19 September 2022

How to generate value with SharePoint

How to generate value with SharePoint

Imagine this – you’re working on an important document and need your colleagues’ input before sending it to a manager for approval.

Would you rather follow these steps:

  1. Email your colleagues a copy of the document, then collect their edited documents, ensuring that you address each issue separately so that nothing gets left out.
  2. Email this second iteration, “Important Document 1 EDITED”, for clarification and approval.
  3. Address last-minute issues in a file named “Important Document 1 FINAL”.
  4. Email your manager “Important Document 1 FINAL (EDITED)”.
  5. Collate manager’s changes, proof, finalise, and save to an internal server over a VPN.

OR would you prefer to handle it all with one link?

From the above, it’s easy to see the inefficiencies involved in traditional document management processes:

  • Multiple files are floating around, making version control difficult.
  • Access is complicated – the author must email you a copy to ensure you have the most recent version of the document.
  • If external or third-party platforms (like personal email or cloud storage) are used, this can affect information security management

This need for centralised collaboration is where SharePoint shines. And if you have Microsoft 365, you probably already have access to it without paying for extra licensing.

Common SharePoint myths

You already know of SharePoint, at least peripherally. But you may have yet to have the opportunity to get to grips with how it works. This situation can arise, in part, due to some common misunderstandings.

Myth: “SharePoint is an enterprise-only solution” – while SharePoint does offer solutions aimed at enterprise clients, the fact is that Microsoft developed SharePoint’s content management tools with non-technical personnel in mind. This consideration makes SharePoint useable by any organisation – from enterprises to SMEs.

Myth: “SharePoint is just a place to store files” – SharePoint is much more than a document management system. Collaboration is central to the SharePoint experience, which puts it a cut above a simple document repository. Not only does it allow you to collaborate on everyday files, but you have an excellent platform for company knowledge and a simple and effective, out-of-the-box, Intranet solution. And with features like workflows, you can automatically manage data collection processes, assign tasks, and approve finished documents.

Myth: “SharePoint is hard to get used to” – despite its reputation, SharePoint is designed for use by non-technical users. It integrates with apps they use daily, including Microsoft Office and Outlook, and helps people find files without memorising complex file paths. With the proper training and dedicated adoption processes, users can build their own processes that quickly become second nature.

Myth: “SharePoint requires dedicated management” – while IT should be involved in configuring your SharePoint environment, it’s designed so that the users are the ones who handle data management and collaboration. This isn’t to say that no oversight is required, just that training is the key to effectively managing the environment.

Discovering the value behind SharePoint

Used correctly, SharePoint helps to cut down on the number of steps involved in enabling collaboration. It simplifies version control by centralising document access and helps enforce information security using granular access controls.

What SharePoint’s good at:

  • A more streamlined experience – instead of presenting users with a standard file browser interface that forces them to memorise pathways, SharePoint delivers a web-based interface that acts as an organisational intranet. Users can find shortcuts to content based on organisational structure, content type, and frequently accessed files from a dedicated home page.
  • Accessibility – users can access their files from any location with an internet connection. When set up correctly, there’s no need to rely on VPNs or other platforms to access everything they need to work.
  • Simplified search – in a world where users appreciate finding answers quickly, the advanced search features in SharePoint make it easy to find specific documents quickly. It’s not just the file name – everything about a file is indexed, from authors and dates to the document’s content itself. This searchability removes the need to memorise or intuit path names to specific content – simply type in a relevant keyword and see what pops up.
  • Collaboration – perhaps the best starting point to using SharePoint effectively is to consider it an advanced file-sharing drive. In the past, shared drives let your users access a whole range of documents stored in a central repository, but only one user could access or edit these files at a time. This arrangement frequently led to inefficient collaboration and versioning issues. Now, SharePoint acts as a collaboration hub, letting multiple users work on the same document simultaneously, while keeping track of edits and versions.
  • Version control – while a file author can allow collaborative writing (two or more users working on the same document), they also have the power to lock a file from changes while it’s in use. If another user attempts to access a file while it’s in use, SharePoint will allow them to view it or prompt them to store and access it locally, while also warning them that the system will not save any changes to the centralised copy. The most recent versions of SharePoint will also offer to notify a user when the file in question is unlocked.
  • Integration – with SharePoint integration, many steps involved in drafting and publication are streamlined thanks to deep integration with a range of apps. Say you open a Word document stored in SharePoint using an app like Word or Excel rather than the built-in web interface. These apps work with SharePoint to check the file you need, enable collaboration through the app, and save every change made directly to the centralised version.

Looking for a better wat to manage SharePoint? Get a consultation today!

How to properly implement SharePoint

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution with SharePoint, but you can take measures to help ensure your investment pays off.

Define your goals. First, you need to understand your organisation’s needs and what you want to use SharePoint for. Ideally, this should happen before implementation, but reviewing your organisational needs and aligning your IT assets can (and should) be part of a regular best practice review. During this review, ask questions like:

  • What are you hoping to achieve by implementing SharePoint?
  • Who will it help, and how?
  • What outcomes will help you define success?

Do your research. Once you have a clear understanding of your organisation’s needs, you need to do your research and compare different solutions. Not all SharePoint implementations are created equal – there are various software versions, hosting options, and licensing costs to consider. Setup, features, and functions should all align to help your organisation efficiently. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of each before committing to a course of action.

Consider using a partner. Once you’ve narrowed your choices, you need expert advice from someone who knows SharePoint inside and out. Implementing SharePoint can be a complex undertaking. If you don’t have the internal resources to do it yourself, consider working with a partner specialising in SharePoint deployments.

Test, test, test. Once you’ve decided on a plan, put it into action with a small pilot group first. This step will help you work out any kinks in your SharePoint deployment before rolling out the software to your entire organisation. If you’ve already got SharePoint in place, consider using a testing environment, or consult with a vCIO to find a solution that lets you try out your preferred solution with minimal impact on daily workflows.

Get buy-in from users. No matter how far-reaching your plans for SharePoint are, they need to consider the daily interactions performed by your stakeholders. Ensure everyone on your team is on the same page and understands what the system is meant to accomplish. To this end, it may help to provide tailored training through one-on-one mentoring, Q&A sessions, and educational videos.

Getting value from SharePoint starts with a core outcome

The key to getting value from SharePoint is understanding your requirements, matching solutions to use cases, providing practical education and ongoing support, and being realistic about the platform’s limitations.

If this is all a bit much to do in-house, First Focus can provide access to professional SharePoint consultants and Microsoft-certified engineers. These experts can examine your environment and collate your needs to deliver tailored solutions and training that help you make the best possible use of your existing setups – often with no further licensing required.