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The Buzzwords: Portals & Collaboration, Content Management (incl. Case Management), Workflow, (Self-service) Business Intelligence & Digital Archive

There are (too) many words for describing the digital sharing and processing of documents and other types of content. ‘Document Management’ is one that is often used. What flavors does it have? (And yes, they can all be implemented with SharePoint).




Portals & Collaboration

Portals & Collaboration refers to the single entrance (‘portal’) that people get to loads of information. It also refers to the unstructured, loosely defined collaboration they can set up using the portal. ‘Collaboration’ refers to the fact that the way in which people work together on documents is not organized in a formal way. Who is allowed to add content, modify it, etc. can be configured by using the authorization mechanisms that are available. But the sequence of events who is supposed to do what and at which moment is not formally defined. Collaboration therefore equals communication without formally defined rules.

Still there are various mechanisms (also all available in SharePoint) to ‘collaborate’:

– Centrally stored documents that can be accessed – and modified – by authorized users (using a check-out/check-in mechanism or not)

– Wiki’s to share knowledge

– Discussion Groups

– Announcements

– Task Lists

– Team Sites


Content Management (incl. Case Management)

Content Management is a different ball game. It almost the opposite of collaboration in the sense that here the way in which content is managed is as structured as possible. The whole life cycle of each document type is analyzed and defined, and finally implemented: who can create content, who should review added or modified content, who should approve the added or modified content before it can be published, etc.

Content Management without versioning is inconceivable. Content Management without workflow is hardly conceivable (see next chapter).

A special form of Content Management is Case Management. Where most people think of individual documents or single items of content when they talk about Content Management, Case Management is about sets of documents (files, dossiers, cases whatever you call them). In Case Management the same principles of structured content creation, review and approval apply to sets of documents (aka ‘Cases’).

And yes, you can implement Case Management with SharePoint too.



Workflow is the mechanism that is used to automate the processes related to documents and other types of content. The content reviews and approvals that are mentioned in the previous chapter can be fully automated with workflows.

By automating workflows, you take away the risk that the prescribed way of working is not followed. People can make mistakes. People can forget. Or you can forget to train people to work in the correct way. When procedures are really important (e.g. for compliance or liability reasons) it can be very helpful to automate the process by means of workflows.

Tip: before you start implementing workflows: read our blogs about Process Modeling.


(Self-service) Business Intelligence

Why write about Business Intelligence (BI) in the context of Document Management?

First of all, because a Portal is the perfect place to publish your reports and figures, especially when they take the shape of dashboards and scorecards.

Secondly because reports can be considered to be ‘content’ like documents, having similar properties: collaboration, meta-data, life cycle, authorizations, etc.

So why not take advantage of the platform you already have to make the right version of your reports available to the right people at the right time?

The possibilities of BI in SharePoint are countless, and yet most people don’t even know about it.


Digital Archive

What is the relationship between a Digital Archive and Content Management? The content Life cycle!

One of the simplest rules in Content Management is: what gets in, must get out! For each type of document, and therefore for each document, you must know when it is going to be removed from your content database at the moment you add it to it! Sounds impossible? Can be done!

And because people don’t like to throw away things, or because the legislator or compliance committee may demand that you keep record of specific types of documents, you need a (digital) archive to store documents that are no longer ‘active’.

In the archive, your content starts a second life that eventually ends with the permanent deletion of the content.

The key concept here is: content life cycle management!


… and CRM?

This may seem like an odd one. What is the relationship between CRM and Content Management?



Document Management is about collaboration. Collaboration is about communication. Organizations communicate with their external contacts more and more through portals in stead of through e-mail. By sharing documents on a portal with customers, partners, members, etc. the communication becomes so much more efficient: everyone shares the same version of a document, everyone can modify that version (if authorized) and so on.

CRM is about keeping track of your contacts and of the touch points you have with those contacts. So if you want to keep control over your touch points with customers and other external parties, it does make sense to integrate your CRM with your content management.



If you want to hear more about projects we realized in this context, or want to learn how this may apply to your organization, don’t hesitate to contact me or the company:




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