Managed Services

The Magic of Content Types

When I first heard the term Content Type, I have to admit I probably zoned out and didn’t really listen to (or understand) the concept.  But 2 years later, I find that I’m a bit of a content type "evangelist" because I have seen, in the real world, how much it improves the user experience.

And that’s what the following example will focus on – the user. Mary is a new employee and she’s just been through new hire orientation where she was told to complete an insurance enrollment form by the end of the day to ensure she is enrolled for insurance benefits.

Option 1 – Forms are on a SharePoint site where content types ARE NOT being used:

  1. Mary has the SharePoint URL in an email she received from HR. She clicks on the link and goes to the home page for the site.
  2. She’s never used SharePoint before but she assumes she should look for the HR site to find the forms. She looks at the navigation options and sees a tab titled "Depts".
  3. She sees "Human Resources" in the drop-down and clicks to go to the site.
  4. Once there, she sees several links on the left-hand side which look like libraries or folders. One is titled "New Hire Forms", the other is titled "Insurance Forms" and another is titled "Benefits". She’s not sure which one so she begins her search by looking through all of the libraries.
  5. She goes to the New Hire Forms library and sees a few forms, one titled "Insurance" so she opens it but notices the date is 2009, not 2010.
  6. She then goes back and opens the Insurance Forms library. There are 6 folders – she opens each and has to go through several folder levels to see what documents are stored there. She sees another document titled "Insurance" and opens it but it’s actually a process document concerning how insurance claims are processed.
  7. She goes back to the Benefits library and finds two forms – one named "2010 Insurance Enrollment" and another named "2010 Insurance Enrollment version2".
  8. By this point, she has spent at least 30 minutes searching for and opening documents and (to coin a phrase I heard from another content type evangelist) she doesn’t want to spend any more time on an "archeological dig". Plus, she doesn’t want to fill out the wrong form and not have insurance benefits!
  9. Mary gives up and decides to just email the HR department and have them send her the correct form.
  10. After receiving the correct form, she completes and signs it and submits it to HR.

 

Option 2 – Forms are on a SharePoint site where content types ARE being used:

  1. Mary has the SharePoint URL in an email she received from HR. She clicks on the link and goes to the home page for the site.
  2. She sees, on the home page, an "Insurance Enrollment" banner and a list of documents, including the 2010 Insurance Enrollment form.   The forms are displayed using a Content Query Web Part. 
  3. She completes and signs the form and submits it to HR.

 

This is a fairly common example, but there are thousands of real-world scenarios just like this. Creating content types and metadata does involve a lot more work up front but the payoff is huge when you have thousands of employees, hundreds of departments and millions of documents and files.

Content Types do much more than this, but for Mary, it means she won’t have to spend valuable time looking for the insurance enrollment form she needs to complete.

One Response

  1. tracey October 3, 2015

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