One of the biggest causes of frustration in businesses today comes from a lack of internal document organization.
While clear guidelines and processes should exist for things like onboarding, security protocols, and department-specific policies, many companies still lack appropriate levels of documentation that could save tons of hours and frustration.
It’s reported that only about 4% of companies commit to consistent process documentation—another 50% state that they do so, but only on occasion.
Unfortunately, that “occasion” is all too often an emergency—the exact time when this level of documentation comes in handy.
Extremes aside, some predictable negative impacts of poor process organization include decreased productivity, performance lags, and, depending on your industry, compliance issues.
Fortunately, a slew of business-oriented solutions for documentation exists in the marketplace, and Microsoft SharePoint is one of the most consistently relied upon products for this.
Indeed, there are plenty of alternatives that can get the job done, but these might not be appropriate for SMBs because they may not have the level of security you should expect from these types of applications.
It’s essential to have this security because, in its absence, the same data you were trying to organize may end up compromised by unauthorized entities—which could throw your business into an emergency.
But what is SharePoint exactly? And why should you consider SharePoint for your business? Follow along as we explore some of SharePoint’s pitfalls and virtues as one of the most popular documentation and collaboration tools in the market.
What is SharePoint, and what can your business do with it?
Microsoft has described SharePoint as follows:
“Your mobile, intelligent intranet. Share and manage content, knowledge, and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information, and seamlessly collaborate across the organization.”
In simple terms, SharePoint is a sort of “internal Wikipedia” that lets your company organize your documents, files, and messaging into a series of interlinked pages, similar to the way the world’s largest encyclopedia connects ideas and topics.
For example, you might make a SharePoint page for your HR team that describes your company’s employee onboarding process just like a Word document might, but your SharePoint page can also include links to your contract templates within OneDrive, display messages related to new hires from Teams, and link to a separate set of SharePoint pages that make up your Employee handbook for easy reference.
At a more expert level, SharePoint is used to create custom applications that can, among other things, help increase productivity in your teams; SharePoint is used by over 250,000 companies at a global scale, including 85% of fortune 500 companies.
Although SharePoint comes included with Microsoft Microsoft 365, you can take advantage of it as a standalone application, although that is not typical.
Some additional SharePoint features include:
- Create SharePoint Team Site — A SharePoint team site is the perfect place to share content, files, and other resources with your teams, and creating it takes little to no time.
- Custom Intranet Site Branding — While you could simply go with your SharePoint site’s default look and settings, you might consider indulging in the options you have for customizing it. There are various templates to choose from, but if desired, you could utilize SharePoint’s scripting capabilities to be even more precise in your styling changes.
- Configure Sharing Permissions — The security of your organization’s sensitive and proprietary information hinges on having the proper documents accessible to the right people. To make this easy, SharePoint enables you to configure sharing permissions with only relevant collaborators, whether they be your vendors, clients, or contractors.
- Connect SharePoint with Microsoft Teams — Alone, Microsoft Teams is already a powerful collaboration tool in business, but its value compounds when utilized in tandem with SharePoint. When combined, your teams will be able to share and talk about shared information and applications—all while chatting in real-time.
- Planner Integration — Having a diverse set of tools for your business is good; having several connected tools is even better. With Planner integration, your business can keep workflow tasks and their relevant documents in the same place. If you already have a plan with Planner, you can easily insert it into SharePoint using Planner web part. So next time your business is onboarding a new team member, and you need them to complete a task, they’ll be able to quickly find the information they need to get it done—all without leaving your SharePoint application.
What are the benefits of using SharePoint for your organization?
SharePoint and tools like it are more important to businesses now than ever. Since remote work is now normalized and flexible on-premise work schedules are becoming something of a standard.
A report from Owl Labs states that 80% of employees prefer the option to work remotely on at least a part-time basis, and those who often work from home report increased job satisfaction and engagement with their jobs.
If you want to attract the best talent to your companies, you’re going to have to be able to accommodate remote work preferences.
SharePoint and tools like it have leveled the playing field so that startups and large companies alike can keep teams connected and collaborating, regardless if they’re all on-premise or oceans apart.
When you begin using SharePoint and become more comfortable with its features, you’ll discover first-hand the additional benefits that can be game-changing for your company.
Let’s explore some of those benefits below.
Cost-effective and convenient for Office 365 users
Third-party intranet services can be costly to implement and maintain, but with SharePoint, you can get it attached to your Microsoft 365 plan, which comes with a slew of other benefits.
Built-in search engine
No one in your company should have a hard time trying to find an essential piece of data or file, but often, much wasted time is often attributed to data hunting. SharePoint addresses this issue with its intelligent search functionality.
For instance, if you’re looking for an employee handbook, you could simply type one or both of its keywords into the search, and it would pull up all relevant documents.
Enhanced workplace collaboration was one of the main reasons why SharePoint became a reality.
As such, SharePoint is a tool that excels at helping to break down departmental silos and foster company-wide interaction.
Content creation, maintenance, and sharing can occur wherever and whenever you want, all without the risk of critical data getting lost in disconnected storage solutions.
Simplified document management
Instead of sending emails and messages back and forth for hours, you and your teams can collaborate on SharePoint documents all at once, similar to the team collaboration you’ve probably experienced while using Google Docs or Microsoft Office Online.
SharePoint’s automation capabilities
Being the repository for all your company’s documents and files is no easy task. Sometimes your organization needs to go into your archives and simply delete irrelevant or outdated files to make space for the new ones. However, with SharePoint, that process can be easily automated.
Once you open up SharePoint more advanced automation functions, you’ll find that you can define expiration dates for certain documents so that they get discarded or destroyed after a certain point.
You can also change document permissions within the SharePoint workflow after a specified time, a convenient feature for businesses requiring contractors to have access to certain documents, but only until the end of their contracts.
Social Media and SharePoint
While SharePoint is not a social media tool, it has functions that can help nurture social interaction among your team members, which becomes increasingly difficult the larger your business becomes.
Individuals can create profiles that show their interests, and entire departments or teams can create “clubs,” which is similar to a Facebook group.
A situation where this would be useful is when you have a larger-scale project that requires two teams to work together. Having easy access to profiles and clubs would help break the ice between the teams and help the project manager anticipate potential communication issues.
Customer portals on SharePoint
SharePoint should not be thought of like a CRM. However, it can act as a great way to create exclusive communication sites for vendors, customers, clients, and more.
An obvious use case for this functionality is creating job portals where applicants can learn about the company, upload their resumes, and view updates regarding open positions.
Business security and compliance
When your business’s information is centralized in an application like SharePoint, it can be easy to feel like you’re keeping all your eggs in one basket. After all, if your business uses SharePoint, doesn’t that signal hackers and cybercriminals where to attack?
They can try, but they’d be going up against the advanced security features built into the application as well as the security programs attached to Microsoft 365 if you have it.
SharePoint robust data encryption and backup services act as the gatekeepers of your data in storage and when in transit. SharePoint also has configurable security settings to ensure that your company complies with the relevant regulations.
Challenges with Using Microsoft SharePoint
There are indeed many benefits to using Microsoft SharePoint, but we’d be remiss not to address the potential challenges that come with it.
While its benefits far outway the cons, you should keep the below information in mind as you consider whether SharePoint is right for your company.
- User Adoption — This issue is especially pronounced in larger organizations where getting the workforce to adopt new technology at a wide scale can feel like pulling teeth. Many companies also struggle to replace their file servers with document libraries; even though SharePoint makes it easy to find all of your business documents, you first have to locate and transfer them over to the new environment.
- Complex User Interface — There are benefits to SharePoint being as robust as it is, but some may find its interactive tools and customization options too complex. This is an easy enough challenge to overcome. Still, it will take time as you and your company eventually familiarize yourself with the user interface and customize the user experience (UX) to your liking.
- Bulk Migration problems — This is an issue that typically comes with bulk migration in general. It’s possible that, during a bulk migration of your business’s files, some may end up in the wrong location or become corrupted. One way to help avoid this problem is to keep your files organized neatly and with consistent naming conventions.
- Configuration and Management — To get the best experience possible from SharePoint, you should hire a designer and IT admin to take care of your intranet sites’ appearance and functionality and manage the technical and access configurations. If you work with an MSP, they should be able to handle much of this.
SharePoint Use Cases
As you’ve no doubt noticed, there are several ways SharePoint can be utilized to increase productivity, promote collaboration, and streamline the documentation of internal files and processes.
Still, there are four primary use cases for SharePoint that you’ll probably find most relevant when considering its adoption for your own company, which we’ll highlight below.
As an intranet platform, Microsoft SharePoint excels. Some of its out-of-the-box functionalities include a branded homepage, project and task scheduling, flexible content sharing options, modern team and communication sites, social features, and mobile access.
Internal training documentation
Transitions are always a complicated thing to handle in business, but they’re made even worse when your team has to work to find the relevant documentation.
Whether you’re trying to onboard a new employee, find your IT security protocols to deal with a disruptive emergency, or are simply looking to train yourself to reach that next promotion, SharePoint makes it easy to find and access the information you need.
Collaborate with clients on joint files and projects
In the same way that you can collaborate with your team on individual files, you can create collaborative projects and invite clients or contractors to collaborate in real-time, if desired. This eliminates the need for joint projects to be in-person endeavors and helps avoid email tennis.
Integration with Microsoft 365 Applications
Another widespread use case of SharePoint is the fact that it can integrate with your other Microsoft 365 applications.
For instance, if your company uses Microsoft Outlook, Onenote, or Teams, you’ll be able to work on SharePoint pages and files without the need to use a separate application window.
In this way, SharePoint helps to centralize your workflow by decreasing the number of applications you have to jump back and forth.
SharePoint licensing explored
Almost all Microsoft 365 business licenses include a subscription to SharePoint Cloud services, which is how most of the businesses we work with acquire and use SharePoint.
That being said, if your compliance or IT infrastructure needs lead you to purchase SharePoint as a standalone product, there are two primary licensing options:
- SharePoint Online — This is licensed out on a per-user basis and comes in two versions: Plan 1 and Plan 2. Both can be purchased as a standalone product or included in your Microsoft 365 plan.
- On-Premises — With this option, your intranet sites get licensed with a Server/Cal (Client Access License) model. However, since most businesses get SharePoint as part of their Microsoft Office 365 package, they tend not to use on-premise versions in favor of the cloud.
Next-level documentation and collaboration
SharePoint is a unique tool that has been in use for years by companies of all sizes.
Instead of relying on legacy systems to share, organize, and update company files, many businesses embrace SharePoint as a tried and true alternative that has only grown in popularity the longer it’s been around.
- What is SharePoint? Microsoft SharePoint is a robust cloud tool that enables your company to streamline your business documentation and process management. It also allows your business to create websites and automate tedious tasks that disrupt your workflows.
- What are some benefits of SharePoint? — It’s cost-effective, has a built-in search engine, streamlines collaboration within and outside of your organization, simplifies document management, automates tedious tasks, and has subtle social media functionalities. It also comes with built-in cybersecurity and compliance precautions.
- Challenges of using Microsoft SharePoint — The biggest hurdles for implementing and using SharePoint include user adoption as the interface is quite complex, bulk migration of your files into SharePoint as links and documents can get broken, and ongoing management overhead as you’ll need someone on your IT team and a designated “SharePoint designer” to maintain and expand your site.
- SharePoint use-cases — SharePoint is the perfect tool for internal training documentation and project collaboration with external parties. It’s also available on mobile. When you combine it with other Microsoft 365 applications, you get a product that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Adopting SharePoint for your business
Despite Sharepoint being designed to assist your company with document organization, management, and collaboration, the robustness of the application may come off as overwhelming to you and your team.
Such complexity shouldn’t deter you from taking advantage of the application’s benefits, which is why Commprise is here to make the process of adopting SharePoint a breeze.
With our Managed IT Services, your business will be able to keep to its day-to-day tasks and get SharePoint working in your favor, all without skipping a beat in your workflow.