SharePoint 2010 gives us the capability to work anywhere through a range of new capabilities. Organizations are now more dispersed than they once used to be. Some employees are on the road so much we rarely seem them in the office, and more organizations are accommodating the request to work from home.
This can present the IT group with a new set of challenges when asked to deliver the content these users require, no matter where they are or what device they are working with. With all this in mind, how can we use some of the new capabilities of SharePoint 2010 to give employees the functionality they need?
Office Web applications give you Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote in the browser. From the browser, you can now coauthor documents—that is, have two or more people working on a document at the same time using section-based locks to the paragraph level.
Using OneNote, we can create shared notebooks with the ability to see who wrote each section or who updated content. And using Excel, we can work with data and see updates immediately to charts in the browser.
So what does this mean to users? Now we are no longer restricted to either be on the corporate network or having a copy of Office on our home or Internet café machine. You can now have people working on documents from home, a family member’s laptop or an Internet kiosk at the airport.
PowerPoint in Office 2010 also has PowerPoint Broadcast, which allows you to publish a presentation to either a SharePoint server or the Microsoft Live broadcast system, and to invite users from anywhere to view the presentation. This is much easier than setting up Live Meeting or Webex sessions.
There are also the cases where a user is on the road and needs access to documents and other records, but does not have Internet access. This is where SharePoint Workspace steps in. Users can now take documents, lists and external list data offline, work on the documents, and sync changes when they are back on the network. Workspace has a smart conflict-resolution engine that sends only changes to documents back to the SharePoint site, not the entire document. If a conflict is detected, Workspace will try to merge the two documents without any intervention required from the user, and if it can’t, the user has the power to manage the changes in the documents.
The latest and greatest addition to the anywhere feature set is Office 2010 for mobile phones. This is a free download for current Windows Mobile Phone owners. I was lucky enough to have a Windows Phone 7 for a couple of days a few weeks ago. Office 2010 allows you to take documents with you using SharePoint Workspace for the mobile, and also edit documents from the phone.
As you can see, SharePoint and Office 2010 give IT the ability to create a flexible and adaptable experience for the 21st-century workforce. Using tools like SharePoint Workspace, we can work offline, and by adding Office Web Applications, we can work from almost any browser on any device and with the right architecture from anywhere.
Joshua Haebets is the Principal SharePoint Consultant at Evolve Information Services in Australia. He can be contacted at Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org.