Saturday, October 08, 2005

Protocol: Document Sharing

The Columbia Business School uses an internal collaboration site to enable students [including the Executive MBA students who live and work in different cities in the US and Europe] and professors share documents among other things. 95% of the time we go there to get documents that the professors post. Class surveys and grades are also posted there.

Even though it is designed for the primary purpose of document sharing between students and professors, it has a very basic problem. There are several places for the professor to place the documents. There is the lectures folder, the session folder, schedule folder, the files folder, and the home page. Every professor places the files in a different place. Some attach it to every session. Some attach it to the home page. Some attach it to the files folder and so on. As the academic rep I get calls from my class mates asking questions about where a certain file is and I then ask the professor. It is a terrible waste of their time.

This seemingly simple thing has a very big impact on the way we do work and our productivity. I keep wondering if this is how majority of corporate America does collaboration.

When it comes to document sharing, all teams need to follow one simple rule. A place for everything and everything in place. All the designers of this collaboration site need to do is designate a place for lecture notes and remove the other folders.

I brought this up with the administration team and a few weeks later they removed all the extra folder locations where professors could post their documents. This simple change eliminated all complaints from students. It is surprising how big a difference this seemingly small change made. This is a good lesson for enterprise document management systems administrators and designers.
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