In our many, many years of helping clients with their existing SharePoint environments, we have seen some, frankly, appalling solutions ‘built’ on SharePoint. In these cases, we’re there to act as a sort of ‘SharePoint Hospital’ – a last chance saloon for the client’s system before a) a blood vessel bursts in someone’s head, or b) they dump the system and adopt something else.
However, there are opposing scenarios where SharePoint can to be your best friend to solve your business problems:
Scenario 1: Reporting/visualising your data with SharePoint (Power BI, business intelligence)
The ability to confidently interpret relevant data and base decisions on that information is the lifeblood of business execution.
If the quest of good Business Intelligence practice is to deliver robust, ‘one version of the truth’ type reporting, then we must ensure that systems of control are in place. That means accepting there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ answer, as well as understanding basic tenets of Information Architecture in your organisation. So, how do you improve your business intelligence? Well, you start by improving your reporting capabilities.
From our experience, SharePoint is too commonly seen as either a document sharing platform, a collaboration portal, document, calendar, or list creator, or a content management system. Strangely, it’s often overlooked as a robust business intelligence and reporting (BI) platform. This is because many people see SharePoint as only being able to handle lightweight reporting and data analysis – but this couldn’t be further from the truth!
When coupled with other tools in the Microsoft world (making up the Microsoft BI stack), SharePoint can easily go toe to toe with the mature BI systems of the world, such as Cognos, SAP, etc. And, with the right reporting process and tools in place, regardless of whether your SharePoint environment is on premises or in the cloud, you can:
- Report on data across your estate and surface it in SharePoint
- Ask questions of your data, rather than spending time searching for it
- Get instant and dynamic updates on any device at any time
- Gain business insight from your data sources
- Take full control of your data
Scenario 2: SharePoint for Document management (workflows, business process automation)
SharePoint is easily overlooked when it comes to records management. It can identify, archive, classify, preserve and destroy records in a sophisticated way – and you may already have access to it too. The records management functionality is ready and waiting for you in SharePoint. It’s very much an ‘out of the box’ product, so all you need to do is start using it! SharePoint comes packaged in with every Office 365 plan, so if you have a subscription, you are ready to go.
Based in the Cloud, it makes collaboration so much easier. However, that’s not to say that it means your records management becomes a free for all when it comes down to access. SharePoint takes permissions seriously, so it’s very easy for you to make sure your records are well-governed as well as secure.
Because of the sheer number of things SharePoint can do, it’s important to know you’re doing things correctly; and sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin. The following guide has been written to illustrate the best practices of how to manage records through SharePoint. The platform may be flexible, but you still need a stable infrastructure in place to ensure it works to your advantage.
Scenario 3: SharePoint for Intranets
Choosing the right platform for your intranet is obviously going to be a part of your intranet planning! Microsoft SharePoint has evolved a great deal over the last number of years. It’s a solution you may have explored previously, but perhaps it wasn’t for you then. We’d love to change your mind on this.
SharePoint is available if you have access to Office 365. So, if you already use Office 365, you can get started with SharePoint and not have to worry about spending money on a dedicated, complex Intranet service.
Branding and design are sorted
An Intranet is effectively a website. And with many websites, lots of cost and resource go on the design. One of the wonderful things with SharePoint is that you can design your Intranet exactly to the requirements of your brand without needing to shell out money and other resources on extra designing. If you already have an established brand design, you can customise your Intranet to look exactly how you like it. It won’t look like a SharePoint site (unless you want it to!)
It has an internal, intelligent search engine built in
When it comes to data discovery, SharePoint’s search functionality is second to none. Many companies have files and data scattered about and won’t always be as organised as they’d like. If you’re struggling to find a company policy for example, simply use SharePoint’s search to get what you’re after.
SharePoint should give you more control, not less. It should add value, not put up barriers. It should enrich your working day, not enrage it.
It isn’t perfect for everything and it’s not always a one-stop shop (remember it integrates and should play well with other systems!).
We see SharePoint as a toolkit that can empower organisations to drive efficiency and improve collaboration. When we hear that people “hate” SharePoint, we think it’s not the platform they hate, but more likely the constraints that have been built in through poor planning, no planning and no governance. We see “haters” as an opportunity to educate and showcase what SharePoint can really do, especially the latest version and coupled with other functionally rich apps from Office 365.
To avoid the rage, to avoid going down the path of hate, we’d recommend:
- Planning. To make SharePoint perfect for you, it’s important to plan what you need from the platform to ensure it is implemented and delivered as envisioned properly. If you try and rush the implementation, you may have problems further down the line- not just functionality-wise, but financially, too.
- Empower end-users. Have an agenda with user adoption at its centre. Nominate and train super users, run exploration workshops and host user sessions. Don’t just do this at the beginning of the project – run sessions throughout – so keep people’s knowledge fresh and steer users away from bad habits. We can help with this! We run knowledge transfer sessions with our clients to help them understand the real potential of the platform and to reconfigure what it’s supposed to do for them.
- Governance and information architecture: Never underestimate the benefits of having good governance processes and well thought out information architecture. SharePoint is implemented really well when there’s suitable information architecture to support it. With these two elements being part of your SharePoint foundation, you’ll be far less likely to run into problems with the platform further down the line.
- Understand what’s possible. Know when to use SharePoint and when not to: SharePoint is highly configurable and useful for various solutions. However, some other platforms just do dedicated tasks a whole lot better. Why go through the hassle of trying to force SharePoint to do it for you when there are better dedicated solutions out there?
If you’d like to know more about the benefits SharePoint can offer you, we can point you in the right direction. Just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. You may also find our new guide useful – “A hater’s Guide to SharePoint”. Click here to give it a read!