Is SharePoint EDM still relevant in the world of AI & Copilot?

Stereo MCs at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 2010

The short answer is Yes, and this is why.

When I searched the internet for a definition of EDM, two results leapt out at me. Electronic Dance Music and Electronic Document Management. Today’s focus is on Electronic Document Management Systems.

Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS) allow documents to be modified and exist in several versions and may allow documents to be deleted by the owners. It may include retention controls, classifications and policies, and is intended for daily use.

I won’t confuse matters with ERMS (Electronic Records Management System) and EDRMS (Electronic Document & Records Management System), although they should be considered for completeness.

Royal Liver Building, Liverpool 2014
Royal Liver Building, Liverpool 2014. © Siôn J. Lewis

According to the internet, Microsoft has been in the business of EDMS since 2001 and launched SharePoint in 2003

My first experience with SharePoint was ‘SharePoint 2007’ and even after the release of SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online, people still voiced their dislike of SharePoint. Much of this dislike I believe was due to a combination of poor implementations, overcustomisation, and the lack of training and support.

In addition to encouraging organisations to move to SharePoint Online, Microsoft introduced Modern sites in 2016, which offered a modern and intuitive editing experience while reducing what developers could do to customise the application. As a result, the User Experience is now generally better or at least consistent.

In March 2017 Microsoft Teams was launched, which indirectly helped SharePoint’s reputation. I would often hear people say “I don’t like SharePoint, but I like Microsoft Teams”, which is ironic as it is the underlying service for the following Microsoft 365 products:

  • Microsoft Teams
  • Office Groups
  • Exchange Online (connects to SharePoint Online)
  • OneDrive for Business (apparently built on top of SharePoint Online)
  • Dynamics 365 uses SharePoint Online for document management

That said, the lack of training can still be an issue today whether that is for SharePoint, Microsoft Teams or any of the other 365 products and while SharePoint might have stopped being the cool kid back in 2017 (if it ever was), it is still core to Microsoft’s offering.

Image generated by Image-FX
Image generated by Image-FX using the prompt “Please can you create an illustration of an A.I. (LLM) called Microsoft Copilot, make the image cinematic, natural light, with a feeling of utopia and include printed circuit boards?”

I will be talking about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Copilot (Microsoft’s AI) interchangeably. At the time of writing, I asked Copilot a little more about itself, “How many Copilots does Microsoft offer to customers?”, but Copilot was unable to give a number… For more about Copilot click here:

AI is only as good as the information it can access (and is trained to use).

Therefore, everything we have learnt about building our Intranets, Controlled Documents and Search Centre solutions still applies to the World of AI and could be even more important than ever.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Secure:
    • Do the correct people, groups and systems have the permissions they require?
    • Are you over-sharing, or are you applying a zero-trust security model?
  • History:
    • Do you need to keep previous versions of your documents?
    • If yes, how many major and minor versions do you require?
  • Ownership:
    • Are the documents for general business or specific information purposes?
    • Do they require an owner?
  • Metadata:
    • Are you using Managed Metadata?
  • Classifications:
    • Do you need to apply sensitivity labels and policies?
    • Do you need to apply retention labels and policies?

I have worked on numerous environments and configured SharePoint Search to ensure that users can find the document that they require and have access to.

The introduction of Delve in 2015 ruffled some feathers when people found that they had been storing their sensitive information in unsecured locations.

Copilot (AI) will not present documents to people who do not have permission to access them, however just like Delve highlighted organisations’ weaknesses, there is a good chance that someone in your organisation could ask for sensitive information, for example, “what is the CEO’s bonus is for this year?”.

SharePoint Online and Microsoft 365 offer loads of out-of-the-box functionality to help you address these challenges but they are only as good as the people who maintain them. While Copilot and AI are the latest buzzwords, the foundations that we have “hopefully” put into place when migrating to SharePoint Online should help us move forward with confidence.

While at the DWCNZ this year, I heard that organisations were considering the following options which I’ve listed from worst to best:

  1. Do nothing; put your head in the sand and hope that Copilot (AI) goes away.
  2. Enable Copilot (AI) for everyone and hope for the best.
  3. Enable Copilot (AI) for a select few and test the results.
  4. Review your 365 Environment and test Copilot (AI) before rolling it out to your organisation.

Not all organisations have the capacity or skillsets in-house to make the changes required and this is where I can help. If you would like to talk to me about how I can work with your team from discovery through to implementation please message me via LinkedIn or Contact Form.