One of the things we talk about on The Freshmethod Blog is The Cloud. Today’s topic ties in with that theme, but in a very specific way. When companies make the move to a cloud environment, the big question is where and how to save the company information. Well, this is a question that Microsoft has obviously considered at length, and they long ago came up with what I think is one of their best products; SharePoint. Sharepoint not only gives businesses a place to keep company data in the cloud, but also a way to organise it, and more.
What is SharePoint?
According to Microsoft :
Microsoft SharePoint… makes it easier for people to work together. Using SharePoint… your people can set up Web sites to share information with others, manage documents from start to finish, and publish reports to help everyone make better decisions.
Basically, SharePoint is designed to make your office more efficient. There are several ways in which it does this, as we will see. It is a very powerful tool for businesses and can grow with your company to enhance not just the way you store and manipulate your data, but your internal business processes as well. It’s really quite amazing.
The difference between you and I and everyone else
When it comes to your company’s files, everyone sees them differently. When the IT department looks at a company’s data they might see a collection of word documents, some excel spread sheets and a few PDF files, but when the sales department looks at the files, they might see a collection of client contracts, sales projections and product flyers. Both points of view are correct in their own way, but it means there is a gap in how we speak. What if Bob’s Hedge Trimming has a maintenance contract? Do we save it under contracts or under Bob’s Hedge Trimming? Where do we look when we’re trying to find a similar file that someone else has created? It can all get very messy. SharePoint not only gives you a way of resolving this issue but more complex ones as well. My good friend and fellow blogger Ryan Mayhead likes to use the following example:
In traditional files and folders. its easy for you to get the current contracts for Client A. You Browse to your company shared drive, then to clients, Client A, Contracts, Current. Quick and simple. Now imagine trying to find the current contracts for Clients A through Z. Not so quick. How about finding all of the contracts that expire before June regardless of client? How about all the contracts signed by John Doe.
As you can see, managing your data can quickly become a very cumbersome task unless, of course, you have some way of managing processes like this. Well thankfully this is SharePoint’s bread and butter. Using something called Meta Tags, if you get yourself setup correctly then even the most complex search can be just a mouse click away. How neat is that?
Information isn’t always stored in files
When trying to find out where companies keep their most valuable data, it is interesting to see just how many people underestimate the importance of information stored in places other than Word documents and PDFs. The most obvious example of what I mean is, of course, emails and Outlook contacts. Many companies long for a way to share contacts between employees or to make emails easily accessible to anyone in the office. Well, SharePoint has the amazing ability to interface directly with Outlook and take care of all of those pesky sharing needs. It saves on space and reduces doubling up of work.
What else can it do?
One of the things I like about SharePoint is how multifaceted it is. Just being able to organise your information is pretty impressive in itself. But now that you have a way of organising those contracts, what do you do when they are submitted? Perhaps you want to receive an alert when a new contract is signed and uploaded. SharePoint has the ability to trigger workflows to do any number of things. Microsoft seems to understand that information is only useful if it is in the hands of the right people at the right time, and by using workflows you can automate processes that ensure everyone gets the information they need. Of course, SharePoint comes with all of the security features one would expect of a commercial grade product, giving the right people access to the right information and nothing more.
To say that this article discusses anywhere near everything SharePoint can do would be an injustice. It is such a powerful tool. Microsoft holds SharePoint conferences that can last a whole week so it would be silly of me to try to capture everything in one blog post. What I would like to do is let people know the product exists and it’s basic intent. I personally believe SharePoint is one of Microsoft’s best products and it never ceases to amaze me just how many people do not know it exists. As always, the most important thing any business person can do is ask. Give your IT support a call and see how products like this can make your life easier and your business more efficient.
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