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Part 1: Microsoft 365 Copilot SharePoint Data Quality

The 3 keys to achiving quality data in SharePoint

In brief

  • Quality is key as Microsoft 365 Copilot builds responses from all your data.
  • Delete Redundant data: e.g. Duplicates and near duplicates.
  • Archive Obsolete data: e.g. last year’s price lists and outdated documentation.
  • Remove Trivial data: e.g. closed project files and legacy meeting minutes.

In this article and our video, Preparing for Microsoft Copilot Part 1, we explore managing Redundant, Obsolete, and Trivial data in SharePoint and Teams—a part of our Microsoft 365 Copilot series. Based on Microsoft best practices, our guidance bridges the gap from 'what' to 'how', providing practical insights based on experience.

Also in this series:

Understanding the requirement:

  • Redundant data is seen as duplicate data or copies of data from other systems.
  • Near duplicates occur when multiple similar versions of a document are created – for example, when negotiating a contract and each time a file is emailed back and forward with amendments with a new unique file name.

How to Implement this:

1. Remove the need for duplicates

  • Start with a good information architecture that supports how people work, and the people they work with, making it clear and easy to understand where documents should be stored and found again.
  • Duplication of documents often arises when SharePoint sites are only structured around departments, ignoring how people collaborate on processes, projects, or initiatives.
  • By creating sites also focussed on these use cases and managing access accordingly, the user behaviour of creating duplicate documents can be minimised.

 

2. Change User Behaviour to remove “Near Duplicates”

  • Prevent near duplicates by using SharePoint’s built-in document version control. This built-in functionality helps maintain a clear history of changes, streamlining document management.
  • Users moving from a file server are often unaware of this capability, and an adoption program is needed. Illustrating the advantages, such as easy version comparisons and the ability to revert to prior versions, can be a compelling incentive.
  • One simple trick, when receiving reviewed documents back via email, if you rename the file to the same name as the one stored in SharePoint, you can upload and overwrite the existing document and it will simply create a new version whilst preserving the existing versions.

 

3. Remove the need for copies

  • Integrate with external systems holding your data instead of creating copies in Microsoft 365. (Migrating data is a different story.)
  • By utilising Microsoft 365 Copilot plugins you have access to real-time querying, whilst respecting user permissions. Currently, there are three types: OpenAI plugins, Teams message extensions, and Power Platform connectors.
  • Use Microsoft Graph Connectors to bring into scope and index data from supported apps like ServiceNow, Jira, and Salesforce.

Learn More on Redundant Data:

Understanding the requirement:

  • Remove / archive / review the data when it goes beyond its “expiry date” – this works well for documents with a defined lifespan.

How to Implement this:

1. Automatically

  • Apply a disposition label to a document to indicate how long the document should be retained for and what action should be taken at the end of the retention period.
  • Actions include automatically deleting the data or initiating a workflow to move the content elsewhere.
  • Disposition labels are included as part of Office/Microsoft 365 E3, automatic applied labels are part of Office/Microsoft 365 E5.

 

2. Manually

  • Document Libraries now give you the option to create a reminder against a date field automatically, effectively building a Power Automate Workflow for you. You can set how many days in advance you need to be made aware of the review date.

Learn More on Obsolete Data:

Understanding the requirement:

  • Remove content when it reaches the end of its useful life, typically this isn’t known when the document is created.

How to Implement this:

1. Project Closure

  • At the end of a project, there will be assets you want to preserve and working files you may want to archive before subsequently destroying them.
  • Achieve this by implementing a process to move assets into a knowledge library and then shutting down or archiving the workspace site.
  • This can be performed manually – or see how we automate this process when we implement knowledge management solutions.

 

2. Department/Team workspaces

  • Many teams have trackers in Excel as well as other working documents.
  • These files often reach the end-of-life at quarter-end or year-end, or simply because an idea is no longer the focus.
  • A scheduled manual tidy-out may well be the best way to keep the focus on accurate data.

 

3. Work in Progress Documents

  • Many people still use work-in-progress documents when preparing documents such as Contracts, Reports, Statements of Work and Presentations.
  • These documents will then be saved separately as a “Finalised” document, but the existing work-in-progress files are retained.
  • This behaviour occurs when people have migrated from file shares and have carried over old ways of working, instead of embracing concepts like automated version control, secure sharing, and co-authoring.
  • Consider a training/adoption program to help people transition to the new way of working demonstrating the benefits of having a single source of truth.

Learn More on Trivial Data:

Step 1: Create separate “Working” and “Records” areas to make it easier to identify what can be deleted. Additionally, consider establishing a Knowledge Base to capture key document assets.

 

Step 2: Consider the rollout of retention labels to automatically dispose of end-of-life data. Additionally, create out-of-the-box workflows to remind you to review old data.

 

Step 3: Extend Microsoft 365 Search to index other systems in your eco-system, making Microsoft 365 the central search hub of knowledge.

Reducing your volume of Redundant, Obsolete, and Trivial (ROT) data isn’t a one-off task – it’s an ongoing activity that often requires a change in the mindset of 'keep everything just in case.' With the right governance and automation in place, you can use Microsoft technology to support your people to make this task easier/less painful.

Ready to optimise your data management and enhance user adoption in SharePoint? Our Explore workshops help organisations understand how SharePoint and the wider Microsoft productivity platform can help them become more efficient and reduce data governance risk. Get started with an Explore Workshop today.

Read Part Two on Document Readiness

Author

Rupert Squires

Client Director

2 mins read

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Microsoft 365 Copilot Licensing + Pricing

Microsoft 365 Copilot is an additional purchase as it is not included in any of Microsoft’s licence suites, including the “Hero SKU” Microsoft 365 E5. So, to take advantage of the new AI capabilities offered by Microsoft, you will need to budget for additional investment.

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