Microsoft SharePoint has been a part of the business landscape since 2001 and organizations who have taken it to heart commonly have two experiences. One, they discover the benefits the collaborative platform can bring to your teams and projects or two, they roll the platform out to users, provide a minimum of training and no thought-leadership, and wonder why it isn’t successful. If you have SharePoint available in your organization (and if you’re using Teams or Microsoft 365 you do) here’s five ways for SharePoint to make the promised differences.
SharePoint is more than a file share
Commonly people will use SharePoint to create a file share for a team or their org and never explore beyond that. If you take the file share at face value, even this simple implementation can take advantage of the features of SharePoint to make your team more effective. Try adding columns for review dates, document owners, content tags, and more to help organize your files. Take those review dates and create Power Automate routines to monitor when documents are up for review or even when they can be archives from lack of access. Use saved views to provide quick access to different combinations of filters and groups to work only with the documents you need.
Stop using Excel as a database
Excel is a powerful calculation tool and can be used as a database to a degree, but you quickly hit the ceiling on capabilities and functionality when using it every day. SharePoint by its design is much more of a database structure than Excel when it comes to user interaction with the data, providing, updates, forms, and reporting. For example, you have a list of contracts in various stages of completion: some require follow ups, some require sign offs, and notifications must be sent to individuals to keep things in motion. Using SharePoint as your information center you can:
- track the contracts and action dates
- use Power Automate to send out automatic follow up reminders
- run dashboards from Power BI to get an overall view of your contracts
- create formatted displays for easy status updates
All of this can be accomplished within a matter of weeks rather than months when it comes to definition, design, and development. When it comes to being productive, it’s more than just producing more…it’s improving the overall quality of work.
Communications is the key to collaboration
In our new hybrid or remote work world, the information we used to share over boxes of donuts in poorly ventilated meeting rooms is outdated. People can work when they are at their peak energy and most productive. However, for this to be successful, we must keep our teams fully informed of what is going on and what is expected so they can work independently and successfully. (Honestly, if you’re not interested in helping your team work independently and successfully, are you really a leader at all?)
Using pages in SharePoint as knowledge repositories means not only does everyone have common access to the information they need to be successful, but also information can be tracked, revised, and distributed without the burdens of missing emails and ineffective meetings. Creating page templates in SharePoint and adding metadata to the pages provides:
- continuity and consistency to the information
- streamlines the production of added information
- leverages the searchability of content in SharePoint to make the information visible
Even better, the created content is available through Microsoft Teams and through the SharePoint mobile app. No unique skills are needed to create content pages in SharePoint. As I so often say to inexperienced users and executives alike, if you can use Microsoft Word, you can create pages in SharePoint.
Think about specific purposes rather than intranet sites
SharePoint has for years been considered an intranet tool for organizations. In that area, it does excel but it is not limited to only that purpose. When you’re managing a project, process, or team, SharePoint provides the functionality necessary to keep things on schedule and accessible. Too many teams rely on file shares and Excel worksheets to keep their work in order when SharePoint has the capabilities out of the box.
Let’s take the example of managing a business process. There’s no reason you couldn’t set up a dedicated SharePoint site for tracking the steps of the process, related documentation, and providing updates to interested team members. We’ve had the idea for so long that everything needs to go into one site we lose the benefits of dedicated use sites.
Teams is not a replacement for SharePoint
Microsoft Teams has taken the workplace by storm over the past few years and in many cases, SharePoint has suffered because of it. Users tend to forget, or they never know, that SharePoint powers Teams when it comes to files, lists, and more. Creating pages in SharePoint to share information through Teams is an effective use of the Add Tabs feature, while also leveraging all the editor functions of SharePoint that Teams does not have.
Putting SharePoint to use
The key step in putting SharePoint to use in your organization is to take time planning what you want to accomplish with someone familiar with the configuration capabilities of the platform. It isn’t often development is needed if you work through your requirements and apply out of the box features to your needs. If you do need to do development work or make more powerful functionality available you can leverage Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power BI, all of which can take SharePoint to a higher level.
Often SharePoint can meet your needs through configuration and administration. Rather than wasting time planning custom development efforts immediately when working on collaboration solutions, give SharePoint a second look.