Article

Jasmine Morgan
Jasmine Morgan 1 December 2017
Categories B2B

What Makes SharePoint a Collaboration Tool?

SharePoint is a longstanding and mature enterprise-level platform that offers collaboration capabilities in addition to content and project management.

Collaboration and communication are the core of successful and growth-ready businesses. Yet, as companies get distributed geographically, their teams have to work over different continents and different time-zones. For them, simply sharing the same document repository is no longer an option.

Remote work comes with specific challenges that need to be addressed with dedicated tools. The real problem is not in finding the best tool for each job, as there are endless options both free and paid. The real challenge is to have a framework that simplifies tasks instead of adding more hassle.

Define Your SharePoint Collaboration Needs

To select a great collaboration tool or a set of them, any company first needs to define their problems and list specific challenges. At this phase, it is also wise to draw the list of file permissions and a general structure of your collaboration environment. Think about security, required customization and the budget you can spare for this to get a realistic option. The SharePoint consulting company Itransition advises project champions to collaborate with consultants to define an architecture that would overlay with the company’s structure and facilitate workflows.

Security

Data security is the first order of business for every organization. Microsoft has designed SharePoint with four different security level options, which include public sharing (web front page), private sharing with team members, sensitive documents protection that triggers a warning when information leaves the organization, data encryption using Azure’s standards.

The integrated Security and Compliance module automatically creates user logs and can generate on-demand reports to ensure there are no data leaks. On the other hand, you have the freedom to set any kind of permissions for each document either for individual users or for groups.

Communication

For excellent collaboration, an intranet or the ability to message colleagues directly is a must-have. Of course, public messengers like Facebook or WhatsApp could be used, but there is a definite drawback to this practice. First, these are exposed to hacking. Next, there is no corporate control over what documents are shared this way, and lastly, these are linked to the user’s private addresses or phone numbers, and there is no control over the information if the employee leaves the company. 

SharePoint comes with integrated corporate intranet capabilities which ensure data privacy and are located in the same sandbox environment.

Customization

Both SharePoint and SharePoint Online offer a wide range of customizations. The first type of customization can be done directly in the browser. The next level will require tools, and the most exciting customization option is offered through apps.

The best advice here is not to customize everything and think thoroughly about the security layers to be used, as too many of them could slow down the SharePoint solution considerably.

Document Management

Not only does SharePoint allow collaboration on the same document, but it traces changes and has an in-built versioning system that makes tracking changes easy and protects the company from unwanted losses. A simple revert to a previous version can delete unwanted changes.

SharePoint also has a classification engine based on categories, sub-categories, keywords, and other metadata. Search is available across the entire platform and covers content, messages, communities and even the entire Internet.

Since SharePoint is a content management system, it is recommended for businesses that define collaboration as working together on the same content. If your organization opt for live communication, creating a vibrant community or employee motivation, you might want to look for other solutions.

Convenience

To bring it all together, it is important to note that companies which use disparate services for each task, such as Gmail for communication, Dropbox/Google Docs for storage, etc., could find a more straightforward solution in an integrated SharePoint platform.

SharePoint project tracking tools make collaboration easy by avoiding the need to switch between different environments, with different security settings. Yet, due to limited budgets,  some companies choose the latter route in their starting-up phase.

SharePoint vs. Google Docs

A simple and free alternative to SharePoint usually deployed by start-ups is using Google Docs to enhance team collaboration. The trouble with this approach is that it is not scalable and organized enough. Compared to SharePoint, it doesn’t offer the option to meta-tag data and has no mechanism to prevent conflicting versions modified at the same time by different users.

Due to its maturity, SharePoint offers enhanced collaboration options such as automated workflows, dashboards to monitor your KPIs and centralized task-lists instead of spreadsheets. Most importantly, the indexing feature of SharePoint makes it a library, not just data storage.

When it comes to user groups, viewing and editing permissions, the products are similar at least in their current cloud-based versions.

Of course, if you just want a place to share documents, the Google suite offers a good starting point to get going. But once your team grows, you will need to create a system for your data storage to support a quick search, and this is when you can find the SharePoint tool to be more appropriate. Since implementing the Microsoft solution requires the help of a consultant, the costs involved are higher and should be pursued after your vision is defined to avoid many iterations in defining requirements. 

The Right Decision

SharePoint has been around since 2000 and had enough time to grow into a complete and safe tool that is entirely customizable. The pricing flexibility and the fact that it is a one-stop shop for all collaboration needs including e-mail communication, intranet, document management and a shared corporate webpage makes it versatile and usable by companies of different sizes. Your final decision should be based on covering the steps mentioned above as well as by creating a process in the first place.

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