SharePoint is so well marketed by Microsoft that in many cases a client will have decided to purchase the product and yet have no real detailed understanding of how they may benefit from its use.

A good starting point for SharePoint is to convert or to create a new company Intranet. SharePoint gives so much added functionality to the Intranet that it would be wrong not to use it for such a company-wide service. Clearly, using SharePoint just for the intranet is not very cost effective but as a means of introducing users to the facilities and properties of SharePoint, the Intranet would be a good stating point. In previous scenarios, this was the spring-board for engaging various departments into realising the power and effect SharePoint could have on their operations.

Companies have processes and a good place to start at identifying where you could use SharePoint is looking at these processes, particularly the paper based ones. Removing paper from the office is still a distant hope but SharePoint with its flow processes can eliminate many of the office processes which involve staff taking papers around to managers for their signature.

The next step is agreeing the governance rules because SharePoint is all about empowering users to input data into the SharePoint site, this then makes users aware of their responsibilities. Governance is a major issue because you are making the users aware of their responsibilities and actions. The “Mysite” functionality in one NHS trust I worked for had to be disabled because of the concerns with regard to governance. An administrator of a SharePoint site has ultimate control over the site and can remove unsuitable material but often the indiscretion has been seen by many in the company and the damage has been done.

Intranet systems which were ported over to SharePoint were company telephone directories which included photos and were hooked into their ‘Mysite ‘, laptop booking systems, room booking systems and pool car booking systems.

In general, I have found HR to be the most interested department and I have produced a bespoke case management system for a Blue Chip company. The system was designed to handle bullying and issues relating to manager and worker relationships. Attendance and sick days were also tracked on the system. Another HR department used SharePoint to store personal documents relating to staff (References, income tax coding etc). This secure holding of scanned documents released the use of a store room and reduced the number of staff who dealt with employee enquires, e.g. from Building Societies etc., by 20%.

Finance departments have a budgeting system which involves monthly forecasts and updates which have to be constantly monitored. SharePoint was set up in this instance to automatically trawl all the relevant managers and highlight any variances. SharePoint controlled and managed the system. A similar method was used in a Blue Chip company by the sales staff to keep the main board aware of trends and issues. SharePoint workflow systems can be created to ensure accountability and control for managers. Requesting information and then setting a deadline for completion produces peer pressure which can motivate and drive a department into becoming successful.

One of the NHS sites was importing patient data (non detailed) into SharePoint so as to extract KPIs for managers. NHS is paid on results but getting this information was often costly and time-consuming. These results were available weekly/monthly and there was no delay. The number of reports which central NHS wanted from one trust totalled 75. Previously, these reports had required 5 full time staff and after implementation this was reduced to 1 who basically was there to check and validate the data.

The main catalyst for the success of SharePoint was not to make the product an add-on to a user’s daily work routine. SharePoint should be designed to be an integral part of the business process. The removal of the shared server drives was generally the turning point for most users because they saw the advantages of the search and version control within SharePoint data storage.

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