Allyis has completed dozens of SharePoint 2010 projects since the beta product launched in 2009. While each project presents its own challenges and innovations, there are a few uses of SharePoint that seem to appear time and time again.
CollaborationI know. You navigated all the way to this blog, just to hear that SharePoint is still used as a collaboration tool. There is nothing Earth shattering here, but this is good opportunity to reflect on how far our little online file sharing tool has come. In SharePoint 2010, collaboration has fully matured. Outlook integration, SharePoint Workspace and Access allow nearly full-fidelity access to your data off-line. There is no more waiting until each person is done with their document edits before you can start. With Office web apps and Office 2010 integration, everyone can work on those documents in real-time at the same time. So, yes SharePoint is still heavily used for collaboration, but make no mistake this is not your father’s collaboration.
Intranet siteWhat is an intranet? This is not as simple a question as it may seem on the surface. In general when we speak of an intranet we are talking about two different types: collaboration and content publishing. Content publishing is what many think of as a classic intranet site. This is largely content that is presented for consumption by the employee base. There may be some interaction with that information, but it is not collaboration. Collaboration in this context refers not only to document and data collaboration, but social computing and business process management, among others. SharePoint in uniquely positioned to provide extraordinary functionality in both categories of intranets. Most intranets do reflect some level of each type.
SearchSearch is one of those items that when it is doing its job well no one notices. When search is bad, everyone notices. Good thing for us that search in SharePoint 2010 is great. Bad news is that it largely applies to the Standard and Enterprise editions. Search faceting via metadata, external content searching and query suggestion make SharePoint search a serious player. If true Enterprise search is your bag, then you can’t do any better than FAST. It will hold its own against any other enterprise search tool out there. I didn’t forget about people search. That’s a big enough deal to garner its own section.
Employee DirectoryPeople search in SharePoint rocks. If you are like me, then you still remember the days when the company printed a new employee directory every quarter. New employees did not exist until that new directory came out! With the user profile service not only can you search active directory, but go ahead and toss in other data sources and allow your employees to input their own data. Throw in presence awareness and a Silverlight organizational chart and you will never see your organization the same way again.
Business Process ManagementI’ll admit my bias on this one. I think SharePoint’s real brilliance shines in business process management. SharePoint’s support for workflows is extraordinary. There is something for everyone when you consider out of the box workflows, SharePoint designer workflows or Visual Studio developed workflows. Toss in forms, external content types and all of the enterprise features like Excel services and you can revolutionize your organization. This is an area where organizations are just beginning to see the possibilities. I think 2012 will be a big year for significant movement in this space.
SharePoint of course has many uses beyond these too, and with proper planning SharePoint could easily become the platform your organization uses most.
My name is Jeremy Syme and I have been delivering technology solutions for companies such as Microsoft, Bluetooth, Medtronic, Group Health Cooperative and Holland America Line for over 15 years. I am located in Redmond, Washington and am currently the Director, Systems Engineering for Bluetooth.