The Document Life Cycle

In a pragmatic sense, we’ve outlined a generic document life cycle that can be adapted to most types of documents (refer back to Table 8-1). Spending time on the development of a document life cycle—complete with a document plan and document DDoc about key document types—will help you reduce costs and content duplications while increasing the findability of key documents. Consider these statistics:

  • Over 30 billion original documents are used each year in the United States.
  • The cost of documents to corporations is estimated to be as much as 15 percent of annual revenue.
  • 85 percent of documents are never retrieved.
  • 50 percent of documents are duplicates.
  • 60 percent of documents are obsolete.
  • For every dollar that a company spends to create a final document, 10 dollars are spent to manage the document creation process.

Tradeoff: Short-term Costs versus Long-term Cost Savings

RFC 1925 outlines The Twelve Networking Truths. One of those truths is this: “Good, fast, cheap. Pick any two. You can’t have all three.” When it comes to implementing a robust document management solution, you’ll be faced with competing and mutually exclusive forces in your organization who will want all three. It can’t be done. Creating content types and DDoc (discussed later in this chapter) is both time consuming and costly. The short-term costs will need to be accepted if the long-term cost savings are to be realized. Because this is hard to quantify, you might be up against a difficult battle following the recommendations in this chapter. One way to frame your recommendations is to help the decision-makers understand that if they want a great DMS, it will not happen quickly, nor will it happen without up front costs.

Steve Smith, Microsoft MVP, Combined Knowledge, Lutterworth, UK

Implementing a document life cycle for your documents will take time and effort, especially if no such plans have existed in your organization before. Developing Description Documents (DDoc)—which are documents that describe the envisioned document’s focus, content, keyword descriptions, content owner and security, and other important aspects—is even more time consuming and (seemingly) not necessary if you’ve never done it before.

However, developing a consistent method of creating, managing, and expiring key documents in your environment will go a long way toward ensuring that documents are more easily findable as well as more compliant with current laws and regulations. Disk space usage should also be reduced because you’ll minimize duplications on your network. Engaging in document management practices that contain consistent keyword metadata whose fields are assigned at the content type level will ensure that, over time, your documents are findable. Most documents are not findable because they are not adequately described or categorized. If the document isn’t findable, then it might as well not exist. Information that can’t be found can’t be used.

In the following sections, we’ll cover some of the features in SharePoint and how they support the document life cycle and document management (refer back to Table 8-1). We’ll offer best practice ideas for the implementation of document management within the SharePoint Server 2007 environment and will assist you in understanding the planning and design tasks that you’ll face.


Every document must be created before it can be used. This understatement deserves some discussion because, when it comes to document management, the creation of a document is much more than going into Office Word or Office Excel and creating a new, empty document.

Indeed, many documents in your environment will not need to undergo the rigors that we’ll describe in this section. However, documents that will represent official, compliant, trusted communication from your company will need to be well-designed and envisioned before they are ever created. Moreover, to the extent that you wish all documents to be easily and quickly findable, you will need to adopt the strategies discussed in this section.

The main strategy for document creation that can be employed in a DMS is the development of a DDoc, which we briefly alluded to earlier in this chapter. A DDoc lays out the focus, ownership, security, and metadata of the document that will be created. In the absence of direction, workers will make their own decisions—which could be either correct or incorrect—about document titles, metadata assignments, creation location, and content ownership. The same applies to the creation of a document. Without direction on the keywords that will describe the document, an explicit statement of who owns the content and secures the document, and an understanding of other aspects of the document’s life cycle, workers will be left on their own to make these decisions in the absence of support and direction from their managers.

To be sure, some general policies regarding the DMS can be established to help inform workers’ decisions when they create documents; not all policies need to be specified on a document-by-document basis. But other decisions are document specific and cannot be formed by broad policy. For example, the keyword descriptors for a document are specific to that document and should be defined in the DDoc. Possible elements of the DDoc are as follows:

  • Name of the DDoc
  • Date of creation of the DDoc
  • Name and title of the target document it will be describing
  • Name of position and/or group who will own the document
  • Name of the individual responsible for the creation and development of the document
  • Name of the SharePoint content type used to create the document
  • Specification if this is a stand-alone document or a document that is a member of a larger set of documents; if the latter, specification of the other documents in the set and their current status in the document life cycle
  • Keywords that will be used to describe the document
  • Other metadata values that must be entered when the document is first saved
  • Suggested retrieval methods, especially if there are any native client applications that must be installed on the desktop to retrieve the document
  • Workflow information for the document, including named approvers and signatures, if needed
  • Location to which the document will be published
  • Statement of auditing metrics that will need to be recorded
  • Statement of the useful life of the document
  • Expiration information, including when and how the document will be expired
  • Location to which the document will be sent for long-term archival

On the Companion Media On the CD, you will find a Word 2007 document named Sample Description Document.doc. You can use this sample form as a starting point to help you develop your own DDocs for various types of documents in your environment. This form is not copyrighted, and you are free to use it as needed within your organization.

Once the DDoc has been completed, you now have a roadmap to build the document. The next step, if you talk with most authors, is to prepare the outline that describes the major parts of the document that needs to be written. After the outline is completed, it’s time to create and develop the document’s contents.

Essentially, you can create the document either inside or outside the document library. In both cases, you will either assign the correct content type to the document when it is uploaded into the library, or you’ll use the correct content type to create the document. We prefer that it is created within the SharePoint interface so that the correct content type is used at inception. If you create a document outside of SharePoint, it is conceivable, however unlikely, that some customized metadata will have been assigned to the document before its upload into the document library and that wrong metadata would persist after the document is uploaded. Spurious metadata can result in the document appearing in the wrong result set and, at a minimum, appear out of place. This scenario can occur if a user copies an existing document outside of SharePoint, deletes all of the contents, and then starts writing the new document. In this scenario, all of the metadata will persist and will wrongly describe the new document.

For this reason, if you have gone to the lengths to describe a new document, we think that it is a best practice to create a separate content type for that document and then create the new document from that content type within SharePoint.

Note Content types are discussed in more detail in Chapter 9, “Enterprise Content Management.”

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