February 28, 2021
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Leveraging Content Types in SharePoint Document Libraries and Lists

  • By Daan De Brouckere & Raj Agarwal
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Example 1. Connecting With Distance Learning Students

The problem

A large university is faced with improving its connection with the fast-growing segment of online students. In an effort to improve that connection, the university is looking to offer similar services that are currently available to on-campus students. One particular example is the English Department's initiative to offer writing assistance services.

Currently, on-campus students have two options for receiving feedback on their writing assignments. They have the ability to walk into the English Department offices to work with a tutor one-on-one to ask specific questions, or they may email their paper in and receive written feedback within 48 hours.

The Solution

To provide a similar experience for the online students who hail from all 50 states and over 70 countries across the globe, we worked with the university to put a SharePoint-based solution in place that leverages content types.

We built a single document library to hold all requests for writing assistance. These requests come in two flavors:

  1. One-on-one tutoring
  2. Entire paper reviews

These two requests were mapped to two different content types. The "one-on-one tutoring" type uses a separate set of metadata and workflow from the "entire paper review" type. For "one-on-one tutoring," the student must provide the method of communication that they would like to leverage (instant messaging, video conference, and so forth) and when they would like to schedule a time to meet.

On the other hand, for "entire paper review," the student must submit the actual paper, a description of the writing assignment, and when they would like to have the paper returned. Beyond different metadata, the workflow is also different; "one-on-one tutoring" assignments are scheduled directly with a tutor and routed to the selected tutor, while "entire paper review" requests are routed to a central administrator who can assign the papers based on tutor availability and specialty.

Click here for a larger image.

Figure 6: Request Live Assistance

With the differences between the two types of requests, why wouldn't we just create two different libraries? Beyond the differences, these requests do have a lot in common. Regardless of type, the requests contain much of the same information (class, professor, degree program, reason the student is using the service, and so on) and are serviced by tutors regardless of type.

Taking It to the Next Level

Now, with a library that captures the tutoring requests, data retention policies can be defined to ensure old papers are deleted after the student graduates. In addition, the information that is captured as part of the tutoring process can be leveraged in future tutoring sessions to continuously improve the student's writing. Tutors leverage document library views that display historical tutoring information.

Example 2. Manufacturing Process Optimization

The Problem

A manufacturer of solid ink and color toner cartridges is faced with a challenge to standardize their production formula sheet and test results when producing a new type of ink to comply with ISO 9001 standards. With 16 different types of formula sheets, the company seeks an alternative to the use of file shares to store these formulas.

Users have various versions of the formula sheets stored on their local hard drive, emails, and on various department file shares. These various versions lead to a time consuming and arduous analysis process.

The Solution

To provide a solution for document standardization, we worked with the company to implement SharePoint and leverage document templates within content types. We created a single document library in SharePoint to house all the ink formula sheets. The document library contained a content type of each of the 16 different types of base formulas for users to document their production formula.

Now, users can select from a dropdown box the type of base document (formula) template that they want to create and save it back to the document library. Once the document is created, an approval workflow automatically initiates and obtains approval from the production manager.

In terms of managing content, the administrator now only has to update the base formula template in one location where all users have access. This helped standardize the documentation of creating new formulas and prevented the users from storing various local versions of the template. To comply with ISO standards, the documents were also versioned and carefully tracked for modifications.

Figure 7: Document Library

Taking It to the Next Level

After implementing the content types in a single document library, management now can report on how frequently and for what reason each of the ink formulas change and can implement additional operational process improvements based on the lessons learned.

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This article was originally published on June 4, 2008

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