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Best practices for using Content Types

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Frequent Contributor

hi Everyone,

 

I want to start using content types in my sharepoint online environment. It may be overkill as I'm the only user, but the target is to get some real life experience. To speed things up I'm looking for resources how to get started, but most of all do's and don'ts (as I can imagine there are lot of possibilities but some of which you just don't want to use). I can find the resources how to do it, but mostly miss the do's and don'ts part....

 

The way I think about it now I want to start with my incomming documents. At the moment I have a records management teamsite with a drop off library filled with (scanned) documents (pdf). They can be classified as purchase invoices/receips from things I buy, my own sales invoices, bank transactions overviews, and letters of IRS, Banks, Chambers of Commerce, etc.

 

At the moment I've created both a "Purchase Invoice" and a "Sales Invoices" content type, but that feels wrong as the have similar properties. I think I should instead create a "Invoice" content type, with a "sender" and "receiver" propertie. So when it's a sales invoice, my name is in the sender field and when I'm the receiver I fill my name in the receicer field.

 

Question:

- What are do's and don'ts?

- What are regular content types commonly used in most companies? (e.g. quotes, invoices, mail, etc.)

- What fields are common to these content type (e.g. "sender, receiver, sending date, etc.)

- Should you create these using inherritance? (e.g a "Customer Document" based on "Document" and then "Invoice" based on "Customer Document")

 

I think the result should be a document / records center which moves documents to the right place based on type and the fields like "sender" and "receiver". And some views that order / filter / sort based on fields.

 

BONUS QUESTION: Most of the build in types in Office documents have a "Company" field. What is expected to be written in that field? The name of your own company or that of your customer? :-) 

 

Tnx!

 

 

4 Replies

Hi It all depends on what you want to do with the content types and how you want to use them.

as you said you are the only one using them you are actually in a free format..

 

Rules of thumb. If you would reuse the metadata fields in different libraries make a content type.

Specially look at the content type hub as it deploys it for you.

 

common scenarios are the ones you described but as said it all depends on the needs and the information you want to filter on.

 

kr,

Paul

Hi Michiel,

 

As mentioned you have an opportunity to play with many different configurations.

 

It seems you're focusing on the idea of the automatic sorting and organizing systems of SharePoint.

 

Common content types really do differ between environments because SharePoint is a platform that can be used for many different things.

 

Some examples of Content Types I see are;

  • Invoice (order processes)
  • SlideDeck (marketing processes)
  • Product Info (marketing processes)
  • Customer Employee (HR processes)

Also investigate "Document Sets" as they can be very useful for things like a "Product Marketing Set" so it would include multiple Content types including Sales Pitch Deck, Product specifications, Product cost/margin guidelines etc.

 

I think the golden rule of thumb listed above is correct. In SharePoint when thinking about "Should I" it mostly comes down to reusability..

  • Column Vs Site Column = reusability
  • Group Column Vs managed Metadata = reusability
  • Custom Library Vs Content Type = reusability

This all comes with a massive disclaimer that says that as always not everything always applies at all times because of the nature of the "Platform" of SharePoint it truly can be used for some very different things where the rules might not apply.

 

Regards,

Antony

You are on the right track.

Yes, use inheritance.

Keep it simple, only add fields to a CT that will be needed to for metadata navigation and/or search refining and/or workflow automation.

Do NOT add fields just because you have the data and it MAY be helpful some day. It is all to easy to end up with 7-10 fields, resist the tempation. 3-5 is almost always enough.

Company should be the name of the firm that is most relevant to the document. if all of the files have the same value in the company field, this data does not provide any value because it is not unique.

The real trick to CT design, is to make the fields unambiquous so that they can be populated consistently by different people without any training. You should not have to explain to the new person what type of information must be put into a field, it should be self-evident.

Start small with just a few CTs, then expand to other business areas as needed. Many companies can easily have dozens, but it is all too easy to create a bunch of them and then decide you need to something different. Change management and rollback of CTs in use can be a huge pain.

 

Watch out for columns created in a list that duplicate/conflict with the fields from a CT, this can cause a lot of confusion. In general, if a field is going to be reused, it should be created as a Site Collection column (they are called Site Columns in the UI (and they can be created in a subsite) but is is almost always better to create them at the top level of a site collection (or in the ContentType Hub site)

 

So, It's been almost a year since my last activity with content types. Thought I'd give it another try. :)

 

Still having a folder with business documents, like invoices, letters, proposals, etc. Some are mine (sales invoices, proposals), most are from outside sources; invoices and cash receipts, letters, etc.

 

As to your tips, I want to keep it simple and don't use a lot of columns. Just the ones that I need to automate stuff and to sort and filter. I want to start with the invoices and receipts, as those are the majority of the files. 

 

First question: I have invoices and receipts. They are different content types or not? They share a lot of columns, as they are both about financial transactions, have a date (invoice date... and receipt date) and maybe more. But an invoice is about a request to pay, while a receipt is an prove of payment. (most of my receipt are from drinking coffee with customers :-) ). So how do I create relevant content types and don't double up on columns or get in any other troubles later?

 

Second question: I thought it would be usefull to create calculated columns for Fiscal Year and Quarter. This seemed logical to group documents in a library or search or filter. So in my first attempt I created an Invoice Content Type and a "Invoice Date" coulumn. Then I added two calculated columns, "Fiscal year" and "Quarter". But then I started thinking. More Content Types will want to have a column Fiscal Year and Quarter. So creating them and using "Invoice Date" as the source to calculate, seems unlogical when I want to add them to a "Proposal" content type later... or whatever Content Type...

 

So how do I solve this. Do i create a general "Document Date" column... and base my FY and Quarter on this? Or do I use the "Date Created" column of the Document CT (which I guess inhearits it from Item/System)?

 

 

 

 

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