Value of Archives

Old Reading Room od the NAtional Archives
Have you ever heard “I know that at some point our company worked on a project similar to this one.”  Chances are you have.  And typically when this statement comes up thoughts of wishing that the notes, people, calendars, and artifacts were readily available began dancing in someone’s head.  Sadly, however, a lot of organizations do not have the ability to gather this information together rapidly.  This could be due to the information being contained in old email messages, file shares, people’s minds or in some physical archive location.  Not to mention even if the information could be gathered, how do you know that you have a complete record of what occurred previously? And to collect this information would take more work than simply starting from scratch.

This past weekend a friend of my wife’s came over to discuss her upcoming wedding plans.  She was a Bridesmaid at our wedding and wanted to pick my wife’s brain as to ideas that she could use for her wedding. After all of the squealing and congratulatory words were exchanged my wife immediately went to the home office to gather all of her notes from our big day.  As the discussion progressed, it became very apparent that my wife did not have all of the notes that she was looking for.  As was evident by the number of times I was asked questions.

Our wedding was a pretty big affair as such I had trouble keeping up with all of the moving pieces.  As I am in computers and I use SharePoint in my professional life, I decided that this was a major project that needed to have a SharePoint solution implemented if for nothing else than to allow me to keep my sanity.

I set up a SharePoint site with the appropriate lists and libraries that I thought I would need to have and then called a meeting with my bride to be and our Wedding Planner.  I went over the purpose of the site and how to use it with them.  As a part of our “training session,” we uploaded or entered the information that we had at the time.  They also had other ideas that they wanted to have incorporated into the site, and we were able to kick-off our SharePoint solution.

Through the remaining months of planning for the wedding, we used the site consistently to keep information updated along with discussing different aspects of the wedding.  As time went on the site became pretty vast and extensive.  After our wedding I was really pleased when our Wedding Planner told me that our wedding though large was the easiest wedding she had to keep up with.  She did not have to wonder if an individual vendor was selected or what the different choices were that we made.

Now fast forward to this past weekend. When I realized that a lot of the small details were forgotten I logged into the wedding solution; and almost as if by magic we all were transported back in time to the months leading up the wedding.  If the information for the wedding could be scanned or entered into the solution, it was available.  We even had all of the email messages that were going back and forth in the appropriate libraries. Needless to say, the questions directed at me were greatly diminished at this point.

Although I specialize in using SharePoint to develop solutions to complex problems the wedding site was basic.  It consisted of a handful of lists and libraries, a discussion board and calendar.  And through using this simple site, we were able to coordinate the details of a wedding, reception, and honeymoon.  And if I recall correctly it only took me about an hour to set up the site along with another 30 minutes of training.  And the value of the having the information in the site readily available for my wife to share with her friend allowed her to get a huge jump start on planning her upcoming wedding.

In the end, as I was reflecting on this I thought that this is exactly the type of experience that businesses are looking for as well.  Traditionally there may have been paper files scattered throughout the organization or electronic files located in different file shares. In the end, the possibility of not seeing the whole picture always exists.  We have to remember that while the SharePoint platform is a great resource to use for coordinating the efforts of a current team’s activities.  It also continues to pay dividends for organizations as serving an archive platform as well.

After all, why start from scratch if you are able to leverage a previous project to gain an advantage?

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