8 tips for getting the most from SharePoint

As the Grateful Dead would say, what a long strange trip it’s been for SharePoint.

It is hard to believe that 14 years have since the introduction of Windows SharePoint Services. According to Microsoft, there are now 125 million SharePoint users and over $1.5 billion in annual SharePoint revenues – not bad for a product once dismissed by the major enterprise content management (ECM) providers as not ‘real’ ECM.

SharePoint changed the entire way organisations look at content management – from an approach built upon very high per user costs, meeting the needs of a very limited number of highly specialised document professionals, and an exclusive focus on mission-critical document intensive processes, to an industry centred around meeting the broad needs of a wide swathe of knowledge workers – and at price points that were initially free.

>See also: What is a true digital enterprise?

After more than a decade, SharePoint is everywhere. Having initially deployed it as a point solution to solve the document collaboration problems of project teams and replacement files-shares – a problem with a pretty basic set of requirements – organisations are now struggling with the implications of what it means to view SharePoint as a business platform.

SharePoint is widely adopted and still growing, but rather chaotically, with mixed results, and with a lot of confusion regarding Office365 and the cloud.

Are SharePoint projects stalling?

AIIM recently conducted research that revealed nearly two-thirds of enterprises feel that their SharePoint project has either stalled (26%) or isn’t meeting their original expectations (37%). Despite only 11% of businesses feeling that their SharePoint project has been a success, 75% still have a strong commitment to making SharePoint work.

At the SharePoint Conference 2014 it was shown there was 500% active SharePoint user growth, so it would appear that it still has a major role to play. That’s no real surprise, as it remains a versatile platform, regularly updated with feature improvements, and in particular the eco-system of add-on products. It was the first product to provide a genuine and affordable enterprise-wide ECM capability, although it has found itself blindsided by more agile collaboration and content-sharing tools.

If you are one of the 75% in our research committed to making SharePoint work as an enterprise platform, here are eight tips for getting the most from it.

1. Repeat After me: A platform is different than an application

Platforms require integration with other enterprise systems and third party systems to build out gaps in functionality. Think about the usual cost multiples to build applications upon any platform – that’s the real cost of getting the full benefit of SharePoint.

2. Review SharePoint from a business, not IT perspective

If your SharePoint deployment is stalled, or failing to add new value, consider what the reasons are, and how these issues can be corrected. But approach from a business perspective, not IT. SharePoint is a business tool and should be assessed as such.

3. Think beyond the initial reasons you deployed SharePoint

Move business processes away from paper and into SharePoint. This is a key area for getting value from SharePoint. Avoid lock-in to custom workflow development by utilising a dedicated add-on product. Linking SharePoint with other enterprise systems is critical for business processes that involve both transactional and unstructured content. If all you are doing is project team collaboration, there are simpler ways of getting that task done than with SharePoint.

4. Make third party solutions to build out gaps in functionality part of your core strategy

Make sure to include additional core ECM functionality – workflow, scanning and capture, governance and digital signatures – as part of your planning. Deploy data clean up and migration tools. It is likely that early implementations lacked metadata controls and are inconsistent with current IG policies. Data clean-up and migration tools can fix existing data using content analytics. As SharePoint becomes more and more business-critical, updating your system and process monitoring tools will improve visibility and pre-empt any issues or problems.

5. Get buy-in from the top

This is a failing of many enterprise technology projects, and SharePoint is no exception. Seek endorsement and confirmation from above that SharePoint is your go-forward strategy for ECM and records management (RM). Apply for budget for both training and system enhancement. Make sure the business owns your SharePoint projects, not IT.

6. Make sure you invest in training and usability

It is never too late for a new round of training for your users, but you may benefit from more generic training in content and records management yourself, in order to correct previous mistakes with content classification, metadata and taxonomies. Look hard at the question of usability, and fully understand why 51% say users understand the need to file content in SharePoint, but some do so and some don’t, and another 41% say the fileshare is still the preference for everyday content.

>See also: Is unauthorised use of file sharing solutions putting organisations on a slippery slope?

7. Develop an information governance (IG) framework

One in five organisations have not aligned SharePoint with IG policies whatsoever. An IG Framework can be used to see where you have gaps in your SharePoint capability, particularly with regards to records management. Get training to understand how to do this based on industry best practices.

8. Remember that the ultimate game for Microsoft is Office365

The long-term benefit of SharePoint will come by remembering that it is ultimately being positioned as part of the overall Office365 suite. That doesn’t mean that the on-premise version of SharePoint is going away tomorrow. But it does mean that you need to understand and be comfortable with Microsoft’s roadmap and where it is trying to go relative to the cloud.


Sourced from John Mancini, CEO, AIIM

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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