Let’s go back to basics with this post to explain what Microsoft SharePoint is and how companies big and small are using it to save time, money and essentially get more done with less.
What is SharePoint?
SharePoint is a collaboration tool by Microsoft. I say tool because it can do many things, but let’s stick to the basics. It lets you and your company “share” information with coworkers, partners and customers. And to easily share something, you need to be able to find it – so SharePoint has a built-in search function.
Once you take the wrapper off your shiny new SharePoint box there’s several ways that SharePoint can help you immediately. I want to focus on the basic overarching capabilities of the platform:
Immediate Benefits of Microsoft SharePoint
- Document and content management
- Build an Intranet portal
- Build an Extranet
- Build a WWW site
Let’s look at a high-level overview of each SharePoint benefit:
Document & Content Management in SharePoint
Content management is the creation, managing and publishing of your information across its entire life-cycle. Think about how you would do maintenance on content for your SharePoint based intranet, extranet or www site and you’re on the right track. Document management is a subset of Content Management. It’s exactly what the name says – a way of keeping track of, organizing and managing your document life-cycle.
In SharePoint you can:
- Store data in one central location accessible 24/7 – no more emailing documents or storing on file shares
- Create, approve and set alerts for document changes (versions)
- Create workflows to route documents to appropriate parties after an action
- Manage and catalogue assets like contracts, music, photos, video, CAD, PDF, etc…
- Microfilming or scanning documents into SharePoint where they can be organized, archived and searched
Build an Intranet with SharePoint
An Intranet puts all of a company’s information in one place, makes it searchable and viewed through personalized start or home pages. So it should come as no surprise that Intranet is the bread and butter of SharePoint. Half of all Enterprise Intranets are running on SharePoint. The power of the Intranet lies in the user’s ability to self-publish without IT’s intervention, and a good Intranet portal will put the information you need to do your job within a few clicks.
Here are some other things that a SharePoint Intranet can do for you:
- People Search – find others in your company by skillset, interest, role or contact information.
- Customization – Self-install web parts (functionality) to your own page to reduce clicks and scrolling.
- Targeted Content – push content to certain business groups or subscribe to specific feeds to follow project updates or subject matter experts
Here is a list of the Ten Best Intranets of 2013. And surprise, surprise – seven out of ten use SharePoint!
Build an Extranet with SharePoint
An Extranet is a secure Internet facing site for users outside your organization. Extranets are typically used by partners, vendors, contractors and suppliers. It’s easiest to think of an Extranet as an Intranet for others.
Here are some common functions of SharePoint Extranets:
- Integrating 3rd parties into supply chain
- Integrating 3rd parties into business processes
- Exchanging large volumes of data via EDI
- Share product catalogs securely and exclusively with partners
- Collaborate with other companies on products, R&D or offerings
- Share training materials with customers or partners
Build a WWW with SharePoint
Using the Publishing feature of SharePoint, you can use SharePoint to create and maintain public facing web sites. Creating a WWW site with SharePoint turns it into a content management system whereby users can maintain content themselves without the intervention of IT or webmaster.
Here are some of the functions of a SharePoint WWW site that make it easier to maintain:
- Sites or templates that have consistent branding and master navigation framework can be given to business groups for their own use.
- WYSIWYG editing – if a user can use MS Office, they can edit a webpage on a SharePoint Internet site.
- Access control – anonymous users are driven to certain landing pages while registered users are driven to another landing page and can only see certain content.
- Multilingual – now you have the ability to display the site in multiple languages.
- SEO – content is king but freshness is also important so empowering users to create their own content and having workflows in place for content approval is key to ranking well.
Now that the SharePoint basics have been covered, I wanted to share an example of how excellent a SharePoint-powered site can look.
Here lies arguably the coolest SharePoint powered WWW site: