At its core, SharePoint 2010 is a business productivity platform. In simple terms, that means it ought to make individual workers and teams more productive, leading to increased revenue and/or decreased cost, and therefore enabling businesses to improve their overall performance as a result of their investment in SharePoint. Sounds ambitious, doesn’t it? Some of the benefits of SharePoint are difficult to measure because when real adoption of SharePoint occurs within an organization people tend to use it to solve many different problems across many different scenarios, and these aren’t always easy to differentiate. In other words, it becomes part of how people work rather than a tool to solve a specific problem. That said, when you can isolate a specific problem and compare the before and after scenarios, you can see a direct impact on productivity.
As an example, let’s talk about a specific scenario where SharePoint can have a major impact: contract management. The challenges of contract management for a sales-driven organization (and hence the problems SharePoint could help solve) include the following:
- Contracts usually need to be approved by at least one person, and there needs to be an easily referenced record of approval.
- Contracts and supporting documentation need to be retained and easily discovered later for internal reference as well as for external audits.
- There is a huge cost (both in terms of expense and opportunity cost) of having your sales team spend a lot of time creating, managing, and searching for this documentation.
For all of the reasons above, email is a terrible solution to this problem. What is needed is a business process that enforces documentation standards, captures all of the key information needed to understand the contract, manages the approval workflow, and makes everything easy to find days, months, or even years later. Here are some ways that SharePoint can enable that business process:
- Documentation standards, enforced by document templates, created directly within a centralized document library
- Workflows that move decisions and information out of email, enable managers to review and approve contracts, and provide access to supporting documentation, including estimates, relevant emails, and previous contracts or change orders
- Document Libraries that include simple but robust tagging based on document type and Views that enable people to see only the documents that are relevant to them based on role, time period, customer, or a number of other factors
Our own experience with a solution like this has enabled our sales people to spend roughly 5-10% more time doing what moves the business forward, not searching for old documentation in email or saved on their hard drives. It has also enabled us to reach consistency in our contract terms, leaving us at less risk in the event of an audit. Bottom line, we are spending less time on administrative tasks, while at the same time reducing financial risk and freeing up time to focus on growing the business.
That’s what business productivity means.