In my first post about best practices for using M-Files for project content management, I talked about putting metadata at the forefront of the project planning process, defining roles, responsibilities, phases and milestones, as well as identifying project documentation volume and content types. This pre-planning is critical for ensuring everyone on the team is on the same page in terms of objectives and expected project outcomes.
Another important consideration is ensuring project-related documents are appropriately managed — not just when they’re initially created, but throughout their entire lifecycle.
Encourage document lifecycle management
My experience is that the biggest challenge related to project content management is to motivate users to store files into the system from the very beginning. Some users still tend to consider a document management system as a repository for the final versions of documents, which often leads to chaotic content management via e-mail attachments.
Many M-Files customers simply do not allow this: if users send attachments to the group and ask for comments, they are kindly asked to store the file first to the system and then link to it, which ensures that everyone is working with the latest version of the file and that all changes are tracked.
In the context of project management, I recommend categorizing project documentation into two groups:
- Documents that are key deliverables of a project
- Supporting documentation
The first group of documents should be noted in the project plan, and the person responsible for each one along with deadlines should be explicitly defined using metadata. Typically, these documents go through a formal approval process before they are distributed to customers or external entities. With these two metadata properties, you can better ensure project work remains on-task, which gives project managers the ability to quickly and easily assess the status of the project documentation and, if necessary, reassess priorities. A useful application of a metadata-driven system is that you can not only easily see the list of documents in the system, but also the ones that should be there but are not yet stored.
The latter group of documentation consists of all kinds of documentation that needs to be appended to its corresponding project. This can consist of email conversations, statements, memos, pictures, etc… This documentation typically serves as evidence for the decisions being made during the course of the project.
It’s just as important for users to store this documentation to the system as the key deliverable documents. Very often, team members’ email boxes are full of relevant email conversations that no one else on the project team is aware of. Some companies choose to setup a dedicated email box for a project, which in many instances is indeed a good practice for larger projects. In an ideal project content management scenario, team members copy the project mailbox to the conversations related to the project — and all emails from that mailbox are imported to the document management system automatically.
My advice is to avoid a complex metadata structure for email messages and other supporting material. Document management systems can automatically tag emails to the right project and capture sender, recipient and date from the message header. This information makes the messages discoverable because the content of the message is also indexed, so don’t demotivate project team members by adding unnecessary properties to the document types. Ultimately, a document in the system with insufficient metadata associated with it is much more discoverable than a document that never was saved to the system.
Look for repeatable processes
Once you’ve completed your first project in which you’ve leveraged metadata to manage documentation associated with the project, identify the project steps and milestones that are repeated. This helps you to define project templates with assignments and roles that you can use when starting a new project. This approach makes it easier to onboard new resources to your projects and also helps you to institute best practices for each and every element of your process.
Are you leveraging metadata to create enforceable and repeatable project content management processes? I’d love to hear your experience in leveraging metadata within your enterprise content management system for smoother and more successful project content management administration.