okay.

                 

                That would look something like this:

                 

                One of the people I asked about combating content sprawl on the Jive Community forum, Lexmark Enterprise Knowledge Architect Dennis Pearce, suggests the perception of disorder is really a side effect of moving from departmental and functional "silos" to a more open environment. "I think silos provide a kind of 'pseudo-organization' of content -- it is still a mess at the enterprise level but it's not noticeable to most employees because they have only a narrow, restricted view of all the content," he writes. "I try to remind our users that we are not making a new mess, we are making the existing mess visible which is a good thing.  The first step to cleaning up the mess and organizing is knowing that it needs to be cleaned up."

              • Re: How do you combat document sprawl, disorganization?
                davidfcarr

                Tracy Maurer I'd also like to borrow from something you posted here on this topic, with your permission.

                 

                Keeping Content Under Control

                The potential downside of making it easier for employees to upload files, create online documents, and share this content left and right is that you can wind up with a tangled web of information. If your social collaboration content is no better than the maze of file shares it was supposed to replace, and searching for the most current version of a document is as hard as ever, employees may well ask what was the point?

                When I placed a query on the Jive Community forum for users of that platform about combating content sprawl, one of the people I heard back from was Lexmark Enterprise Knowledge Architect Dennis Pearce. He suggests the perception of disorder is really a side effect of moving from departmental and functional "silos" to a more open environment. "I think silos provide a kind of 'pseudo-organization' of content -- it is still a mess at the enterprise level but it's not noticeable to most employees because they have only a narrow, restricted view of all the content," he writes. "I try to remind our users that we are not making a new mess, we are making the existing mess visible which is a good thing. The first step to cleaning up the mess and organizing is knowing that it needs to be cleaned up."

                From a knowledge management perspective, the ideal would be for every document to be carefully classified according to a formal taxonomy and maybe reviewed by someone with a degree in library science prior to publication. The social collaboration approach is far more ad hoc, aiming to make it easier to create and share everyday work documents. Content creators are encouraged to do a bit of classification -- at least a few informal tags -- and the social comment stream associated with a document can help add more context. If the payoff is to make it easier to create and share content related to the everyday work of the organization, maybe that's worth some content sprawl that clutters up search results.

                On the other hand, we still want the most important content to be easy to find. It helps to give a document an unambiguous title -- an example from my company's network would be something like "UBM-UK Vacation Schedule 2014" -- so the context is as clear as possible when it turns up on a list of search results.

                As UBM's Community Systems Manager Tracy Mauer explains:

                The way that we have approached getting naming and tagging to be more consistent is:

                1. Having communitiy managers that update tags and/or consult on content title procedures.
                2. Any time someone complains about not being able to find something, we educate them on both searching and tagging/titling steps.
                3. Also encouraging those who don't easily find things to add tags to content once they do find it.
                4. Holding training workshops specifically for people who will be regular content contributors (i.e. HR people, product managers, etc.)

                Doesn't always work, but word gets around.

                Community managers, knowledge managers, and subject matter experts can play the role of curator -- finding and highlighting the most valuable content on the collaboration network. For example, a community manager working with the human resources team can fine tune the tagging and categorization of the vacation, expense reimbursement, and ethics policy documents, in addition to creating a page that links to the current version of each.

                In other words, we can take some of the knowledge management discipline that we skipped up front and add it on the back end.