What exactly is SharePoint and what does it do?

What exactly is SharePoint and what does it do?

SharePoint is possibly the most powerful component of Office 365. But with the majority of its influence behind the scenes, most users have no idea what it actually does.

Decades after its original release, the definition of the term ‘SharePoint’ still eludes many companies today. Some people describe it as a collaboration program, while others claim it’s a file storage site. For some businesses, SharePoint can automate tasks. Strangely enough, all these answers are partially correct.

The biggest reason for this confusion is different companies work with different aspects of SharePoint. The truth is SharePoint isn’t a program that serves one particular function like Word or Outlook, it’s a platform used to build solutions that can resolve thousands of business problems. And, depending on the SharePoint solution, it can benefit companies in several ways.

Create intranet sites

SharePoint’s most prominent benefit is collaboration, and it achieves this in a number of ways. For one, it allows Office 365 users to create business-facing websites called ‘Team Sites.’ In a nutshell, Team Sites are platforms for people to work together, share updates, store documents, and retrieve specific information.

This is a vast improvement from traditional processes where there’s usually no centralized management system. Oftentimes, companies without SharePoint sites are stuck with separate policies, procedures, and workflows for each department. HR staff, for instance, may be storing documents and forms in a completely different system from your accounts payable department. This causes document sharing bottlenecks and slows down operations.

With Team Sites, this can all be avoided. Because relevant documents and files are stored -- and shared -- in a central location, you can save your employees from having to chase around forms buried in ten different locations. Having a standardized system also enables your staff to seamlessly work across departments, opening up your business to even more opportunities.

Get more out of employee collaboration

Without cloud solutions, your business usually has two options to collaborate: you can either (a) print a copy of the file and send it to other personnel or (b) pass the document around via email. Whatever the case may be, one employee has the unfortunate responsibility of compiling all the document edits into one, updated version of the document.

Beyond a cloud storage platform, SharePoint lets teams collaborate and get on the same page...quite literally, in fact. When Word, PowerPoint, or Excel files are uploaded to a SharePoint Team Site, users can access shared files and co-author documents in real time. What’s more, when files are stored in team sites, you get a single source of truth about where they are. This means current versions of team calendars, contact lists, or OneNote minutes can all be found in team sites, keeping employees in sync.

Improve workflows

Apart from streamlining business operations with collaboration tools, SharePoint also functions as workflow automation software. With this feature, companies can take an otherwise manual process and run it more efficiently.

Time-consuming payment methods, for example, would be replaced by automated payrolls, saving your finance staff from running themselves into the ground. In other scenarios, you can automate emails, document approvals, and resolve help desk tickets. And the best part? You don’t even have to write a single line of code to increase your business’s productivity.

Retrieve documents

Some may think that storing team-related files in one place can be a file management nightmare, but that’s not the case with SharePoint’s search capabilities. Whether it’s an Excel workbook or PDF file, you can search for the most obscure items within a particular document library or Team Site.

To help narrow the search even further, SharePoint automatically records valuable metadata. This includes the file, file size, the name of the author, as well as other keywords and phrases that help you find a specific document within seconds.

Gain insight

By aggregating all your company data in one place, you gain the ability to analyze massive amounts of business information. Using various reports, databases, and business applications, SharePoint users can determine key performance indicators, track potential sales leads, and uncover business problems early. These advanced analytics could then be used to shape future business decisions and strategies, allowing business owners to focus on taking action instead of sifting through piles of data.

Take SharePoint outside

Finally, if you have an Office 365 subscription that includes SharePoint Online, you and your employees can access all the features mentioned above with a mobile device. Simply access SharePoint through the ‘Sites’ option in your Office app to collaborate on team projects, approve workflows, and gain company insight, whether you’re on the road, at home, or abroad.

With SharePoint, productivity is limitless. The ability to make team sites, store files, track information, and automate key work processes simply can’t be dismissed. It’s a platform that enhances the user experience and allows your employees to accomplish more together than they can possibly do alone. SharePoint isn’t just a useful asset to your company, it’s a business solution that can bring out the true potential of your Office 365 implementation.

We’ve talked about how SharePoint’s capabilities can be a significant advantage for your business productivity; however, in reality, we’ve barely scratched the surface. SharePoint is a deep platform that can be customized for your business needs in a number of ways. To get a more in-depth understanding of SharePoint and its myriad of benefits, contact the experts at WhiteOwl today.

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