8 Best Practices for SharePoint Document Management

SharePoint, Microsoft’s popular collaboration platform, is designed to help businesses manage and share documents securely across teams and departments. However, without following best practices for SharePoint document management, the software can seem cluttered and confusing. This article will outline 8 best practices for document management to maximize efficiency and effectiveness when managing documents in SharePoint.

First, What is a SharePoint Library, and How Does it Work?

A SharePoint Library is a location on a SharePoint site where you can create, collect, update, and manage files with team members. Each library displays a list of files and critical information about the files, like the file’s owner, last modified date, and other metadata you choose to track.

Every site has one library by default, the “Documents” library. Still, you can create additional libraries, for example, separate libraries for legal documents, marketing materials, or project-specific files.

But libraries aren’t limited to storing only documents.

You can also use them to store other types of files like pictures, reports, and pages. What sets libraries apart is their features for collaboration and file versioning – meaning users can work on documents simultaneously and track changes made over time.

Best Practices for SharePoint Document Management

Best Practices for SharePoint Document Management

Now that you know what a document library is and what it does, let’s look at the best practices. Using these document library practices will help you optimize SharePoint for your organization.

Practice 1: Crawl and Analyze Existing Documents

Before migrating documents to SharePoint, it’s crucial to analyze existing files. You can identify duplicate files, outdated documents, and irrelevant data using SharePoint’s crawling function.

This practice will help declutter your SharePoint environment and improve search efficiency.

Crawl and analyze all files to understand the kind of content you have and its relevance to the business. You can then decide what content needs to stay in SharePoint and how to categorize it for ease of access.

Steps to Crawl and Analyze Existing Documents

  1. Inventory: Compile a list of all documents, including their locations and any associated metadata. Tools such as Microsoft’s SharePoint Migration Tool can help automate this process.
  2. Categorize: Group documents into categories. You can base them on document type, department, or other criteria that make sense for your organization.
  3. Analyze: Evaluate the documents for relevance and currency. Archive or delete outdated or irrelevant documents.
  4. Identify Metadata: For the remaining relevant documents, identify critical metadata. This could be the author, creation date, department, or any other information that will help you organize and locate the document in the future.

Practice 2: Create and Use Effective Content Types

In SharePoint, “Content Types” are reusable collections of metadata (columns), workflow, behavior, and other settings for a category of items or documents in a SharePoint List or Document Library.

Content Types allow organizations to manage and organize content across multiple SharePoint sites and lists.

By effectively using Content Types, you can ensure that documents across all libraries follow the same template and metadata. This enhances document organization and searchability, streamlining your SharePoint usage.

Practice 3: Use the Right Permissions

One of the primary benefits of SharePoint is its ability to keep sensitive documents secure. You can control who can access the documents by setting permissions. SharePoint allows permission settings at the library, folder, and document levels.

Best practice involves granting access at the highest level possible to reduce complexity. Start by categorizing users into groups based on their role or department, then assign permissions to these groups rather than individual users.

This helps simplify permission management and keep your documents secure.

Tips for Setting Permissions in SharePoint

  1. Create SharePoint Groups: SharePoint groups allow you to manage sets of users instead of individual users. Create SharePoint groups that correspond to the roles in your organization.
  2. Assign Permissions to Groups: Assign permissions to groups, not individual users. This approach simplifies permissions management and ensures that permissions are consistently applied.
  3. Use the Principle of Least Privilege: Assign users the lowest permission levels to perform their jobs. If a user needs higher permissions temporarily, grant them, but remember to revert them back.

Practice 4: Name Your Documents Properly

In a large SharePoint environment, document naming can significantly make finding files much easier. An effective naming convention can save users significant time searching for specific documents.

The document names should be descriptive and include pertinent information such as the subject of the document, the date, the author, or the version number.

Avoid using special characters in your naming convention, which might interfere with SharePoint’s URL generation. Also, remember that SharePoint has a 400-character limit for URLs, so keep your document names concise.

Tips for Naming SharePoint Documents

  1. Be Descriptive: Include essential information such as the subject, date, and version in the document’s name.
  2. Avoid Special Characters: Special characters can cause issues with hyperlinks and certain operations in SharePoint.
  3. Use a Consistent Format: Decide on a naming format and stick with it to ensure consistency across your organization.

Managing Your SharePoint Documents Efficiently

Practice 5: Use a Document Center to Manage Documents Efficiently

A Document Center is a site in SharePoint where you can create, manage, and store large numbers of documents. It’s useful for organizations that need to archive or store documents in a central place, such as legal documents, manuals, or historical documents.

The Document Center offers metadata-based navigation, document versioning, and custom Content Types. Using a Document Center, you can create a centralized repository for documents, making it easier for users to find and collaborate on documents.

Practice 6: Use the Power of Fields, Sites, Libraries, and Lists

Fields, Sites, Libraries, and Lists in SharePoint are the building blocks that help you organize and manage your content. Using them effectively is vital to effective SharePoint document management:

  • Fields: Fields are used to capture metadata about a document. They help in classifying, sorting, and filtering documents.
  • Sites: Sites provide a workspace for teams. They can be configured with the features, look and feel, and permissions that best suit the team’s needs.
  • Libraries: Libraries are containers for documents. They can be customized with fields, views, and workflows to support document management tasks.
  • Lists: Lists are similar to libraries but are designed for non-document content. They can track tasks, manage events, and maintain other structured data related to your documents.

By effectively leveraging these features, you can create a well-structured, easy-to-navigate SharePoint environment that caters to your organization’s needs.

Practice 7: Use Views

In SharePoint, a view is a way of displaying a list of items or files. You can create multiple views for the same list or library, show different fields, apply filters, or even change layouts.

Views are handy for managing large lists or libraries, helping users to see only the most relevant data. For example, you could create a view that only displays documents modified in the last week or only shows documents from a specific project.

How to Create Views in SharePoint

Creating a view in SharePoint involves selecting the columns to display, setting the sort order, defining filters, and specifying other settings such as grouping and totals.

Check out this guide to learn how to create, edit, and change list views.

How to Delete Views in SharePoint

You may also need to delete views to clean your online work environment and make the work process smoother.

Here is one guide to learning how to delete a list view in SharePoint.

Practice 8: Set Up Notification Alerts

Staying up-to-date with document changes is vital in any collaborative environment. SharePoint’s Alerts feature allows users to receive notifications about changes to a document, library, list, or item.

You can customize alerts based on different parameters – such as changes made by a specific person, changes to a particular document, or changes that occur within a given period. By effectively using alerts, users can stay informed about changes to relevant documents and take action if necessary.

How to Set Up Notification Alerts in SharePoint

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Navigate to the list or library where you want to set up an alert.
  2. Click on the “Alert Me” button, then “Set Alert on this list” or “Set Alert on this library.”
  3. Specify the settings for the alert, then click “OK” to create the alert.

By applying these best practices, you can maximize your use of SharePoint for document management, thereby improving collaboration and efficiency in your organization.

SharePoint Document Management

In conclusion

In this guide, we saw eight best practices for document management in SharePoint. SharePoint offers a robust platform for document management when used effectively. These best practices will help you keep your SharePoint environment more organized, efficient, and secure.

With proper planning and continuous management, SharePoint can become an invaluable tool for your organization’s document management needs.

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Ikimi O. is an experienced technical writer passionate about software, technology, and engineering. He has a background in engineering and has written content on a wide variety of topics and niches. His hobbies include reading, watching movies, and traveling.