On Wednesday 14/08/19, we had our Brekkie Power-Hour event called: Office 365, OneDrive and SharePoint, your cloud platform for the future which was focused on the Engineering and Mining industries.
We had a full house with many different companies getting together to explore how to get the most out of their Office 365 subscription.
The goal of the event was to present the main features within the Intranet and Document Management components of SharePoint. Eloise Claffey, our SharePoint and Power Platform guru, nailed it and got the information across through demos and real industry examples.
If you missed out or it was a lot to take in, it’s OK! We’ll dig into the main points covered today.
What is SharePoint?
SharePoint is not a single application that performs a primary function, like Dropbox. It is a powerful platform, providing many different and complex functions in a similar way that Google does. Some businesses use it for their website, for intranet, for their document management system, for their business knowledge base and so on.
At its heart, SharePoint is a website, or portal. It could be a single site with a homepage that links to different areas for documents, news or communications. It may be a site collection with several child sites underneath a parent site for separating the different areas of a business. In our experience, SharePoint works best when it reflects how your business works now or intends to work in their planned future.
Very often, staff will start their day at the intranet homepage. This landing page can be very simple, perhaps showing a search box and navigation to particular documents. Or it might provide company-wide information and communication, as well as commonly used links to things like policies and procedures, or web-based resources such as AutoCAD.
A good SharePoint design should be intuitive to move around and find things within. If it’s not easy to use, people will find a way not to use it. If it is well designed, it can also help staff, particularly new starters, understand the shape of your business, and how areas interact with each other.
What can I store in SharePoint?
SharePoint can store many different and complex types of information, such as office documents, images, audio, videos and links that are stored elsewhere on the web.
As you can see from the example above, there’s a Word document, A PowerBI report, a Visio diagram, a PDF, an e-mail and so on.
Another kind of information you can store in SharePoint is lists, so pieces of information that are not attached to a document file. A simple example is an asset register for the company or a specific project. Lists can also be used as calendar events or companies’ directories.
Tailored document management
There are two common ways to handle documents; using folders or moving towards flat files with metadata.
Folders are a familiar and traditional way to group and organise documents and they can be replicated in SharePoint libraries.
For business users, this makes it easy to look down into the deeper levels and find what they are looking for. However, it can also present a challenge for people from other teams, or new starters. They may not know the common paths or understand the meaning of the folder names that they are searching, and Windows Explorer can be slow and not produce the expected result.
In Bremmar-led projects, we have found that folders are more successful in the following situations:
- When a business has a well-structured folder system where it is already very easy for everyone to find documents
- When a business uses very few documents and it is suitably efficient to look through folders manually for information
- When a business can adequately find their documents searching on well-structured title or filename
Folders can also be used as a temporary measure when:
- Moving away from aging on-premise servers immediately to avoid an expensive replacement.
- When taking an incremental approach to change because the business operations cannot support major change and training without affecting output. This is recommended for companies whose users can handle a healthy amount of technological change and adaptation, as this continuous change is spread over a much longer period of time.
A more powerful way to use SharePoint is through metadata. By taking your files out of folders, you can label each document with extra information (metadata) to classify them instead of only having folder and file names. This approach gives you a lot of flexibility in seeing your information, whereas folders is a set configuration.
The pieces of metadata are not a part of the document content but are extra pieces of information that provide more clues on what the document is about and relates to.
Besides making documents easier to find, the real value of metadata comes from combining different data to improve the overall experience for users and making document search a more intuitive task.
In the example above, the metadata is the HSEQ Topic, the Document Type, date Modified and Modified By as they explain what the document is about.
SharePoint can help your business with governance and document compliance.
SharePoint permissions can be set up so that the staff are able to view all public information, while any sensitive data can be organised and locked to specific groups of people
You may want to provide or restrict user access to the site or its contents. For example, you might want to provide access only to members of your team, or you might want to provide access to everyone, but restrict editing for some.
The most common permissions model is an open model which all staff are able to view all public information such as the homepage and common libraries. Any sensitive data, like Payroll and employee personal information, can be separately stored and locked to specific groups of people.
Some companies prefer a closed model, where most data should not be viewed by everyone. This could be true of a joint venture that is running several projects, but with different companies and stakeholders. Letting all users see all the content could be a conflict of interest, so a closed model is appropriate here.
SharePoint will by default keep versions of your files. This allows you to track the history of a version knowing when a file has been changed and by whom; restore a previous version if you made a mistake or prefer what you had before; or simply view a previous version without overwriting your current version.
You can track Major versions, identified by whole numbers, like 1.0 onwards or can include minor versioning, identified by decimal numbers, such as 1.1 and so on.
Minor versioning is most often used when an approval workflow is needed, such as updating a policy for staff. The published last major version is what the majority of staff sees. A couple of people might edit the document and collaborate, creating versions 1.1, 1.2, etc as they make changes and review. These draft versions are only visible to the people who have access to edit this. Once ready, they pass the document to their manager to approve. If it is approved, the document is published as a major version 2.0 and this is the document now available to all staff.
In more advanced situations, alerts and delegation of tasks in this approval workflow might be automated with Flow, sending emails to the right people at the right time with relevant information.
This is done in SharePoint through Microsoft Flow which automates workflows across different apps, such as automatically copy folders added to Dropbox to OneDrive, Save your Tweets with specific hashtags to a SharePoint list, approve a document with your manager and so on. Read more on flow here.
In SharePoint, co-authoring enables multiple users to work on a document, at any time, without interfering with each other’s changes. You can co-edit documents in:
The productivity gains and efficiencies of the collaboration process when multiple people are working on a document are huge. Imagine removing the need for the person to save the file, make changes, attach it in an email, the recipient opens it, makes changes, saves it again, attaches it, send it back.
With co-authoring, you speed up that process, minimise room for errors and the risk of duplication.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- how much effort and time does it take to work together on a file?
• time spent for a whole process of collaboration – sending emails back and forth.
• how easy is it to find the latest version?
If you are on Office 365, you probably already have access to all of the features shown. Everything covered on the event was only the foundation for future cloud opportunities, as we haven’t yet touched on Power BI, PowerApps, Dynamics 365 or even the many other features in the SharePoint space itself.
If you would like a more personalised introduction to SharePoint or the Office 365 suite, here some of the areas we can help with:
- Demos: Personalised demos & intro workshops related to your industry and business reality – Click here to read more
- Small consultation sessions: Together, we’ll prepare a feasibility/business case to help you get started
- Expert for a day: Get specific expertise from “SP Implementation Expert” pay per day block
- Managed services support to apps: Full user support on the Office 365 stack and productivity apps like SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, etc.
- User training: We can teach your staff on how to use newer technology to perform daily tasks and help with overall business adoption
- The whole lot: From consultation to planning, implementation and support, we can help with your entire project requirements.
If you would like to discuss any of the topics above, please call us in for a chat on 1300 991 351 or fill in the form below and our consultants will get in touch with you!
Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!
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