Content Organizer Feature for Large Site Hierarchies

The Situation

A typical content management model that most end users are most familiar with are hierarchical in nature. For example, “Windows Explorer”  is hierarchical to manage files. A hierarchical structure has the characteristics to support a simple and natural feel to create classification scheme through folders, finding content and moving content.

However, the challenges and limitations from this simple hierarchical model is as follows:

  • Difficult to organize not knowing where documents should go.
  • Files lost or buried in deep file hierarchies.
  • Duplicated files in across different folders
  • Misplaced files
  • Files in flux tend to be stored in many “temp” folder.

Basic attributes of a content management system

  • Browsing/Navigation
  • Search
  • Maintainability
  • Content Metadata properties
  • Taxonomy Structure (Classification)

The SharePoint 2010 Content Organizer Feature

This feature helps alleviate the limitations, challenges and gaps of a simple hierarchiical content  management model. This feature provides the following value:

  • —Automated placement of content based on content metadata.
  • Avoid duplicate content by use of the versioning capability
  • Avoid misplaced content based on rules.
  • A centralized source drop-off location of content
  • Support Governance policies and processes to guide and control how the organization uses the technologies to accomplish content organization goals
  • Increase ease of use of content management for content authors
  • Contribute to overall information architecture effectiveness.
  • Scalable to Enterprise structure with many libraries.

The Content Organizer Feature use in large site hierarchies

A significant attribute of the content organizer feature is its scalability to accommodate a large site hierarchy with great breadth and depth of sites and document libraries.

The following diagram depicts a scenario where a word document being routed to a target document library.

  1. User uploads a document to a drop off library to the root site. Also populates the metadata properties of the documents
  2. A content organizer rule in this site matches against the values of the metadata properties and is set to be routed to a drop off library to a sub-site.
  3. A content organizer rule in this sub-site matches against the values of the metadata properties and is set to be routed to a drop off library to a sub-site.
  4. A content organizer rule in this sub-site matches against the values of the metadata properties and is set to be routed to a document library within this sub-site.

Note: Routing are not limited to sub site as it is in the diagram below, but can directly to any site within a SharePoint farm.

All in all, based on content organizer rules matching, documents can be routed to a drop off library to another site or to a document library within its site.  Note that a content organizer rule can not route documents from a drop off library of a given site directly to a document library of another site.

Routing documents from one site to any site in the site hierarchy. That is, to child sites, to sibling sites, to parent sites.

  • Analogous to a postal service – just drop the it in the “mail box”

Routing Rules from one site to another

Routing rules are configurable
Based on metadata properties including managed metadata (Taxonomy structures)
Configure versioning, library folder creation, alerts,

Trade-off in automated routing: Managing routing rules

Content Organizer Routing Rules manager must understand site hierarchy, overall information architecture, hold communication and processes with each organizational unit behind a site

Example scenarios

  • Submit documents to HR regarding certain policies
    Submit by uploading to sender’s site Drop Off Library with a Routing Rule to targeted to the HR site’s drop off library. There would be a rule that HR team would maintain to send document’s to appropriate document library within their HR site.

One Rules Manager

  • Manages all routing rules for all sites between site drop off library to another site’s drop off library; between a site’s drop off library to a site’s document library
  • Must have permissions to all sites.
  • Knowledge and skill is centralized to one person
  • One point of failure. Hit by a bus problem
  • A layer of process between site team and central rules manager

Many Site Rules Manager

  • Self-service model
  • More power and control
  • Faster cycle of updating routing rules
  • Broader training and knowledge to designated site rule manager
  • This person may be a business analyst on the team.

Roles in maintaining the information architecture

Content Author – The many content authors who create and edit documents in respective document libraries

Content Organizer Rules Administrator – The overseer and supervisor of keeping up to date the CO rules within the site hierarchy
Site Owner. Needs to engage with content authors and group leads to be aware of changes in the overall information architecture. Maintenance responsibilities are transferred to this role.  In smaller site hierarchies, a content author can take upon this role as a champion for the other content authors.

Governance Body – Business stake holders, content supervisors/leads, IT, architects to take part in the overall governance of operational and system effectiveness. Content organization and management should definitely be a governance agenda.


The new SharePoint 2010 content organizer feature supports for a much versatile and scalable information architecture. This includes the capability of automated routing given content organizer rules. Content organization can scale to large site hierarchies with much depth and breadth. As each site is abstracted with one and only one document drop off library, scalability is endorsed by rules from one site’s drop off library to another site’s drop off library. As content routing automation is liberated from many content author’s, note that manual administration is centralized to a content rules administrator for all or group of sites. The overall net effect of manual labour is reduced and higher level of information architecture effectiveness is achieved.

By Roy Kim
SharePoint Consultant

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