SharePoint is a beast. Given the volume of data and the disparity of the type of data being managed, it is critical that a solid information architecture be created to provide the foundation for a well-managed, scalable SharePoint environment.
Content types are vital to a successful SharePoint deployment – they serve as the lynchpin to much of the capability and functionality in SharePoint. As the design phase of a SharePoint environment begins, this should be one of the first things documented and implemented in the SharePoint environment. A solid information architecture built on content types will provide the flexibility and capability to do the following:
- Retention Rules and Document Lifecycle Management: Information polices can be configured globally based upon the content type. Based on a condition (i.e., 5 years after creation), the content type can be configured to be permanently deleted, marked as a record, placed on hold, or initiate a workflow on the file.
- Global and Reusable workflow: Imagine a SharePoint world where you can create a workflow to be associated throughout a site collection no matter where the content resides. Global workflows are best leveraged when they are associated to content types. This allows for consistent, systematic management of content across your SharePoint environment by the classification you have identified.
- Document Templates: Remember that time a document was created that was based upon a template from several years ago? Document templates can be associated to content types to ensure that when new documents are created in SharePoint libraries, the most up to date document format is used. These templates are centrally managed to unsure the content being added to SharePoint is current and consistent.
- Content Organizer Rules and Document Routing: Content organizer rules are a great way to keep content organized without investing the time in complicated workflows. Using the Drop Off Library as a hub to ‘scan’ a document’s metadata, content organizer rules route the document to the corresponding destination library. The most basic (and required) piece of information required is a Content Type – a rule cannot be created without one.
- Ease of PowerShell Administration: A Content Type value gives administrators a consistent piece of data to execute queries against to locate information in their environment. Once these documents are found and filtered (ie, by a date range), admins can do anything with those documents that PowerShell allows them to do, such as updating a metadata, moving/deleting documents, and
- Search: With the release of FAST Search in 2010 and SharePoint 2013, organizations are more deliberately focusing on Search to provide both ease of use and the primary method of content delivery to both their internal and external customers. Content types provide an instant way to query related content, filter to a sub set of results, and provide sort/refinement abilities to end users.
The key benefit of content types is the standardized structure of the data associated to your content. This structure provides the flexibility for many other valuable features of SharePoint to be used at will. So, next time you create a document library or add a list column think about creating a content type first. You’ll be glad you did.