An Interesting SharePoint Implementation Option

It’s not that you haven’t been paying attention to all that’s been happening around you for the past three years. You have had other, higher priority projects you and your team have been handling. You haven’t had time to even consider what a SharePoint implementation would really mean to your organization, let alone actually implement it.

Now the din, the cry for SharePoint, has grown too loud to ignore. The gentle folk inhabiting the corner offices throughout the company have started asking you why they don’t have a SharePoint My Site and why the company isn’t using SharePoint workflows to help increase efficiency, reduce processing time and track progress. You have decided it’s time to implement SharePoint.

You of course do not have a budget for this, not this year. The capital budgets have long since been cut to the bone or deeper. You need SharePoint but you have no visible means of making that implementation happen. What to do?

You should consider SharePoint Online (SO), one piece of the Business Productivity Online Suite that Microsoft announced late in 2008. The financial and functional components of a SO implementation can be very attractive for many organizations today. We at PointBridge have helped a number of organizations implement SO. We have found, with few exceptions, that if a clear understanding of the needs of the organization is matched against the capabilities of SO and there is a good match, that SharePoint Online is a solid solution.

Now if you are thinking you are limited to the traditional applications of SharePoint, collaboration and portal-like functionality for instance, reconsider. While many of the organizations we have helped move to SO focus on collaboration, we have implemented other, very interesting and forward looking SharePoint Online applications. Here are two I want to mention.

One client had a need for a system that would allow them to manage a large number of long-term contracts. While SO does not provide the records management functionality that an on-premise implementation of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) does, upon close examination the organization did not really require that functionality. Sure it was a desirable capability but it wasn’t needed. The ability to manage contract versioning and engineering documents with all the benefits that SharePoint document libraries provide, benefits that eliminate the issues associated with network file shares, was sufficient. This was especially true given the attractive costs of SharePoint Online.

Clever use of SO’s capabilities allowed for a very sophisticated system to manage the many different documents this organization and their external partners work with every day.

Another organization was able to use SO and other aspects of the BPOS suite to provide what was truly a revolutionary approach to its annual worldwide meeting of executives and directors. Traditionally this organization held a three-day meeting in January which focused on 1) the business priorities of the coming year and 2) reinforcement of the value proposition message of the services they provide. The CEO also used this meeting to convey his vision for the organization. Typically held somewhere in the United States this meeting required approximately 300 people to travel from all corners of the globe. This year, the decision was made to hold a virtual meeting and save a significant amount of travel-related expense.

One of the requirements for the virtual meeting was particularly important and received significant scrutiny: the quality of the meeting had to be just as good as the "real" meetings of the past had been. The organization designed the meeting agenda and common and breakout sessions without regard to the means that would be used to provide and organize them all. We then helped them map the requirements of each of those sessions and related activities to the features and functions that SharePoint Online provides. The entire virtual conference was built out and ready for use within four weeks. How was the quality of the virtual annual meeting? Better than that of the "real" meetings was the feedback from most of the participants.

Is SharePoint Online right for every organization? No, but don’t make the assumption that because it’s "in the cloud" that it’s not appropriate for your organization. You’ll only really know that by closely examining your needs and your resources and by talking with people who have significant experience implementing SO solutions.

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Burt Floraday

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