For many SharePoint is difficult to define. Microsoft, itself can’t seem to put the description into a single sentence or even paragraph. Not being able to describe what it is, presents a challenge right up front to gain organizational acceptance. Some see it as a document management system, some as a portal platform, others as a task tracker.
Not knowing what SharePoint is can lead to unrealistic expectations, under utilization of the platform and or worse general confusion. A majority of clients (we have our SharePoint business applications in over 100 organizations now) really don’t know what they have installed or what they might use it for.
So what is SharePoint? Simply it is a next generation collaboration platform for your organization.
It is a set of technologies that when used together provides a collaboration platform unmatched by any in the industry. SharePoint includes:
- Document and Content Management
- News and Collaboration functions like Announcements, Employee Directory, News feeds, Polls, surveys, forums, blogs, social networking integration and more.
- Productivity features like task tracking, calendars, contact tracking, alerts, reminders etc.
- Process automation, workflows, approval routing, forms etc.
- Business intelligence reporting, dashboards, operational data slicing and dicing.
- Data Integration features for LOB data and other data sources
Wow, that is a lot! So what does that mean? It means that your organization can leverage SharePoint to share and manage all documents, content, knowledge, and activities related to your business. It means you can quickly put in place business processes, alerts to critical business conditions and reminders for key dates, such as a customer follow-up or employee performance plan. SharePoint portals can be organized for teams, departments or communities. Or it can be an application like CRM, Project Management, or Service Desk when all of these functions are combined.
A key point to remember is SharePoint is a PLATFORM, not an out of box solution. Give it to your organization without any context and it is like running a PC with only Windows and no applications. Powerful but not very useful. You have to provide a context under which your users will use SharePoint. To often, IT or consultants install SharePoint in its vanilla form team site. Leaving users underwhelmed at its usefulness. This is where we are often called in by management or business users. Our SP Business Suite provides the context of an Intranet Portal, or CRM (sales), or project management all of which leverage the functionality discussed above but in the context of a solution.
With this we will stop and leave it to our second segment: 5 Reasons that SharePoint Deployments Fail: 2. Having no context from which to use SharePoint.