Dealing with your organization’s documentation and content is like playing Whack-a-Mole.
You finally make the time to write about a new editorial standard, project guideline or task procedure in your company’s documentation—then something new pops up.
And your problems aren’t even over once an update is made.
How many times have you adjusted everything to organizational perfection, just to find out that five people are missing access to the right documents?
How many times have you gone into a folder to find that someone accidentally deleted an important template?
So, how can you successfully beat the Whack-a-Mole of your company’s documentation?
Today, we’re going to meet SharePoint: a tool that is designed to remove the frustration from organizing, modifying and sharing documents.
Who Is Behind SharePoint?
SharePoint is part of the tool set developed by Microsoft, and it is currently enabling more than 200,000 organizations to keep track of every single piece of information they need to run their business right. Household names like NASCAR, Hershey and Goodyear currently use SharePoint.
There are two different versions of SharePoint, depending on the size of your organization.
The online version comes with a subscription to Office 365, alongside many other useful tools from Microsoft. This version can largely be handled by your own team, as long as they’re relatively tech-savvy, but you might need a developer to assist with large-scale SharePoint migration (moving tons of documents into the platform). Some specialized SharePoint training during onboarding (and maybe a certification) for select team members couldn’t hurt, but you could do without.
There is also a server version made for large enterprises. In the case that you’re working with the server version, you’ll likely need to hire a dedicated SharePoint administrator, developer or consulting service (who comes with a SharePoint certification in hand) for the long term management of your SharePoint intranet.
So, what can SharePoint do for your company?
SharePoint’s Top Features
Store and Organize Information
Your company probably has hundreds, if not thousands, of documents, files and tasks that need to be stored, organized and accessed.
- Stores need to organize inventory, purchases and sales.
- HR needs to organize files for employee agreements, contracts and hiring status.
- Managers need to organize workers, their individual tasks and monitor project status.
- Product teams need to collaborate on ideation, organize tasks for development and monitor release status.
- Marketing teams need to set specific content outlines and deadlines, organize resources, collaborate with design and monitor results.
SharePoint allows you to put all of those items and more in their respective places.
Within SharePoint, you can create libraries, lists and wiki pages in which to organize information, tasks and documents.
Libraries allow you group together files and documents on a related theme, then update and collaborate on these files with your team.
Lists are great for organizing project tasks, inventories, calendars and more. They include files and items with specific parameters that you set yourself.
You can also filter your view of these lists in order to quickly sort through large amounts of data and get the information you need.
Another helpful way to find information is with handy searches. This saves you time and allows you to find electronic content as you need it.
To manage large amounts of information within enterprises, companies can also create wikis.
These team sites allow many members to come in and collaborate on things like conferences, corporate information such as benefits and services, large documents and manuals, etc.
To organize your wiki pages, you can also place similar pages into a wiki page library.
Any sensitive information that you upload into SharePoint can also be protected and secured using advanced data-loss prevention capabilities.
Automate Important Tasks with Alerts and Workflows
In order to save you time, SharePoint makes it possible to create alerts and workflows that speed up your team’s progress.
Alerts can be set up on libraries, lists, specific items or documents, or on searches.
When you set up an alert on a list or library, you get to specify who the alert is sent to and how, as well as what specific event triggers that alert.
Let’s say, for example, that you have a library of templates for new blog posts. You can set up an alert that tells you when someone creates a new document within that library in order to keep on top of all new blog posts that are created.
Or imagine that you have a list of signed employee agreement documents for all of your employees. You can set up an alert that will notify you whenever someone deletes an item in that list in order to prevent accidental deletion of important documents.
You can also set whether you receive these notifications immediately, or on a daily or weekly basis.
SharePoint workflows also help your team move along faster. These workflows act like automated flowcharts, taking certain documents or items and routing them to the right people in order to complete collaboration more efficiently.
Within SharePoint there are five different types of pre-programmed workflows:
- Approval: Item must be approved by certain people.
- Collect feedback: Items are routed to specific people who can then place their feedback.
- Collect signatures: Documents that need to be signed are routed to the right people.
- Three-state: Customizable three-step project monitoring. This can be used to resolve customer support cases, or organize tasks within a project for a team.
- Publishing approval: Document is routed to an editor(s) for approval before publishing.
When creating these workflows you can set the specific tasks, who they are assigned to and the time they have to complete the task.
In this way, each team member knows exactly what they need to do, and when.
Communicate Seamlessly with Your Team
With SharePoint’s intranet, you can create a hub of communication within your organization. Here you can share news and updates company-wide, and engage directly with individuals via discussion boards and internal messaging.
Sharing resources is also made easy within SharePoint. You can easily connect the right people to the right documents and files within your team, and you can also send out these resources to those outside of your organization.
Setting user permissions is also easy to do. That way, every individual has the access they need, no more or less.
For smaller teams, you can actually set the specific permissions for each individual. You can allow people to see whole sites, libraries or lists, or only specific items within libraries or lists.
Rather than setting the permissions for each individual as they come in, however, it’s much easier to put these individuals into SharePoint Groups.
These groups already have their permissions set, and placing individuals in these groups gives them the same access as others in the group.
SharePoint already has default groups set up, which makes this process even easier for you as the manager.
You can also customize your group permissions for your specific team situation.
SharePoint Pros and Cons
- Mobile app available: So collaboration can be on-the-go!
- Lots of resources available: Online video lessons are available to learn how to use SharePoint to the fullest.
- 1 TB of storage per user in OneDrive: So your users won’t run out of space.
- Ideal for companies already using Microsoft products: SharePoint integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft products and file types.
- Libraries and lists can store 30,000 items: Keep these well-organized, and even large enterprises will always have the space they need.
- Platform is not user friendly: Many users have complained that the interface isn’t easy to navigate. To manage the backend (especially if you opt for the server) you’ll likely need professional help.
- Does not function well with older browser versions: SharePoint is a modern tool, and expects your company to be completely up-to-date in all aspects in order to function correctly.
- Steep learning curve involved: This is a huge product, and your entire team will need to spend some serious time learning how to use it properly. You should allot time for a significant onboarding and training process at the beginning.
The online version of MS SharePoint is part of the Office 365 package, which means that you’ll also be subscribing to many other tools that are essential to making SharePoint work correctly.
Office 365 Business Premium (the cheapest plan that includes SharePoint) starts at $12.50 per month, per user.
If you run with the server version, then you’ll need to consider the additional SharePoint server cost and any administrative fees.
Is Microsoft SharePoint the Right Knowledge Management Tool for You?
SharePoint is a powerful tool that allows your large team to successfully beat the Whack-a-Mole game of organizing and collaborating.
This tool is fantastic for large-scale companies who are already using Microsoft products (such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) exclusively.
Since it is designed for larger companies, small businesses will not get as much use from the tool. Also, companies who like to use tools outside of the Microsoft set will be frustrated by the lack of integration in SharePoint.
All in all, SharePoint can help your team accomplish its goals more efficiently, keeping team members in check, keeping everyone (especially managers and admins) aware of updates and making sure everyone has access to the resources they need.
The question is: Are you ready to succeed at enterprise-level organization?