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9 SharePoint best practices

The breadth of SharePoint's features can make it a challenging tool to implement and maintain. These best practices can keep content managers on track.

IT teams often struggle to implement SharePoint and maintain the platform, especially those in large organizations.

In particular, SharePoint Online, a cloud-based service included in most Microsoft 365 subscriptions, offers users a web-based intranet and collaboration features. Poorly executed deployments may result in users struggling to locate information or losing interest in the platform. To create a smooth UX and achieve high adoption rates for SharePoint, IT teams should define their goals and requirements upfront, choose the right migration strategy for their business and properly train end users.

1. Define the tool's goals and requirements

Some organizations might be tempted to simply activate SharePoint for their organizations and let each department implement their own site with little planning. This approach can lead to a disjointed UX and an inefficient use of resources. Instead, IT teams can create a clear vision of what each department and the organization as a whole wants to achieve and how to measure success.

To ensure IT teams implement SharePoint most effectively, they should identify the organization's goals, users' needs and technical requirements, and align them with the platform's features and capabilities. These capabilities can include other services available in Microsoft 365, such as OneDrive, Power Automate, Power Apps and Power BI.

Organizations must also understand governance policies, security standards and compliance regulations to ensure SharePoint Online can support them. Additionally, they should consider what configurations and security measures Microsoft Copilot -- the vendor's generative AI assistant -- requires, because this tool can automate workflows in SharePoint. A well-defined scope and roadmap will help implementation teams avoid scope creep, budget overruns and user dissatisfaction.

2. Choose the right migration strategy

Organizations that migrate to SharePoint Online from an on-premises or hybrid SharePoint environment must choose the right migration strategy to enable a smooth transition. They can use the free and simple SharePoint Migration Tool, which can move files, folders, lists and sites to SharePoint Online. However, this tool isn't compatible with all legacy versions of SharePoint. Third-party migration tools, such as ShareGate, AvePoint and Metalogix, offer more advanced features and support.

Alternatively, IT teams can create new sites and only move documents if outdated SharePoint legacy sites have too many issues to function properly. Additionally, Microsoft offers FastTrack, which is a migration service.

3. Educate and train users

IT teams should offer SharePoint training to ensure employees have positive experiences with the platform and use it in accordance with their data governance policies. They can offer guidance, documentation and support, and encourage users to share feedback and suggestions.

They can also identify a set of enthusiastic SharePoint knowledge champions within the organization to promote and advocate for the tool. Knowledge champions can raise awareness of the platform's benefits and boost user adoption.

4. Standardize site layouts

Many content managers may want various site collections that use different templates. Instead, they should standardize site layouts with a common template and implement the appropriate navigation and structure to support a user-friendly and intuitive SharePoint portal.

SharePoint offers several design features, like web parts -- customizable web components -- and predesigned web layouts called modern experience templates, to build sites. The platform also integrates with third-party apps for additional functionality. IT teams can use these elements to create a common site design and structure based on their organizations' goals.

5. Supplement SharePoint with Teams

SharePoint Online offers several collaboration features, but the introduction of Teams -- Microsoft's standalone chat tool -- has shifted some users away from the platform. Organizations don't need to pick between the two but can use each for a specific use case. For instance, SharePoint works best for interdepartmental and organization-wide communication and content sharing, while Teams works well for small groups and private departmental collaboration.

Behind the scenes, Teams uses SharePoint as a back end and generates a SharePoint site for each Teams channel, so users can store and share files. In other words, Teams works as a SharePoint interface that supports interactions with content and adds chat functionality to the platform. The combined use of these tools lets organizations collaborate on documents in real time while still being able to run a company-wide intranet.

IT teams should review all the capabilities available in Microsoft 365 to ensure they use the right tools and services for their organizations.

6. Know the available services and apps

Over the years, Microsoft has introduced several services within the Microsoft 365 suite, some of which have overshadowed or replaced SharePoint features. For example, Power Automate replaced SharePoint Workflows, Power Apps replaced InfoPath Forms, and Power BI replaced Performance Point.

IT teams should review all the capabilities available in Microsoft 365 to ensure they use the right tools and services for their organizations.

7. Configure security and permissions

If IT teams overlook security measures within SharePoint or Copilot, they risk data breaches. To keep data safe, they should invest time upfront to define the different compliance policies around data, as well as roles and access controls. They should configure access controls carefully and ensure they align with governance and compliance policies.

IT teams can use the principle of least privilege, which grants users the minimum level of access needed to perform their tasks. They can also use role-based access controls to assign users to predefined roles with specific permissions and responsibilities. Additionally, IT teams should audit user activity to identify potential security risks and use automated content labeling features from the compliance center to mark documents according to their level of sensitivity.

8. Monitor and optimize system performance

SharePoint should offer quality performance in terms of page loading time, because users will abandon slow platforms and turn to alternative tools. IT teams can monitor the performance to help sites, customizations and pages load more quickly and without errors. SharePoint offers a performance dashboard that includes all the details around sites and their performance.

9. Review and evaluate the system

To maintain user satisfaction, IT teams should align their SharePoint deployments with their organizations' overall goals and objectives. For instance, they can frequently review site usage statistics and feedback to identify and address common pain points among users. In addition, they should regularly check Microsoft's SharePoint roadmap to discover any new features that could add value to their organizations.

Reda Chouffani runs the consulting practice he co-founded, Biz Technology Solutions, Inc. He is a healthcare informatics consultant, cloud expert and a business intelligence architect who helps enterprise clients make the best use of technology to streamline operations and improve productivity.

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