Microsoft SharePoint basics

Microsoft SharePoint basics

Most of us are no strangers to Microsoft’s software. We’ve used computers that use Windows operating systems, written our book reports on Word, and presented our term projects with PowerPoint.

However, if you’re not familiar with Microsoft SharePoint, you and your teammates may be missing out on one of the best collaboration platforms available. Read on to learn more about this app and why your team will benefit tremendously from using it.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is a system for creating websites, but only for your internal stakeholders and third-party partners. These websites can be used for the following purposes:

  • Document/content management – creating a system for storing, tagging, tracking, securely sharing, and archiving documents
  • Information sharing – building web pages to disseminate company news, policy and process updates, and training materials across your team or the entire organization
  • Centralized access to enterprise apps – making all of your apps available in just one place for easy access and monitoring
  • Project collaboration – building team sites that feature project schedulers, document management systems, shared mailboxes, and automated workflow processes to enhance collaboration on projects

If your organization is already on the cloud, you can use SharePoint Online either as a standalone software-as-a-service (SaaS) or in conjunction with a Microsoft 365 subscription.

Alternatively, if you want to be able to fully customize SharePoint to suit the purposes of your business, you can install the SharePoint Server software on your on-premises IT infrastructure.

What makes Microsoft SharePoint stand out as a collaboration tool?

SharePoint was initially designed as a document management system. Since its release, it has evolved into a collaboration platform thanks to a key feature that allows you to force users to provide metadata about their files before they get to share such content.

Metadata can be in the form of tags (i.e., labels that indicate what topics or subjects a document delves into), file revision history, and meta descriptions. Essentially, these are blurbs that explain what a document is about and why it was created. The importance of these is best explained by using regular file folders as a contrasting illustration.

Within a regular file folder, all you’ll see is a list of file names together with their respective file type icons (or a thumbnail preview if the file is an image). When searching for a document in a folder that contains hundreds of documents, doing a keyword search can reap multiple files — and you’ll often have to burn time opening and reading through them to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Document files in SharePoint, on the other hand, will have metadata that lets end users better understand what the documents are about without ever having to open them. This dramatically cuts search times.

More than this, metadata allows team members to sort, organize, and keep track of the content they produce. And the extra information about files is what facilitates workflow automation in SharePoint. Below are just some of the tasks that workflow tools within the app, the Microsoft Flow app, and apps offered by third-party developers can automate:

  • Sending alerts for when an action must be taken on a document
  • Seeking approval for document changes and creating the most updated or “official” version of the document
  • Collecting feedback on files
  • Collecting digital signatures
  • Moving along a document or a page across its life cycle
  • Disposing of content as specified in company policies

Sharepoint is not new; and many Fortune 500 companies have been using it for over a decade to help their teams share information and collaborate on projects. They integrate it together with many other Microsoft products, such as Teams for internal communications, to maximize their use of it. To learn more about SharePoint and how it can help your business, turn to our IT specialists at Prosum. Schedule a consultation with us today.

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