Solving information overload with SharePoint and Office 365

Microsoft SharePoint is a great tool used by businesses across the world since the 2000s. Over the last couple of years, SharePoint has really started to mature to solid business application included with Office 365. Here are nine things you may not have known about the product.

Store Your Documents

One of the big parts of SharePoint is the ability to store your company’s data in an easily accessible shared area. You may store your files on a server, but this causes problems when you have remote workers who need access from home or anywhere outside the office. You may have dabbled with cloud solutions that solve accessibility but don’t help organise your business data any more efficiently.

How about SharePoint data storage that looks to solve these problems? At no extra cost, you get enough storage space suitable for most companies (with options of expanding), all of which is accessible on the cloud – all you need is an Internet connection. Additionally, it fits right in with your existing Office 365 users, so all your employees can use it and you can still apply permissions and restrict access to any confidential files you have.

Project Planning

Is your company big on Project work? Individual pieces of work that maybe last a few months before completion? Then SharePoint is great for organising this kind of workflow. SharePoint is based on sites and subsites, so you can create a new dedicated subsite for every project you do. These sites can be shared among groups of people or teams, and each site can be tailored to the project. Have a dedicated Document Library for files only relevant to your project, create a project timeline and apply that to the site’s homepage and even create a dedicated calendar for each project to track tasks.

There are other options to explore as well and with the Template function, you can create a ready-made project site in seconds with all the parts in place.

Spreadsheets & Databases with SharePoint Lists

Excel and Access are great for many purposes and have proven themselves to be some of the most important tools in the world of business. But do you ever feel like you don’t need all their functionality for some of your data? Perhaps it can be over complex for users who simply want to view the data, not manipulate it.

SharePoint Lists allow you to store a basic list of items with multiple fields for each item. Say you have a long list of clients with accompanying contact details, you can put all your clients in a searchable list, available to the whole company. No need to locate a shared document and load it into your Office program. The same can be applied to other concepts such as tracking timesheets or proposals. And if you ever have to open the list in Excel, there is that option as well.

SharePoint Lists are perfect for those times when you need a simple consistent list accessible to everyone.

Create an Image and Video Libraries

You may think SharePoint is only good for storing business documents, but it can also handle media as well. Create an Image Library instead of a Document Library and you get a space which is tailored for media files, showing images as tiles, allowing for easy management. Put your videos in there as well and you can play them straight from the web browser.

Create an Image Library for a past event or company day out, or place all your photos in a single library and organise with folders as you would do in Windows Explorer – it’s up to you.

Embed Web Parts

There is a whole host of web applications out there that you can embed in your SharePoint sites, from YouTube videos to Twitter feeds. The one we focus on though is Yammer. Yammer is like your company’s personal social network, it’s included in Office 365. You can create different pages for different groups each with their own newsfeed, where images and videos can be attached – check it out here.

Well, now you can embed your Yammer feed into a SharePoint page. Have a dedicated project Yammer feed or keep one on your SharePoint homepage for general company chit chat and announcements.

Office Integration

Microsoft Office is the bread and butter software for any business across the world and now with Office 365 they have integrated it in the SharePoint environment as much as possible. When you select a document in SharePoint, it opens in the browser version of Office. This is a lightweight version of Word, Excel, etc. and allows you to create and edit your documents without opening a single desktop program. This is a great feature if you want to make quick changes, review and proof documents or collaborate with others – you can easily have multiple people working on the same document at the same time.

But if you want to create and edit documents in fully-featured Office then you can, that’s not a problem. Just select the ‘Edit in Office’ button and your document opens in the desktop version of that program and it’s ready to edit. Once done, just click save and you document is automatically saved back into SharePoint. No more downloading a file to your computer, opening it, editing, saving back to your desktop and re-uploading to the cloud. This process is seamless.

File Versioning

Are you worried about cloud file sharing because of multiple copies of the same data causing problems with your documents? What if somebody overwrites the changes you made or if you accidentally delete something and save it without noticing? Well, SharePoint has a way to deal with this. It’s called Versioning. Whenever you save a document back into SharePoint after making changes, it creates a new ‘version’ of the document – but it doesn’t delete the previous versions; it stores them underneath the most recent one. If you ever need to revert a document back however many months, then you can. And SharePoint can create hundreds of versions of the same document, easily accessible and only when you need them.

The App

Microsoft has even created a SharePoint App. Available for iOS, Android and Windows mobile platforms, the app gives you access to your SharePoint Online site on the go. As you may expect the App is not fully featured and we wouldn’t recommend using it for editing documents or lists, however, it may come in handy when you’re out and about and need that vital spreadsheet figure or access to latest client contact list, without the need for booting up your computer. If you also install MS Office on your mobile device, you can open all your main documents through the SharePoint App.

Web Apps

SharePoint functionality is not limited to native Microsoft web parts. Similar to plugins in WordPress, there are dozens of companies out there developing 3rd party apps, add-ons and widgets that you can ‘bolt’ onto your SharePoint and add new functionality for your company. From Helpdesks to CRM and BI applications, it’s worth investigating what’s out there. Check the SharePoint App Store here.

If you would like to learn more about SharePoint and how we can help tailor it your business, then please contact David or Jamie on 0131 225 2215 or info@dunedinit.co.uk

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