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SharePoint document management needs a third party user interface

Out of the box SharePoint has all the required back end components for serious document and email management - versioning, audit history, checkin/out, records management, security etc. And most importantly it is very scalable - have a look at the design specs in the Software boundaries and limits for SharePoint 2013 paper and be impressed (it links to the 2016 equivalent which is even more scalable).

SharePoint's major limitation is its default user interface, the web browser. The browser UI doesn't allow you to take advantage of SharePoint's scalability at all. It is hard to use with a dozen site collections, let alone a few thousand, and as for users who start writing a document and then have to figure out where to save it ... let's not go there.

Far too many people take the quick and dirty path and go for drop off libraries because it is too hard to navigate around SharePoint with the browser (the historic “wisdom” was to use them). But even then, drop off libraries only help with getting your content into SharePoint. You still have to design ways for people to find their way around, to get at their content (especially from within Word and Excel) – as why use a document management system at all if you can’t work on your documents easily?

Fortunately, SharePoint has an amazing tool kit for building applications, and a growing number of software vendors have taken up the challenge and created some great products that make document and email management really work in SharePoint. These include companies like Colligo, Epona, Harmon.ie, MacroView*, Mail2Share, OnePlace Solutions and Repstor. With the growth happening in this vertical market I have probably missed a few.

Some, like MacroView, even take it to the enterprise level and make it feel much like the traditional document management systems from Hummingbird/OpenText, iManage, and Documentum.

A key feature is how some of these tools integrate tightly with Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Taking a leaf out of traditional document management users can directly open from, or save to, SharePoint via a custom UI designed to make the SharePoint store easily accessible.

You will find these products in use right across the board, both at the large and small ends of the spectrum, and also in industries as diverse as insurance, construction, mining, legal, not for profit, central and local government, education and so on.

Products tend to have their own specialities within the SharePoint document and email management requirement, so you need to make your own assessment for which ones match your requirements best. Here are links to some of the players:

*As well as having my SharePoint migration consultancy I was also once part of the MacroView professional services team.

1 Comment

  1. Dimitri on November 1, 2016 at 6:11 am

    Most of the above list are actually email management vendors rather than document management tools. MacroView, Epona and possibly OncePlace would be the ones to evaluate for SharePoint DM Office integration.

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