I am a huge SharePoint fan in the original sense of the word. Yes, I am fanatic about SharePoint. Ask my teammates at PointBridge, our clients, or for that matter my friends or family. You should know at the outset that I am heavily invested in SharePoint. I have been working with it since before the first version was released in 2001. I am a member of a managed Microsoft Gold Partner that specializes in three solution areas, SharePoint being one of them. I work in that solution area and that’s all we do in that solution area – SharePoint consulting for our clients. Over the years I have helped other Microsoft partners learn how to provide consulting services for SharePoint, and I have myself, as you would expect, consulted with many organizations of all sizes about their SharePoint implementations.
Since its inception SharePoint has provided organizations with many powerful features and the potential to improve individual and enterprise efficiency. It has had its shortcomings too, from the early days to the current version; but each release has improved the product in substantial ways and SharePoint 2007 has already become a major milestone in SharePoint history. I think of SharePoint 2007 the way I think of Excel 5.0, .NET and Windows Server 2003 – as watersheds in their respective product histories.
Repeatedly, I have experienced the excitement that SharePoint generates when people first see it, when they first use it and as it helps them get things done. The excitement that SharePoint generates is one reason I’m a fan. Mostly though, I’m a fan for the reasons that ultimately generate that excitement. Why do people get excited about SharePoint? Why do information workers who use SharePoint think it’s so cool? Why is SharePoint Microsoft’s fastest growing product – ever? Why am I a fanatic? Simple really; SharePoint makes you excited about how you work. I hope every one of you is excited about your work, about what you do. (If you aren’t, start looking for work that does excite you.) We don’t usually think about being excited about how we work though. SharePoint changes all of that. It really does!
For starters you don’t have to worry about something not loading properly and all the network shares you use getting messed up. You don’t ever have to pull out that sheet with all the letters and the server names and share names and all that. You just fire up a browser, a familiar piece of software you use nights and weekends at home, and there you are, connected to your SharePoint workspace or the SharePoint corporate portal. When you need to find a document or some other information you simply use your browser. You can use SharePoint Search to find what you’re looking for too! It’s just like searching on the Internet only better because you can narrow your search quickly down to a few items that contain the one you seek. How nice is that?
If you create and edit Microsoft Word documents or, an even better example, Excel spreadsheets, you have probably developed your own file naming convention so you can find earlier versions of the file or to protect yourself from yourself. (“Dare I overwrite the previous budget model?”). If you use SharePoint, you can forget all about that. Save, save, save the file. You automatically have a new version – same name different version! Every time! Anytime you want, you can look at any file in the version history without disturbing a thing! Need to replace the current version with an earlier one? How about two, (Yes, I said 2!) clicks?
If you want to take your files with you on a trip or you want to have them available on your notebook at all times, you can do so (effortlessly – no briefcase needed, smile) and you don’t have to try and recall whether you “synced” them or not. It’s all taken care of for you.
Need a list to keep track of the project you were assigned in the yesterday’s meeting? You can create a list to track those tasks in about 10 seconds with SharePoint. This is even better: that Excel spreadsheet you always use to track things, you can bring it into a SharePoint list in less than a minute. Keep those tasks with you at all times, just like your documents! If none of the built-in lists meet your needs, you can build your own list, like building your own spreadsheet, but you can do it in about half the time. Oh yes, if you want versioning…you guessed it SharePoint can do that for your tasks too!
I could go on for pages. All these are great, really great, for you! What about your team, your department, your ad-hoc workgroups though? What about the whole company?
Most of us in today’s enterprises do not work solitarily on anything. Possibly blogs excepted! Two, three or more people work on the same file or set of files as needed. Proposals, requests for proposals, contracts, collaterals, and on and on, these are all examples of team-produced work-products. All the things that SharePoint does to make your work easier makes a workgroup’s work even more easily accomplished and efficient. Versioned, always with you, automatically synced, browser-based work environment– these are all important for a workgroup. SharePoint provides these and does so exceptionally well.
Often your “workgroup” itself does not work solitarily or in isolation. Many of us work with people outside the formal bounds of our organizations on joint work-products or projects. SharePoint makes all of everything, yes, all of everything, available for joint workgroups! It is so cool to be able to do that. More than cool though it absolutely makes work EXCITING. Forget about slinging files around using email. Use a SharePoint workspace that all joint workgroup members have access to anytime from anyplace!
Do you like to know how your team, your department your division or your enterprise measures up on the objectives that have been set? Who doesn’t? Do you have ready access to that kind of information? Can you go find that information immediately and is it up-to-date or is it 2, 3, or 4 hours or even one day or more old? You can see up-to-date information in a SharePoint portal and it can be made specific to a person or group with very little effort. That is powerful and it does get people excited about how they work.
One more very important point before I end. This is all very cool. You can make the work environment I have described here immeasurably more productive, more effective and efficient and way more cool by adding in Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) and the presence information it provides. Not only do you know if I’m busy but you can tell when I’m free to discuss our revisions. You can call me, send me an instant message, send an email, and more all from within your SharePoint workspace. Coupled with OCS, SharePoint really gets people excited about how they work. You should be one of those people.
I hope you are starting to see why I’m a fan. I didn’t mention 70% of what I could have. If you want to know more about why I’m a fanatic, leave a comment or drop me a line.