Since being released into the marketplace in 2009, SharePoint 2010 has been widely adopted by companies of all shapes and sizes. Through that journey and evolution from previous versions, the business view of SharePoint has changed dramatically. Businesses that once viewed SharePoint as the “go-to” place for only content are now extending that role into the place where business gets done.
Through that growth and progress, IT departments have been challenged by users to “give them the keys” to SharePoint, to make it more fun, and to integrate the everyday functionality and technology that makes SharePoint a cool place to get things done. That change has spawned developers, integrators and third-party product companies to come to market with complementary tools to increase user capabilities and functions. In working with our clients, we have seen a shift toward putting SharePoint into the hands of users, not as a tool, but as a strategic tool that enables the realization of today’s business environment with Web and social capabilities. So, here are five cools things you probably didn’t know SharePoint could do:
1) Social Web Parts. Within the social space, companies have focused on, but also struggled with, getting capabilities into the hands of their staff members. While young companies have embraced social technologies such as Twitter, more structured firms have implemented policies to govern its use internally.
Personally, not a day goes by that I don’t use Twitter to update staff, clients and the SharePoint community on the latest news and developments at Concatenate, and the feedback we get from it is phenomenal! SharePoint allows you to build direct social feeds into site templates, which you can easily give everyone in the business access to. A social Web Part can provide many different feeds, from internal updates to a display that shows the results of simple search criteria. Internally, we have our RealTime portal configured to show any mention of the word “Concatenate” on Twitter.
2) Optimize for devices. In today’s fast-paced environment, users want immediate and direct access to their information. This means not only accessing information on your mobile device, but also the ability to work with SharePoint information from anywhere. SharePoint pages can be optimized for viewing on handheld devices, giving you the true experience of your sites and pages, not just a listing of the files you can view. This allows you to view and work with documents, blogs, wikis, back-end business information, and sites in your browser. All that is required are some tweaks to your security model to ensure access is available.
3) Take it offline. A question I’m often asked is how to edit or access data when completely offline (like on a plane, which is where I’m writing this article). The answer is SharePoint Workspace, a simple, out-of-the-box tool that allows users to access their documents and files. Once Workspace is configured, users have access to their document lists and can make whatever changes they need. When they’re back online, a check will be done with the server to synchronize the data with a more recent version, all of which is invisible to the user.
4) Subscribe. One of the easiest features to manage and use is also among the most underutilized features in SharePoint: the ability to set up and subscribe to e-mails and/or text-message alerts to advise of any modifications made to documents in SharePoint (or to any SharePoint document library or list). For managers, this is a great way to learn that status reports have been completed, or that a client document is ready for publication.
5) Coauthoring. My favorite collaborative feature is the ability to have document coauthoring, allowing users to work simultaneously on Word documents or PowerPoint slide presentations. This is a huge time-saver for anyone who shares information and collaborates when creating or editing documents.
Picture this: You e-mail a link to a document you just completed, which resides in a SharePoint library. Each reviewer can access the document, and can edit or provide their feedback simultaneously within the file. SharePoint displays pop-ups and on-screen notifications to show which sections have been edited, and allows for push-button synchronization to update the file. This essentially means you don’t need to send attachments anymore, which is a relief for your inbox and hard drive.
Eric is the EVP of Systems Integration for Concatenate, a software firm focused on maximizing SharePoint through product innovation and systems integration based in Toronto. You can reach Eric by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @rizinsights. Read his other SharePoint thoughts on his blog at www.ericriz.com.