When it comes to document management for mining projects, I can’t think of anything positive to say about Microsoft SharePoint. I have worked for a few different employers as well as clients who neglected to thoroughly analyze their document management requirements (scope) and subsequently deployed SharePoint as a cheap solution. Inadequate scope is another topic I can write volumes about, and you may already see where this is heading…… these companies did not invest a small amount of time or money to get the right software and certainly did not invest in training their employees to use SharePoint for project document control.
Perhaps I just don’t get it, but SharePoint seems to be a solution in search of a problem. Many companies unwittingly buy in to the SharePoint concept thinking it will facilitate communications among employees. MS Word solves the problem of word processing, Outlook handles email brilliantly, PowerPoint is the standard for nap inducing corporate speak and Excel is the bomb when it comes to number crunching and data. What problem does SharePoint resolve?
Is SharePoint document management suitable for mining projects? The software is designed to be used within a single enterprise and doesn’t allow that business (or project team) to share the same work space with other collaborators on a project such as contractors and sub-contractors (designers, engineers, EPCM’s etc.) I’m yet to be convinced and would like to hear from the readers if there are any particularly creative uses for SharePoint for document management in projects. I’ve seen various mining companies trying to manage their document controls using SharePoint with limited success. In most cases, everyone on those projects used file folders for working documents and anything deemed “official” was logged with the Project Controls team and loaded in to SharePoint, sans dedicated document control managers.
The SharePoint collaboration effort is generic at best. Another company I worked with used SharePoint for their knowledge management and forums. Every time someone loaded a document (or a revision) to a particular forum, a firestorm of emails would ensue suggesting we look to see what changed. After so much noise, we just stopped listening. The idealism for better corporate communications was best managed by a spam filter. While well intentioned, this design feature would cripple even the smallest project.
The worst train wreck I’ve seen was when a client had not upgraded to the latest version of SharePoint over many years. I was told that the company could not justify the cost to upgrade (surprise surprise). Unfortunately, this had a knock-on effect and this client was “stuck” using an obsolete version of Microsoft Windows Explorer that significantly impacted the productivity of the entire organization when trying to use the internet. Penny wise and pound foolish, really. We can build electric cars and will soon have driverless cars yet there are still companies out there who tolerate “this browser version not supported” messages while expecting employees to be efficient and effective?
There are cloud based project management tools available such as Asana or BaseCamp, but neither of them are useful for document management on a large scale. My personal preference for document management is Aconex and I will reserve a separate article to explain the benefits.
We have heard the Ad Council’s successful 1983 campaign “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” I’d like to borrow part of that sentiment and add that “Friends don’t let friends drive SharePoint… at least for mining projects”.