Figuring Out How SharePoint 2003 Adds Business Value

If you're teetering back and forth about implementing SharePoint, read on for some specific ways that this team site-building tool can add value to your business.

Searching can cost you

All that time your employees spend searching for forms, files, and phone numbers adds up. Not to mention the time your employees spend trolling around the office looking for the latest version of a brand image or the company's policy on (for example) making personal phone calls on company-provided cell phones. Keep your employees at their desks and working by using SharePoint to provide the reference information they need.

Self-service saves money

Your organization can save money by not reproducing and distributing paper documents such as brochures and presentations for internal distribution. Sending paper copies is expensive and wasteful. You could send electronic copies via e-mail, but then you'd be taxing your e-mail server and burdening the recipients with the decision of whether (and where) to save the attached file.

Skip all that nonsense and use SharePoint to store and distribute electronic versions of your documents:

  • Use document, image, and form libraries to store electronic versions of your files.
  • Send a hyperlink to the file in e-mail.
  • Create a listing on the portal's home page, announcing any long-anticipated documents such as next year's marketing plan.

By sending a hyperlink to a file stored in a SharePoint library, your employees don't have to worry about where to save the electronic or paper file. They can add the hyperlink to their personal lists of hyperlinks in My Site. The next time they want to recall the presentation from last quarter's sales seminar, it doesn't have to be farther away than the My Site page.

Bridging your islands

A company's structure often lends itself to creating islands of information. Unfortunately, it's often this very structure that impedes your employees' productivity or gets in the way of their finding satisfaction for a customer. Instead of viewing a company in terms of its functional departments (such as Marketing and Accounting), use SharePoint to connect islands and break the chains of your formal reporting structure. Here's how SharePoint features help get the job done:

  • Team flexibility: You canuse team sites to create a designated workspace for a team regardless of the physical location of the team's members or who reports to whom.
  • Document-centric collaboration: You canallow employees to collaborate around a document, such as an updated Human Resources policy manual, using a document workspace.
  • Home Sweet Meeting Workspace: You canuse Meeting workspaces to support meetings (individually or in series) with a central place for all the associated attendees, agendas, and action items.
  • Business process views: You candocument your business processes by putting them on a team site for the whole company or team to see and use.
  • Formalize the informal: You candig into your departments and bring departmental spreadsheets, policies, and forms into SharePoint.

Sending a unified message

Use the portal to communicate a common vision to your employees about your business through the following elements:

  • Home page: Communicate the value of a message, such as the company's vision statement, by placing it right on the portal's home page for everyone to see.
  • Navigation: Use your portal's navigation features to direct employees to information about products and promotions.
  • Listings: Use the listings — the links and announcements — on your portal to direct employees' attention to the internal team sites and company news you want them to notice.
  • Audiences: Target groups of employees, such as supervisors or everyone in customer service, with listings that reinforce a message, such as the value of upselling.
  • Look and feel: Use the color scheme and branding of your portal to transform your SharePoint portal from an impersonal piece of software to thesource for internal company news and information.

Creating a sense of community

Use SharePoint to keep your employees up-to-date with new-baby and new-hire announcements. You or your employees may even want to use SharePoint to create a carpool or find a lunch buddy.

Cutting the cost of information systems

Imagine reducing the number of homegrown departmental solutions that use spreadsheets and Access databases. By replacing these with lists and libraries in SharePoint, you achieve some immediate improvements:

  • Ease of administration: Your business-specific solutions will be more consistent — which makes them easier to administer, support, back up, and restore than dozens of one-off solutions cooked up by spreadsheet jockeys.
  • Accessibility, portability, and reusability: The data stored in SharePoint's lists and libraries is saved in a SQL Server database. Important information isn't locked away in a spreadsheet that's only used by one department.
  • Increased security: SharePoint provides a built-in model for security and permissions that builds upon your existing investment in Active Directory. Even better, your departments can use that model to manage who has access to what —without calling the help desk.
  • Capability to eliminate Office clients: By using lists and libraries in SharePoint, you may not need to have Office applications like Excel installed on all your client machines. Folks can use the browser to look up data (or add data to a list) in SharePoint. That list can even be linked to a spreadsheet that updates while another user is adding data by using the browser.
  • Simplified planning: By bringing all this content under one roof and on the radar, your capacity planning is greatly simplified.
  • Training aid: Because SharePoint provides a consistent look and feel, training is easier.
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