What makes SharePoint particularly powerful is that a vanilla, bog standard, “out of the box”, install doesn’t really give you too much.
It sounds paradoxical but SharePoint is, quite simply, a platform for collaboration that’s accessible via your web browser. The “platform” bit is rather important because it means that you’ve got a solid foundation to build upon.
What can SharePoint be used for?
Loftus has prepared a list, titled 9 Ways to Leverage SharePoint, to offer a few suggestions for how your business could leverage SharePoint and build upon the stable footing it provides.
Crucially, before jumping into the list, it’s important to acknowledge that SharePoint won’t be the answer for absolutely everything. That’s certainly an almost impossible ask of any software application.
What SharePoint should do is help your business in a number of ways, within one package. Sure, some companies enjoy using best-of-breed applications for everything that they do. Doing so will get you closer to your business goals but may come at the expense of initial licencing costs, annual maintenance fees, training, ongoing support contracts, and possible integration issues. These few matters may actually outweigh any incremental business benefits you’ve otherwise gained.
“Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there’s no particular virtue in doing things the way they have always been done.” – Davey Coleman
With an open mind, then, let’s look at several high-level suggestions for what SharePoint can be used for.
9 Ways to Leverage SharePoint
- Electronic forms and workflow to reduce paperwork.
Many businesses have paper-based processes for leave applications, expense claims, and even purchase orders. You know the drill: Someone fills in a form then leaves it on someone else’s desk to be approved and then given to someone else.
Creating forms and workflow in SharePoint will allow you to do all that and more, electronically. What’s more, an electronic form doesn’t get lost or thrown out therefore remains a permanent record within your business.
- Contact details and lists.
We all have lists of contacts with phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Frequently used ones might be on your phone, others in Outlook, and some mishmash of both probably exists in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Have you centralised your contacts?
SharePoint can be used as the source of truth for all your customer contact details and list information used across your business. It can act as a one-stop place for all lists – including the fun stuff like birthdays, anniversaries and takeaway menus – presented in a way that everyone can readily access and keep up-to-date. Even on their mobile devices.
You can also use list functionality to communicate tasks and alerts to save employees opening multiple systems to see what their day looks like.
- Document control and management.
If your business has staff that are on the road, work from home, or work in satellite offices, you’ll probably face the challenge of controlling documents at some point.
Do you e-mail a Word or Excel file back and forth, like a tennis match, whilst you slog away on it with someone else? Maybe you’re collaborating with Dropbox or Google Drive. They’re better but what about something that properly integrates with Word and Excel (as well as other Office applications) allowing you to seamlessly collaborate, version and branch your documents?
SharePoint is often deployed to assist in the organisation, management and control of documents. In a way, it’s kind of “bread and butter” SharePoint stuff. It’s good at that. And it’s tightly integrated with the Microsoft Office suite.
- Searching, searching, searching.
You need to find things. These things might be documents, people, and media. For the web, there’s Google. For your business, there’s SharePoint.
With a bit of expert help, SharePoint allows you a large degree of freedom for how you decide its search capability will be configured. When done well, you’ll get a real powerhouse for searching. In addition to the usual stuff, SharePoint’s search can: phonetically look up names; find skills in your business to assign to a project based on expertise; provide you with thumbnails and previews of many different file formats; make suggestions for similar content you might be looking for.
- Business Intelligence – Reporting.
As SharePoint is a web-based platform, using it for your intranet means that everyone in your business can readily access it.
SharePoint is a great enabler to bust reporting out of silos and share insights with your whole business. Key information from your Line of Business software applications can be presented in SharePoint to minimise duplicated effort and disruptions caused by context switching between applications.
Sure, you might not make sensitive financial data available to everyone – this can be controlled by security permissions – but you can certainly use it to communicate sales orders relative to targets, billable work by division, customer complaints, product returns, etc – the sort of stuff that is meaningful to everyone in your company.
How do you communicate with your staff? Do you send out boring “all staff” e-mails when you could be writing a weekly blog that incorporates multimedia (images, sounds, videos) and encourages discussion by allowing comments to be made? Did I also mention that it would also be searchable?
- Who’s in and who’s out?
We’ve all glanced at an archaic “who’s in and out” peg board whilst waiting in the reception area of a company.
With SharePoint, by drawing data from your Microsoft-based e-mail system, you can automatically update a dashboard that shows staff that are unavailable or at their desk. If you’re using forms workflows (mentioned earlier) to manage leave requests, SharePoint can automatically update the “who’s in and out” dashboard.
All staff, especially your gracious receptionists, will be able to better direct visitors and phone calls by knowing where someone is at a glance.
- Policies and Procedures or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Wouldn’t it be great if all your policies, procedures and processes were in one place where a new employee could see them? Wouldn’t it also be great if those that are “part of the furniture” could easily remind themselves of how to exit the building in an emergency? (Arms flailing wildly is always one option.)
You could reduce the amount of time your HR and other team members spend answering questions by sharing this searchable knowledge using SharePoint. Once you make an update to a document, the old version can still be available if it’s needed.
- All those spreadsheets and one-of-a-kind databases.
Let’s say you have to create a basic asset register for your fleet of company vehicles. How would you normally do this? You could: select an off-the-shelf product; build your own; or do something quick and easy in Excel or Access. If you’re in the latter camp, it’s not really practical to have multiple people potentially reading or updating spreadsheets or Access databases simultaneously.
These bespoke little helper inventions lend themselves to receiving a proper home within SharePoint where everyone can see them and use them. Automatic data validation – that ensures a vehicle’s registration is entered, for example – can be readily implemented. Security around who can make changes can also be incorporated. You could even then extend the concept of the aforementioned vehicle asset register to also become a full vehicle booking system.
It’s worth blowing the dust off all those Excel sheets and Access databases and considering whether they might be ripe to bring into the world of SharePoint.
The above advice is intended to be generalist in nature. Every business varies in terms of complexity, risk profile, and budget, not to mention industry type and product offering. Therefore, it’s important to evaluate your specific situation.
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- Start a conversation at work – what’s your SharePoint used for?
- Contact Us – let’s get the conversation going!
IT should support your business rather than drive it.
Consequently, our business exists to, firstly, understand yours and, then, plan how IT can be utilised to drive a proper Return on Investment (ROI).
The Loftus SharePoint team has designed and built environments for government agencies and private sector businesses that have varying goals and requirements.
Contact Us or phone 1300 LOFTUS (1300 563 887) to discover how we can help implement the optimum SharePoint solution for your business.