One of the most flexible tools on the Microsoft shelf, SharePoint is many things to many people and as a result, quite difficult to explain. It is not an application, rather it is a platform to help people work together by creating websites containing collaboration and storage tools. It doesn’t live on your computer, rather, depending on the version you have ie SharePoint online vs on-premise, it can be hosted on a local server within your organisation, or in the cloud, accessed via your browser. If you have SharePoint Online, this allows access on any device, for any user, at any location.
Because it can be difficult to understand, the temptation can be to label SharePoint as an IT infrastructure project and leave all the planning and governance to the overburdened IT department. This is an excellent way to deliver a platform that doesn’t look great, does not solve any business problems and is therefore ignored by business users. If this sounds like your kind of project, check out our fun guide to creating the Worst Intranet Ever.
With feature-specific offerings like Slack, Confluence and Samepage now making a dent in the market, Microsoft have invested a lot of time and effort into streamlining the SharePoint interface and improving ease of use, particularly with SharePoint Online, meaning small to medium businesses no longer need a dedicated resource to set up and manage the platform.
SharePoint has three main uses:
1. Content creation, storage and sharing
Probably the most common application for SharePoint is its capability for creating, sharing and reusing information, hosting videos, images, designs, flow charts, web pages, blogs and Wikis as well as traditional Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents. HR departments love it for policies, procedures and other internal communications.
Have you ever spent hours putting a document together, only to have someone say “You should have just used the project plan template from xyz job”? Arrrgh!
As long as you have the access, before starting a new project, you could search SharePoint for relevant resources from previous jobs and benefit from the efforts from – and lessons learned by – your colleagues. Integration with the familiar tools within Microsoft Office – Word, Excel and PowerPoint – lets you start co-authoring a document on one device and pick up where you left off on another with a variety of tools to annotate, highlight and comment. SharePoint Search allows filtering, sorting, searching and different views to locate the right document fast.
When you start your new project, you could hold a kick-off meeting, create a plan, email it to everyone and have them update their sections for you to collate into one document then email back out with all the accompanying inbox crowding and version control nightmares. Or you could create a Team Site in SharePoint containing the relevant project information, invite the project team to access it and co-author the plan via a chat app like Yammer or video conference through Skype. The SharePoint team site would hold one up-to-date version accessed by everyone. Then you could create a group or team contacts list and calendar allowing all team members to see meetings, due dates and other relevant events.
3. Business Process Management (BPM)
Lastly, SharePoint allows businesses to organise, streamline and automate internal processes via workflows, reducing the amount of time required and increasing the accuracy of processes typically completed manually via forms and paperwork. These processes can include the creation & management of policies and contracts, HR requirements such as onboarding and offboarding staff, or sales and client activities.
While the workflow is in progress, the workflow owner and participants can see which participants have completed their tasks and will receive reminders when they have actions required or the process is complete.
WHAT ISN’T SHAREPOINT
SharePoint is not the answer to your business problems.
It has powerful capabilities to help you implement the solutions, but if you have not taken the time to talk to users, analyse business processes, understand document management requirements and organisational collaboration scenarios, your SharePoint deployment will not solve any problems and may indeed create more, as users struggle to locate documents, fail to successfully add metadata and maintain unnecessary Team Sites.
SharePoint is not a relational database.
SharePoint uses the concept of lists to store data with columns and data types. They are very powerful – they can import data from external sources and connect to other lists and are one of the best things about SharePoint. However, they are not a substitute for a relational database and if you try and use them like one, your SharePoint lists will be slow to respond or any custom solutions that access your lists will take forever to complete processes.
It’s not Google.
Yes, SharePoint offers a powerful a search engine to allow users to find content and Microsoft is continually releasing improvements to allow greater ability to refine SharePoint search results for relevance. However high levels of content redundancy (we are all guilty of saving and keeping every version of a contract or brochure design “just in case”) and a lack of data lifecycle management (hello, Work in Progress report from 2013) mean SharePoint has to wade through a lot of stuff to try and deliver the content you are looking for. SharePoint also does not have the search engine luxury of rewarding good content and penalising bad – it’s all equal in the eyes of SharePoint Search: the good, the bad and the horribly ugly.
SHAREPOINT IS HERE TO STAY. GET ON BOARD.
Microsoft SharePoint is complicated and not immediately easy to understand. Some of us have had negative experiences in the past with poorly planned, deployed and managed enterprise SharePoint installations, particularly intranets. But Microsoft believes in SharePoint and have invested considerable resources in the last few years developing and releasing enhancements as well as creating new end-user SharePoint and Office 365 help centres.
PowerApps now can be embedded in SharePoint libraries and calendars, Community sites have had a facelift, Yammer has a new web part, users can save and retrieve news articles to read later… SharePoint Online is moving forward with increasing velocity while on-premises SharePoint 2016 receives cumulative “feature packs” containing multiple online releases for enterprise updates.
How should I be using SharePoint?
There are so many business applications for SharePoint that we could never hope to cover them all. Used well, SharePoint can be a game changer, helping organisations with:
1. SharePoint intranet
2. Content Management
6. Business intelligence
THE REAL SECRET TO SHAREPOINT SUCCESS
Many SharePoint projects fail due to poor understanding of SharePoint, lack of strategy & planning, no roadmap and lack of communication between IT and the business… resulting in weak user adoption.
Real success means
- Increasing productivity and efficiency throughout the organisation
- Harnessing the knowledge of your staff
- Staff can find and store information super fast
- Staff can find other people with the answers they need
- Everyone is using the current templates
- Staff are collaborating in teams online
- Using email and a share drive as the main way of working seem like ancient technology (well, they have been around for at least 40 years)
Our SharePoint services include:
- Track versions and detailed history in your files and pages
- Create workflows to publish information
- Customise permissions to whatever level you choose
- Keep informed about changes – RSS, alerts
- Search – find what you need instantly through metadata tagging and searching within documents
- Integration with MS Office – publish straight from Word
- Collaborate simultaneously on a single document
- Automated SharePoint processes to create and manage policies and procedures
- Multi-author approval processes
- Reminders and safety nets in case of absence
- Audit trails to track who did what
Our SharePoint intranet accelerator Injio allows you to deliver a beautiful, responsive staff intranet in weeks.
- Staff directory and organisational chart – understand what skills your staff have, enable
- them to support and recognise each other
- Share news and announcements easily
- Direct people to the tools they need to do their jobs
- Develop online forms to replace tedious existing processes
- Harness expertise in your organisation with a Knowledge base
What can SharePoint can do for you?
Contact us to discuss your next SharePoint upgrade or Office 365 deployment, or to learn more about our ready to go Intranet, Injio.