Okay, so SharePoint document management might not sound like the sexiest topic in the world, but it’s something you spend a large proportion of your day doing. Done right, it makes life so much easier, and lets you spend time on the more rewarding parts of your job. Done badly and it becomes a drain on your time and energy. Today’s post is about certain common challenges of SharePoint document management that you’ve probably come across. Specifically, we’ll look briefly at the slightly techy concepts of the promotion and demotion of metadata in SharePoint and OneDrive for Business as it relates to our business problem;
How do you organise your content in SharePoint and OneDrive for Business so that you can locate it in a snap when you need it most? And what does that mean for how you work both in the office and out in the field?
Let’s kick off with a quick definition to get the tech bit out of the way:
Promotion is the extracting of values from file properties and writing those values to the corresponding columns in the document library in which the file is stored.
- Layman’s terms: promoted properties are where properties/metadata are inputted into SharePoint automatically from the document.
- Example: when you create a document, SharePoint automatically creates, date, author, file size, etc.
Demotion is the extracting of the property values from the column list and writing them to the file properties of a document.
- Layman’s terms: demoted properties are properties/metadata that SharePoint has put into the document.
- Example: when you create a document in your HR team site, it automatically contains the metadata from the list, e.g. employee start date, department, job role, etc.
Simple is… nice
If all you want to do is get some metadata into your documents to search for them on SharePoint, then great, because Microsoft has nailed property promotion and demotion—it couldn’t be simpler. There is no limit to the number of file properties you can add to a document, making the filtering of documents, in theory, equally limitless. The more metadata columns you add, the easier it will be to locate and group certain documents together; particularly useful when you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of files.
However, the whole point of these file properties is to ‘tag’ your documents making it quicker and easier to find them again. If you want to leverage the metadata to make sure you have the right documents on hand in OneDrive for Business, you can’t do it. Why? Because there is no interface for that in OneDrive for Business.
Simple… but limited
In OneDrive for Business, you can’t filter your documents in any way you want. For instance, if you want to only see documents you have shared with your line manager, you are out of luck. This might not be a big deal when working on a short project with a small team. However, filtering for search purposes becomes an issue when you’re working with hundreds and thousands of documents over weeks and months and years.
If you’ve ever been out in the field and need a file ASAP and can’t locate the thing, you’ll know where we’re coming from here: what you really want is the ability to leverage your precise metadata to allow you to find what you’re looking for. The whole point of properties/metadata is to give you numerous ways to find a piece of content. You want to be able to choose your views (for example, who you’ve shared files with) and sort by them, giving you a more sophisticated outlook on your list or library.
SharePoint document management capabilities let you do this, however, OneDrive for Business lacks the UI to allow you to do the same. You can open a document, you can save it, you can get a list of documents, or a folder with a list of files, but if you want to use the properties of your documents you will come up against a wall. It’s a subtle point here, and worth repeating: the value of properties/metadata in your document management platforms is the ability to sort by them.
Without that ability, the function of OneDrive for Business is effectively compromised. So, what’s your alternative?
Easier is… better
If you work with both SharePoint and Office 365, Easier 365 makes up for OneDrive for Business’s limited User Interface by enabling a better navigation experience.
Offline functionality means you can still search and work on your important files without a Wi-Fi connection. You can edit, delete, rearrange, update your content as you need to and once you reconnect the Easier 365 platform will sync and save the changes automatically.
That’s great if you’re on a flight to take a meeting in a client’s office or a regional spot from your own organisation. Even more crucially, for those of us who work away from the office – like an engineer onsite, or a lawyer who is out of the office a lot, in court, visiting defendants, etc. – who need access to important files while on the job but might have limited connectivity, Easier 365 makes it much easier to work on your documents regardless of Wi-Fi availability.
With Easier 365, you can set your documents ‘to type’ so that when you first create them (depending on what location you choose to create them: HR, Accounts, etc.) they are pre-set with the right metadata, taking the hassle out of manually filling the fields in after your document is born.
Easier 365 supports:
- Content types
- Custom metadata
- Being able to sort those views and fields
You can even update your document metadata from the Easier365 interface without opening the document itself.