Before working at 3Sharp, I thought SharePoint was an amorphous collection of Microsoft technologies which I associated with intranet, content, and document management. Somehow through the wonders of the interwebs and magically tied together by a team of engineers, SharePoint enabled organizations to be more productive and thus more profitable. But what could it really do? How were all those Fortune 500 companies which adopted the platform actually using it in the real world?
It was my good fortune to be tasked with producing a series of Use Case videos, which have since been surfaced on Microsoft’s Discover SharePoint site (http://www.discoversharepoint.com/). These Use Cases included scenarios that highlighted common interactions and functionality within SharePoint; real world scenarios which explained how to use SharePoint to address a variety of business needs. As a SharePoint novice, having detailed scenarios was pivotal in helping me understanding the breadth of benefit SharePoint can provide. As I navigated between sites, I began to understand not only what SharePoint can be used for, but how to navigate and access the user commands which truly make it shine.
I learned that OneDrive can be used to sync and share documents not only between users, but also between different devices. And that SharePoint provided real-time Co-Authoring, where other users changes to a document were dynamically updated and tracked. Pretty powerful stuff! http://www.discoversharepoint.com/#store_sync_and_share_your_content
I discovered how easy it is to set up an out-of-the-box site, and then drag the “apps” necessary to house content. And that SharePoint’s integration with OneNote and Outlook meant that sharing of information was streamlined and only a few clicks away.
I learned that SharePoint has built in tools to help track projects, assign people, and track tasks which need to be accomplished. Think of it as a built in suite of Project Management software to keep people on task, and projects on time.
I had no idea that SharePoint had a social media component, and that Yammer could be used not only to communicate about what a team was up to, but also help them to find subject matter experts within their organization.
I came to a realization that large organizations would be generating and storing thousands, if not tens of thousands of documents and conversations. And that SharePoint’s search functionality enabled users to find what they needed from one location.
Of course, those organizations would need to leverage that information to make solid business decisions. I discovered SharePoint’s use of Power View and Power Pivot lets users create shareable dashboards and data models, enabling stakeholders to make insightful decisions and new discoveries. Being able to turn raw data into visually stunning and actionable Business Intelligence is a powerful tool.
Yammer integration connects users across departmental lines, accelerating communication and fostering collaboration. Yammer has become a major communication tool within SharePoint, and has ways like @mentions and likes which surface relevant information to users.
I learned that SharePoint can fulfill specific roles within an organization, like facilitating the onboarding of new employees for a Human Resources department, by providing a central location for new hires to access relevant documents and information.
SharePoint can also provide a forum for people to share ideas in the form of community sites, complete with badges and peer recognition. As well as a repository for assets such as videos. If a picture is worth a thousand words … videos speak volumes!
I discovered that SharePoint’s integration of tools like Access enabled the automation of approval processes with built-in workflows, modeling of business processes with Visio, and streamlined the generation of reports crucial for stakeholders to make good business decisions.
Not only can SharePoint be used to build internal intranet sites, but can also be used for external customer facing internet sites. Sharing documents and sites with partners and managing their access is relatively easy with SharePoint. Either way, you can give external users access to the information you want to share with them, and that information will remain secure.
I discovered that external websites are accessible from just about any device, and can even be made to be responsive. They can also deliver targeted and highly relevant information to external users by using refiners.
I learned that some industries and organizations have strict guidelines regarding document retention and archiving, and that those concerns were already addressed by the SharePoint team. In fact, SharePoint can automate many of the processes for managing, protecting, and preserving critical data.
And for the IT department, SharePoint can serve as a virtual helpdesk. A central location where users can browse through a knowledge base, view instructional videos, and get quicker answers to common problems. SharePoint also makes it easy to assign tasks, and track helpdesk tickets; even so far as automatically generating satisfaction surveys for users.
SharePoint also gives IT centralized control of the platform itself making it easy to control site proliferation, permissions, and policies. Built-in safety controls protect information, and records management workflows automatically retain and dispose of documents according to mandated schedules.
Before working on this initiative, I had little idea what SharePoint was, or what it could do. But after being a part of the team which produced the videos you’ll find at the other end of the links listed above, I can honestly say that I feel confident in my understanding of what SharePoint can do for an organization. Heck, I might even go so far as to classify myself as a SharePoint IT Pro. I encourage you to take a look, maybe you’ll discover something new about SharePoint and what it can do for you.