by oneafrikan on September 8, 2005
I recently worked with my colleagues to put together a document for a (property sector) client explaining what MS Sharepoint is all about, and what it could be used for… If you’re interested in Sharepoint from a high level business perspective, then this might be something interesting for you.
What does Sharepoint do?
- Provides a platform for document management, information collaboration, and information access out of the box.
- Sharepoint functions well as both an intranet and an extranet, where it is possible to give external people access to shared data for particular projects. For example, the Single Sign-on that Sharepoint offers enables people to access the portal from anywhere using a web browser, enabling them to access everything that is relevant to them.
- Provides a platform for creating individual and â€œteam sitesâ€ that could be project, business function, or property focused. For example, an individual in the property management team could customize their own â€œsiteâ€ where information, tasks, events and data relevant to them is shown and made available. They would also be able to interact with others through specific â€œteam sitesâ€ which they would be a member of. A property management â€œteam siteâ€ may contain documents, meeting dates in a calendar, lists of contacts, discussion about issues and financial data for the property(s) in question.
- Enables integration with other applications and databases. Information is then displayed on the portal available to relevant (security restricted) personnel. You could for example integrate financial data, lease data, property data and employee data in a single â€œdashboardâ€ screen.
- Specific default Sharepoint functionality includes calendars, tasks, lists, discussions, document sharing, email, content and data from a variety of plugins.
How could a business use Sharepoint?
As a portal solution, Sharepoint does literally â€œout of the boxâ€ what a lot of other portals do with a lot of consultation, development, customization and time. Sharepoint allows an organization to share information and collaborate at the individual, team or enterprise level, allowing people within the organization to collaborate by creating and delivering news, relevant content and events; the sharing of documents and images; creating and delegating tasks; sharing contacts; creating discussions on specific topics; and conducting surveys; but perhaps most importantly giving individuals access to all of this without the need for complex VPN setup and administration.
It also gives the enterprise the option to create a central place (as a part of the intranet or portal) to access data from different systems. For example, it is possible to integrate MRI data into an â€œMRI dashboardâ€ that is accessed from within the Sharepoint portal. In this way, non-technical or accounting personnel can gain access to data relevant to them when they want it. Another easy win would be to integrate consolidated real time leasing or construction data from other back-end systems or even e-mails into a â€œLeasingâ€ or â€œConstructionâ€ dashboard.
- Is relatively easy to install and set up â€“ a basic installation should take 2-5days.
- Integrates seamlessly and easily with a Windows and Active Directory network.
- Users can access data internally as well as externally, on secure connections which protect privacy.
- Access permissions are granular, so it is possible to grant / deny individuals access to particular data at the individual, team or enterprise level.
- Eliminates the need for user access to data through complex VPN / Firewall solutions on fileservers that have no document management capability.
- Requires a user paradigm shift from the networked file server solution to an intranet solution.
- Would suggest that current files that need to be shared are added to the portal. This has a time and cost associated with it. A phased approach would probably work best here.
A recommended Phased Approach:
Phase 1, Stream 1 – Installation
- Ensure MS Active Directory is on a domain on the organization network.
- Install Sharepoint Services using:
- A single Windows 2003 web server
- And a single MS SQL database server to store the data.
- Time estimate: 2-5 days
- Implementation cost, factor of rate per day and time
- Windows 2003 license
- SQL server license
- Hardware cost â€“ 2 mid to high end servers with on-site support agreements
- Customization: none
Phase 1, Stream 2 – User Introduction to Sharepoint
- The intention is to introduce Sharepoint and the benefits of using it to users across the organization:
- Give users an idea of what Sharepoint is capable of with a default installation, through an introductory â€œshow and tellâ€ workshop.
- Conduct another workshop after the users have had sufficient time to interact with Sharepoint (suggest 1-2 weeks), as a detailed â€œQ&Aâ€ session, intended for users to ask questions and get answers demonstrated interactively.
Phase 2, Stream 1 – User requirements
The intention is to understand from individual users what they require for the Sharepoint portal to be a long term success, using the following process:
- After further use of Sharepoint, seek to understand what users feel the portal should enable them to do by conducting a brief survey, asking users across the organization for their input and comments.
- Summarize the results of the survey to determine what is most important to implement first.
- Present the results of the survey in a format which suits the organization best.
Phase 2, Stream 2 – Data migration
- Assign individuals within teams, projects and business functions to allocate time to update and upload relevant data into â€œteam sitesâ€. Suggest allocating at least an hour per day until all data is migrated.
Phase 3 – Customisation
Make changes to the functionality and features of Sharepoint as per the results of the survey, implementing in order of need and priority. Suggested customizations could be:
- Remove features which are either not needed or are redundant.
- Customize the look and feel to match the corporate brand and identity.
There will no doubt be further phases, which may include the following:
Phase 4 – Integration with other systems
Integrate data from other systems into Sharepoint, using either web parts or custom development. For example, you could:
- Integrate MS Outlook data into Sharepoint for remote access
- Create pages that show employee HR information
- Create pages that show accounting data for accounting or non-accounting users
- Create pages that show property data for property projects
- Create pages that show real time sales / revenue information
- Create accumulation of above for senior management view of all operations.
Phase 5 – Install Sharepoint Portal server
Once there are more than a few â€œteam sitesâ€ and the amount of data Sharepoint manages increases, it becomes difficult for everyone in the organization to know where everything is. A unified search feature which Sharepoint Portal Server offers enables users to search all Sharepoint data and information from one place (assuming that they have the security rights to view the information). We do not think that this would add much value for businesses in the near term and would therefore not recommend it at this stage.