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Six things to know about today's SharePoint implementations

As companies migrate their on-premises Microsoft SharePoint sites to the cloud, here are some things they should know about the current state of the platform.

It would not be too difficult to find small to medium-sized businesses with SharePoint implementations that began as experiments by IT before they were rolled out to serve as central intranet sites. This was a common tack for organizations that needed to store content from human resources, sales and other groups, but that had limited knowledge and expertise about the platform.

Unfortunately, those organizations often struggled to maximize their SharePoint systems. In order to increase the success rate, Microsoft has made significant investments to make it easier to quickly roll out SharePoint, simplify its management and empower business users. As a result, the platform has seen significant changes over the last two years, and organizations are seeing that what they thought they knew about SharePoint is no longer the case.

Here are six things to remember when cleaning house and addressing the current state of disorganization in SharePoint implementations -- even if your site grew up around some false assumptions.

1. SharePoint is not a filing cabinet

This is one of the biggest challenges for users to overcome as they consider SharePoint. While the platform's document storage functionality still exists, the new document libraries offer a much more improved experience and more powerful ways to store and manage digital content.

The addition of video support, as well as content preview, advanced enterprise search capabilities, and the use of Delve to make personal recommendations on what content end users may be interested in are just a few of the new features end users will find in SharePoint.

2. SharePoint isn't the only collaboration platform Microsoft has to offer

While SharePoint implementations were a common place for users to store documents and collaborate on changes, new Microsoft products and services have completely changed the way employees interact with content. Users can store content in SharePoint; communicate via Skype for Business; and use Microsoft Teams to collaborate in real time and with offline audio, video and instant message. This is forcing many folks to rethink their old view of SharePoint collaboration and see the platform in its modern form.

3. SharePoint is less complex and intimidating than admins may think

There are two aspects of SharePoint that have previously made it very intimidating for developers and IT departments.

  • The complex software and requirements surrounding infrastructure that typically required multiple servers as part of SharePoint farms.
  • The skill set required to manage and maintain SharePoint, which was highly specialized.

This forced several SMBs to either outsource the support and management of the platform or abandon the solution completely due to the high costs of licenses and maintenance. The most recent release of Office 365 includes SharePoint Online services, however, as well as new self-service capabilities that simplify the customization of the platform, which may enable more users to adopt the solution with less effort, and more cost-effectively.

4. Business users can customize their SharePoint implementations

Traditionally, most business users could make only minor changes to SharePoint pages and content. Only SharePoint administrators or developers could design automation workflows and create custom forms to collect business data.

With the introduction of PowerApps, business users can now create their own interactive SharePoint forms and mobile apps for users, while Microsoft Flow enables them to create advanced automations and workflows that can help streamline and automate processes.

5. Search and retrieval of content isn't as tricky as it used to be

SharePoint Online now offers full enterprise search features regardless of an organization's size and number of licenses. By offering the same set of search features across the entire online platform regardless of size, Microsoft can ensure a consistent experience for all of its users.

In addition, the new SharePoint leverages advanced machine learning to recommend content to end users based on documents other team members have frequently accessed. Another feature introduced in SharePoint 2013 and available in the latest versions is search results preview, where users can see a preview of documents without the need to open them outside of the browser.

6. SharePoint custom solutions are no longer limited

There are a number of third-party, custom-developed solutions that can be deployed as SharePoint add-ons. Unfortunately, organizations have had to hunt through online search engines to find what vendors have available.

Today, Microsoft offers AppSource, a centralized repository where vendors can showcase their SharePoint apps. The portal includes more than 1,200 apps designed for SharePoint Online. Some of the apps are free, while others require additional licensing or subscription fees. The web catalog offers short clips of some of the apps, as well as the ability for those with administrative privileges to add the applications to SharePoint.

Organizations today are mindful of the different collaboration tools available in the marketplace, but they may not be aware of all the new capabilities that the platform has to offer.

They also may have some reservations when it comes to staying with SharePoint or going with alternative solutions. Becoming reacquainted with the new possibilities of SharePoint implementations may help settle some of these ongoing debates.

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