Your organization has a lot of data to manage. Your team members create files and documents, your customers generate data and your technology is likely churning out information as well. There are also several options available for storing that data: free services, paid services and even services you may have already invested in but don’t use. So where should you be storing your data so that it’s organized, searchable and shareable with everyone in your organization?
If you've already invested in Office 365, you should look no further than SharePoint.
SharePoint is a secure, cloud-based platform that allows organizations to store, search and share their files, documents and data. More importantly, SharePoint allows colleagues to work collaboratively on various types of digital files from simple Word documents to large presentations.
It's such a broad technology that it can seem both simple and nebulous at the same time, especially since it's so adaptable. A business might choose to use it for data management or to build an application on top of SharePoint that allows customers to input their information using a form.
The possibilities for your organization's use of SharePoint can seem almost endless but that can also seem intimidating.
How to implement SharePoint successfully
What do you need for a successful SharePoint implementation?
- Know your goals for the implementation
- Know how you'll measure success and adoption
- Understand that you can't use SharePoint to solve every business problem
Before you can plan your implementation and understand your goals; however, you should first understand what SharePoint's strengths are.
The strengths of SharePoint
SharePoint shines when it comes to collaboration — pre-SharePoint, co-workers might have emailed a Word document back and forth to one another to make comments and revisions, a practice that often results in numerous versions and lost information when two documents end up with the same or similar names.
Instead of doing that, or using a free, less-secure service, SharePoint allows colleagues to easily share large files — like PowerPoint presentations — co-edit and collaborate on that document, comment and see each other's changes in real-time. This is a strength for companies with remote workforces or with employees working in multiple locations.
SharePoint is also search-friendly. Every file is full-text searchable. For example, if an employee needs to find a document but can't remember its name, they can search a keyword, tag or even a line of text from the file and SharePoint will pull up that file. You will also have all the information on that data's history — where the file has been stored and what edits have been made.
A quick note: SharePoint is not the same as OneDrive, although they are both Microsoft 365 applications. SharePoint is meant to hold your organization's files. OneDrive is meant to store individual employees' files.
Now, back to your implementation.
What business problems can SharePoint solve?
As with any other technology, if you don't know what business problem you need to solve, SharePoint won't work well for you — it may instead become a disorganized dumping ground for all your organization's files.
Data sprawl is the best-case scenario. In a worst-case scenario, a poorly planned out SharePoint implementation can be a security disaster — if you're not planning for how files will be stored and who will have access to what information, you may unwittingly give the wrong team members access to sensitive information.
To avoid this kind of data management nightmare, have a goal in mind before you start using SharePoint.
Know what you want to do: Are you creating a next-generation intranet for your organization? Or are you creating a site that will hold the deliverables created by a team inside your company? Are you using it for document management?
For example, a financial services firm may have a portal that puts its most relevant documents and information — curated by the owners of those documents — at all of their team members' fingertips. Or a human resources team may keep all health insurance information in a self-service SharePoint site so that employees can access those documents during open enrollment.
Managing (and measuring) SharePoint adoption
It's not enough to simply plan your implementation of SharePoint. You also have to ensure your team is using it. Make sure you know how you're going to introduce the technology and have a plan in place to measure success.
Set benchmarks for adoption. Know what it looks like when your employees are successfully moving from a crawl to a walk to a run with the technology. That could look something like this:
Getting started: they send you a link to a SharePoint file rather than attach a document to an email.
Proficiency: the document is already on SharePoint and they invite you to see the changes they've made to a document in a specific folder.
It's always difficult to get employees to embrace new technology, so you may want to encourage SharePoint adoption through gamification; tracking who has uploaded the most documents, for example, or rewarding the team member who has sent the fewest emails with attachments.
Providing incentives like rewards or recognition is a good way to bring team members on board and help them leave their old data management habits behind.
SharePoint won't fix all your business challenges
It's easy to forget that SharePoint is a powerful tool but it is not the answer to every business challenge you may have.
For example, it can't track data or automate processes — it is simply a storage and collaboration tool. If you have complex business challenges, you're likely to need a combination of tools. SharePoint may be one of them but you're likely to need other applications as well.
The good news is that Microsoft may offer those tools and you may have already invested in them. Microsoft's Office 365 suite has an evolving lineup of applications and features, so chances are, if you've got SharePoint, you may have the other apps you need, even if you don't know it yet.
That's where a Microsoft partner comes in. A good Microsoft partner can help you understand what tools you already have and how to combine them with SharePoint to meet your specific business needs.
Learn more about SharePoint
Interested in learning more about how you can use SharePoint in your organization?
Omni and PSM are leading Microsoft partners in the Midwest and will be hosting an upcoming webinar on December 4th. Save the date and watch for more information to come.