Managing Documents with Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 includes a variety of applications that can help you manage documents and communications. In fact, there are so many options (Sharepoint, OneDrive, Teams, Groups, Planner, etc.) that it can get confusing. In the last few years, Microsoft has focused on Teams as its key strategic collaboration and communications tool, and Techcafeteria has identified a clear path for using 365’s main document management tools as a coordinated suite for information management.

Key Benefits

The benefits of a cloud-based system are numerous, but most powerful is their role in containing hat Techcafeteria calls “document sprawl”. Most organizations have shared drives that contain hundreds of thousands of files, and many of those files are copies of the same file, either exact duplicates, different versions, or assorted redlines. In the cloud, you don’t have to emailm documents around and create this multiple version confusion. You can send links, so that collaborators are working on the same document that you are. 365, like Google, also supports concurrent editing. Version control insures that, should a collaboration delete a paragraph that you were particularly fond of, it can be easily restored.

The Sharepoint Work Repository

It is important for work product to be centrally stored for backup and archiving purposes, as well as for resolving the issues that arise with duplicative documents and lost or deleted files, as might occur when an employee storing their finalized work on their laptop leaves the company. Sharepoint functions well as a repository for completed and shared work product.

Using a standardized folder structure to store files, with exceptions for departments with specific confidentiality or workflow needs, such as Finance and HR, makes training simpler and users more productive, as they do not have to navigate unfamiliar structures when looking for a file in another department’s folder. The structure should be informed by document security needs and retention defaults. Standardized filenames that incorporate project names, dates, and document types (e.g., “Letter”, “Report”, “Application”) can make it easy to locate the right document while sifting through search results. Adding tags further refines the searching and allows you to classify documents in multiple contexts. To make the most of Sharepoint’s collaboration tools, documents should be modifiable by all staff unless there is a reason to secure a document. Any procedural changes made when moving to a centralized system should be formalized and communicated. Initial and follow-up training is necessary to reinforce policies and procedures and keep the document system consistent.

This diagram depicts one example of how you might structure the Sharepoint site(s). The three pink folders are top level folders or sites. Other folders are grouped by the overarching project category or department. For each department there is a public folder (read/write for the entire company) and a private folder (restricted to the department).

Techcafeteria recommends structuring Sharepoint document folders in such a way that confidential documents are easy to protect. This can sometimes be done by having “public” and “private” folders for each department or project. Organizational taxonomies can be used to standardize labeling of documents, making them easy to locate when they are ready to be archived, or simple to find when they have multiple associations, as a Powerpoint presentation might be related to a client, a topic, and an event. Regularly archiving data to a separate “archive” site as the documents become less relevant to the work improves the quality of search results and protects documents with confidentiality requirements.

Teams for Projects and Departments

Microsoft Teams offers a topical hub for managing collaborative projects and initiatives. It is similar to the popular messaging app Slack, and, like Slack, combines text messaging and video with powerful integration capabilities, allowing it to act as a collaboration and workflow center. Each team can contain numerous “Channels” (or topics); each channel has an associated communication stream, document management folder, and a tabbed home page where you can integrate in other applications and functions. Those functions can be additional 365 components (such as OneNote or PowerBI); external applications (such as Trello, Evernote; Adobe Creative Cloud), or alternate communication tools (Zoom, Webex).  If you have a key spreadsheet or document associated with the project, it can be published to its own tab as well.

Any campaign or project can have an associated team. Teams can have internal and external participants. If a cross-functional group is working with a vendor to redesign the company website, a team can be setup with channels for user interface, content migration, and other topics. The user interface channel might include the Adobe Creative Suite add-in so that mockups can be published to the channel, and the content migration channel might include a shared Excel spreadsheet. The home page for the project might link to a Trello or Jira project management board. If the vendor prefers Zoom to Skype, Zoom can be integrated into the Team as well.

Teams document folders are SharePoint folders, and they can reside in the team as well as in your SharePoint structure, making it easy to work with all of your documents in one place (SharePoint) while sharing some files securely with people outside of the organization.

OneDrive for Simple Collaboration and Navigation

Microsoft OneDrive is Office 365’s equivalent to DropBox or Google Drive. Its basic use is for sharing files, and with one terabyte allocated to each Office 365 user, it can handle those large files that email systems might reject. Techcafeteria recommends using OneDrive to store personal files (or files that are not considered work product, hence not needing to be in the repository where work is archived and backed up).

OneDrive is a powerful component of this 365 strategy:  any document folder in SharePoint or Teams can be synched to OneDrive. This allows you to link the folders that you work in most often to your OneDrive and have them handy – no need to jump from Team to Team or navigate a complex SharePoint folder structure.

Putting It All Together

Utilizing OneDrive, Teams, and Sharepoint as a coordinated information management suite can work like this:

♦ Teams are set up for each department and project. These become the main places where work product is developed, in a multi-functional environment with ample tools for collaboration.

♦ Sharepoint is the document repository, where finalized documents developed in Teams and OneDrive ultimately live. Backup and archiving can be automated on the repository.

♦ OneDrive is for personal documents and one-off collaboration with external parties, as well as a convenient jumping off point to the SharePoint folders you use most often.