The two most commonly asked questions about Microsoft SharePoint are, "What is Microsoft SharePoint?" and "Why should I implement Microsoft SharePoint for my organization?" Both are variations of the underlying question – What value will it bring to my business?
Basically, Microsoft SharePoint is a platform for quickly building web sites and web-based applications. As such, it can do and be a lot of different things. While that has, no doubt, contributed to SharePoint's success as a product, it makes it hard to understand what it's all about and how to get the most value out of it. So I have tried to break it down a little bit further for you in this blog.
Build Effective Communities
This covers perhaps the most fundamental usage of SharePoint – the corporate intranet or organizational portal. These types of solutions allow organizations to disseminate information to employees in a richer, more interactive fashion than email or newsletters allow. Common examples include:
- News and Announcements
- Upcoming Events
- Shared Calendars
- Links to Commonly Used Websites and Applications
The main benefits here are faster and easier access to information, tools and people, which can result in enhanced productivity.
Document and Content Management
Here, we are talking about two main areas. The first is managing the document lifecycle, from ‘cradle to grave.’ This includes file creation and receipt, collaboration, review, approval, and publishing, as well as addressing auditing and compliance requirements. The second area is content navigation and retrieval. Traditional folder structures are limiting – they provide a 'one dimensional' way of organizing files, which rarely works for everyone, all the time. SharePoint provides multiple ways of classifying files, which enables different methods of browsing and finding content, along with powerful search capabilities. These features can help people more quickly find the content they need, when and where they need it.
SharePoint also allows you to extend these concepts to parties external to the organization, in what's typically referred to as an ‘Extranet' scenario. You can enable secure outside access to a SharePoint environment, and allow customers, vendors and/or partners to view documents and information, or even communicate and collaborate interactively with your employees. This allows you to provide more value to your customers, and engage them more deeply. Unlike intranets and document management, which serve primarily to enhance productivity and reduce costs, extranets can actually drive top-line revenue in many cases.
Drive Organizational Efficiencies
Beyond the main areas we have already discussed, there are a variety of ways that SharePoint can help drive organizational efficiencies. It can serve as the platform for delivering all kinds of business intelligence and data visualization assets. It can help streamline repetitive business processes and make them more transparent and manageable. Last but not least, it can provide effective, integrated solutions for a wide variety of typical business challenges. Common examples include:
- Benefits Management
- Employee / Customer / Vendor Provisioning Processes
- Service Request / Requisition / Ticketing Systems
- Any Review or Approval Routing Scenario
Hopefully, the 'value areas' described above have helped shed some light on the many ways that SharePoint can benefit your organization. Of course, the examples provided barely scratch the surface of what is possible. I encourage you to contact the SharePoint consultants at BDO Digital if you are interested in discovering what Microsoft SharePoint has to offer, and how to successfully implement it for your business.