The State of SharePoint Today
I asked one of our SharePoint developers to tell me the best thing about Microsoft SharePoint 2010. He thought for a minute and then said: “it’s really the Swiss Army Knife of software platforms, it does so many things.”
“Great,” I said. “Now tell me the worst thing about it.”
He barely paused this time. “It’s really the Swiss Army Knife of software platforms, it does so many things.”
We recently hosted a workshop focused on leveraging SharePoint for HR. Speaking to that audience, I mentioned that a recent AIIM study revealed that a majority of companies roll SharePoint out without a strategy. Partly, I think, because it does so many things they don’t know what’s possible with it, what part of their business to direct it at and what success with it looks like.
SharePoint is Just a Tool
Like any software tool, SharePoint exists to support your larger business strategies. It’s just a tool. It is not a strategy in and of itself. So having it installed and available to your employees isn’t the right measure of success. Instead, you need to identify areas of your business operation that are inefficient, or slow, or expensive and apply SharePoint to those existing processes. Use it to start doing BETTER what you’ve been trying to do all along.
That’s a way to start with it anyway.
So what’s an example of that?
A Thumbnail SharePoint Case Study
One simple but very impactful thing I’ve seen done is to use SharePoint to help manage employee review schedules. One of the companies we’re building a SharePoint solution for has used Excel spreadsheets for years to track employee reviews. They have a list of employees in their spreadsheet, the employees’ start dates, their review due dates and columns for status information regarding the reviews. One of their HR team members is responsible for checking the spreadsheet monthly. She identifies who’s review date is coming up in the next month and composes a separate email for every manager who has to do a review that month. She schedules a reminder into her own Outlook calendar so she remembers to follow up on the days the reviews are done. When the review date comes around, she updates the spreadsheet either to indicate the review was completed or to add a new due date if the review had to be moved. Of course if the review had to be moved, then she has to update her Outlook calendar and send a new email to the manager in every case.
Needless to say, this is not an efficient process. Nor is it a glamorous, high-profile problem. But it is the kind of inefficient process that I’m guessing most business managers will recognize — maybe they don’t struggle with the specific issue of review tracking, but most businesses probably struggle with something similar — and it’s the kind of business problem that can bleed money.
This is a perfect place for a simple SharePoint solution that could have immediate impact to the operational costs of the organization. There are more technically adept people than me here at Allyis if you really want to get into all the nitty gritty of how this would be put together. Generally speaking, though, the company could do this:
- Move the employee review data from a spreadsheet to a SQL database
- Build a review tracking page in SharePoint and connect it to the SQL database so the information in the database displays on the SharePoint web page.
- Set up alerts so that as scheduled review dates approach, the system sends an email reminder automatically to the responsible manager
- Give all managers with review responsibilities edit permissions so if they need to change the review date they can log on and make that change themselves and so they can add notes and status updates.
When our client implements this kind of solution for their review tracking process they are going to save money. They’ll no longer need to pay a team member to manage the review-tracking process since the managers will be able to manage it themselves. That will free up the HR team member to contribute in other areas and increase team productivity because she’s not bogged down with a process that the software tool could run for her.
Just one simple example to shape your imagination for what’s possible when you direct SharePoint at basic business efficiency challenges.
Getting More Out of Your SharePoint Investment
Where should you direct SharePoint so you can get the most out of it? Well, one place to start is to identify all the processes you manage with spreadsheets. How many are there? What are they? What does it cost you to run things that way? What could you save and what could you gain if you moved those processes into SharePoint? You’ve already bought it, after all.