Now that we’ve whet your appetites about the 2007 release of Office and SharePoint with Content Types, today’s posting will talk about another feature of importance to records management, and to document management in general – the Document Informational Panel.
The Document Information Panel helps address a major challenge facing organizations: ensuring that documents which eventually may be declared as records are tagged with the appropriate metadata to make them easy to find, discover, and manage over their entire lifecycle.
In today’s organizations, the volume of documents being created & stored is increasing all the time. (As we mentioned in an earlier post, studies have shown that over the next two years, more content will be created than in the entire history of mankind.) As the amount increases, the ability to identify those documents easily becomes more critical than ever. In Office 2007, the new Document Information Panel feature is used to capture metadata on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents in in a better and more flexible way: from the moment of their creation.
We’ve heard the feedback from many customers that people who save documents to a document management system are always asked to enter metadata at the wrong time, and it feels very jarring to the save experience. When someone has just finished working on a document, they don’t want to be bothered with filling out metadata – even though providing that metadata is critical to the organization’s ability to find & reuse that content later. The result is that users will often provide the least amount of information possible and will provide incorrect data for required fields. (For example, we’ve seen users just fill in “fdfdfdfd” for text fields, and pick “Afghanistan” as the choice for country fields because it’s the first country in the alphabetized pick-list they choose from).
To address this problem, we introduced the Document Information Panel (DIP)– a more natural element of the Office application interface for metadata entry. The DIP is a modeless pane that appears above the document that the user is working on.
Below is an example of a DIP in Microsoft Word 2007:
As you can see, the Document Information Panel allows the user to see early on what data they need to provide, from the moment they begin authoring their document. Beyond the placement above the content to facilitate a natural workflow for authoring, it enables the user to reference those values while working on the document.
Additionally, in the 2007 edition of Microsoft Word, the properties in the DIP can be automatically synchronized with the document content itself. This means that users can begin the authoring process simply by entering appropriate metadata, and that as they edit the document content the appropriate information will automatically be captured as document metadata. This can change the end-user metadata experience from “extra work” to something that adds value to their work.
And as the metadata experience improves for end-users, so does the quality of the metadata captured by the organization. This benefits end-users and knowledge managers in improving their ability to organize and find documents.
And most importantly those benefits accrue to records managers in the 2007 release of Office and SharePoint Server as well – since having better metadata on records makes it easier to classify those records into the organization’s file plan, and to later discover relevant records more easily.
In our next “feature introduction” post we’ll take the wraps off of an area of major interest to Records Management – Information Management Policies, which allow records managers to specify what behaviors the system will automatically enforce for each type of content, so that content is appropriately retained, dispositioned, and audited in accordance with regulatory & records management requirements.
Thanks for reading!
Brandon Taylor, Program Manager