by By Bob Walters | October 01, 2009

Content management systems range from freeware applications to complex, enterprise-level solutions that require an IT department. Their purpose is essentially the same: They allow groups to manage the workflow necessary to produce, edit, catalog and access documents and other media.

Microsoft provides a solution that can be deployed as simply as you want, but with the potential to get detailed and complex. SharePoint is available in two flavors, depending on your needs: Windows SharePoint Server (WSS) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS).

Windows SharePoint Server is available with the Windows Server packages that might already be installed on your servers. As with most packages that Microsoft includes in its products, WSS has enough capabilities to whet your appetite for more; MOSS would be the next step up.

WSS lets you build an internal site to keep your meetings department working together by collaborating on banquet orders, meeting plans, contracts and other documents while coordinating internal meetings using the Meeting Workspace feature. That functionality lets you set up a meeting, e-mail attendees, and set up agendas, goals and related documents.  There are several templates for setting up these meetings, which may be held virtually or in person.
Another nice feature is the ability to define a workflow.  A workflow can be used to establish which individuals or departments must review and sign off on proposed meetings, agendas, abstract submissions and the like. You can define a workflow so that as one person approves, the next in line is sent an e-mail alert requesting his or her review.

WSS allows you to define an intranet site and use free templates available from Microsoft -- of which there are now 40, covering the management of events, board meetings, classroom management and more.

Once you select the type of activity or page desired, both WSS and MOSS can help you determine which template to use and then set up the necessary pages and links.

Other features include surveys, blogs, wikis, public and personal calendars and the ability to make pages available on mobile devices. WSS and MOSS integrate with Outlook and other Office products, providing a seamless interface for documents, presentations, discussions and assignment of tasks.

MOSS allows you to expand the intranet or public website to include social networking, using the My Sites feature, through which you can establish and maintain individual profiles. Pricing varies, depending on the level and modules as well as your current Microsoft licensing agreement.

Master page formatting, cascading style sheets and expanded design features are available, as well as full content management for published websites. A full MOSS deployment would combine both an intranet for staff and management and a public site for members and audience.  

Pages and content can be designed and submitted for approval with designated publish dates. Think meeting-landing page, with links for registration, housing, etc. You could internally route and approve this page in advance, then schedule it to go public on a given date and be updated on a later date as the meeting approaches.

SharePoint Developer expands the integration with your internal databases, defining to the WSS or MOSS site the location and data tables or fields. Use these to build data entry forms for online registration, name and address updates, or other communication between your management systems and intranet or public website.