Ah, SharePoint. Easily one of the most complex products in Microsoft’s Office 365, the often-asked question, “What is SharePoint for?”, has one of about a half-dozen answers depending on who you talk to.
Yet unlike any other offering in the Office 365 environment, SharePoint has no truly specific purpose and, from one organisation to another, its application can change drastically.
Let’s discover once and for all what SharePoint is, and why any one of those half-dozen answers might not necessarily be wrong….
Don’t Call it an App…
SharePoint is a broad and powerful platform that resides not on any desktop computers, but instead on your workplace servers. There’s a laundry list of things it can do – and we’ll cover those in a bit – but ultimately, it’s a vast collection of solutions that unites people and files across an organisation. How many of those functions you use is entirely your decision. Like a smartphone or operating system, the SharePoint platform can also be expanded via the use of apps, or ‘Add-Ins’.
While SharePoint is arguably most renowned for its document management functions, its uses are many, helping to solve several common workplace complexities:
SharePoint makes creating a company intranet easy, building a central hub for your workplace that’s simple to navigate. From here, your company updates can be shared, as can all of your internal, company-wide files, ready for anyone in your organisation to access as you wish. SharePoint can also create ‘Communication Sites’; websites designed for a wider audience, publicly visible and designed more for your customers and clients.
You can also expand your site capabilities with ‘Add-in Web Parts’ which, like SharePoint’s own Add-ins, provide new functions to your Teams and Communication sites.
If you’re drowning in multiple versions of the same file, can’t navigate your way through an endless stream of folders or are repeatedly emailing the same documents back and forth, SharePoint gives multiple users access to the same file repositories. Edits made to any of these documents are catalogued in a file history, so changes to files can be tracked simply and succinctly. You needn’t worry about unrestricted access to your company work files either; everything on your SharePoint drive can be audited for user access as needed. Nothing need ever be lost or unaccounted for again. As the volume of content builds, an extensive and customisable search engine makes it even easier for you and your users to find these files.
SharePoint is all about uniting and making available your company’s internal documentation, even sharing some of it with external users, if you wish. Anyone with appropriate access can open, edit and share saved documents as needed, so multiple people on the same document can see and make all changes in real time. For all other cooperative purposes, there’s place in your SharePoint intranet to share calendars, working spaces and conversations. Imagine an entire workforce contributing to your company’s encyclopaedia of internal resources; if that’s what you want, SharePoint can make it happen.
If you’re familiar with the common flowchart, you’ve already got some idea of how SharePoint’s automation works. As documents move through a series of actions, they are then sent to the next most appropriate user in a chain to continue the workflow process. The system makes it so much easier to locate files along the work chain, ensure they’re being sent to the most appropriate people and – to the collective sighs of everyone – eliminate the bureaucracy that bogs down your paper trails. As part of your Office 365 setup, SharePoint provides extra functionality for all your Office apps, which are each designed to make the most of the platform’s abilities, and vice versa.
We’ve only covered the very basics of SharePoint here – there’s plenty more to cover that we couldn’t possibly fit in a single blog! Yet for businesses of all sizes, it provides an adaptable, fully customisable environment accessible from any web browser.
SharePoint Lunch & Learn Free Event
Intrigued by the many business benefits of SharePoint?
We’ve plenty more to share in our upcoming Lunch and Learn event, on April 22nd at 10:15.
Our SharePoint expert Clare Jordan provides the perfect introduction to this deep and highly functional software, helping you make the most not only of SharePoint, but your entire Office 365 environment.
Sign up for the event now - spaces are limited to 20.