Stephen Monk (pictured right) is CTO at WM360, one of the few agencies in the UK that focuses heavily on SharePoint. He has a robust background in web development and today consults with global businesses such as Vodafone on how to improve the effectiveness and user-experience of their intranets.
SharePoint has a long history of being difficult to scale within large organisations. “I think it’s still a big complex beast to comprehend. Many users don’t know all the capabilities it allows. There are other more agile obvious solutions that look more attractive at first because they are very easy to set up and work intuitively from the beginning.”
Yet, Monk thinks it is a no-brainer to go with SharePoint. “It’s more rigorous and disciplined than other systems, there is some learning to do especially at an entry level and you have to do some thinking beforehand. However, it can solve all the problems that other providers cannot. Sure, some competitors offer a pretty compelling proposition but only for specific cases. SharePoint is investing heavily in document management, collaboration as well as in social communications. If a company is looking to solve not just one particular issue but many, then it should consider the holistic approach this tool takes.”
Because it is complex SharePoint forces the communications manager to ponder and plan before installing it. According to Monk this is no bad thing. He has some advice to give when it comes to managing SharePoint. First: make sure the platform matches what the business does.
“For example, if your product department have six or seven different products, ensure that there is a section within the intranet for those items. Talk about them in the same language you use internally. That way, when someone from Sales comes to the site they can quickly navigate through the files. We call this information architecture: the way information is structured should mirror what the organisation does and make the user experience easy.”
Another aspect to consider is to separate the work in progress and still in development from the “polished areas” where information has been already approved.
Gaps in sharing videos
One area where SharePoint seems to be a bit poor is in sharing videos and more visual content. “It’s possible to get very good videos but you need some configurations to make it happen. Setting it up in the right way can take some time and money.
There are several technical improvements that hopefully will address this space in future, “but right now no, it’s not an easy thing to do.”
What users appear to appreciate though are the integrations with other video service providers such as vimeo and YouTube.
The hidden gem: collaborative editing
Collaborative editing is where SharePoint is very strong and Monk believes people should know more about just how far the technology has come. “If you are working on an Office document you can file, share and send links to your colleagues. They can open the same document and edit it at the same time.”
The system is secure and users can always go back to the previous version. It also works on mobile devices through an app available for IPhones and IPads.
The future is CLOUDy
The next version of the tool will be the last one on premise. Microsoft announced this bombshell at the SharePoint Conference 2014. “By 2018, everything will be managed on the cloud. I think at present there isn’t enough appreciation of how much this is going to change the whole industry. It’s the way of the future for the enterprise.”
The move to the cloud has been driven by small and medium businesses. “As the system is migrating to the cloud, and the cost is coming down they will be more attracted to use it.”
But Monk thinks that the providers of on-premise solutions such as Jive, Socialcast and Zimbra should start thinking on how to reposition themselves, and looking at how to adapt their entire business model.
Newsgator is one of those vendors that have had to broaden their product offer wider than internal communications as they rebranded as Sitrion.
The social Office 365
If there is one thing Monk wants to emphasise it is the wealth of developments around Office 365. Microsoft have stopped investing in SharePoint’s social features and instead integrate Yammer in a meaningful way.
“Recently, there has been a lot of talk on investing more on its social experience. The plan is for the Yammer integration to be spread along the Office offer: for example, you will have the Yammer feed integrated into your documents such us Excel, PowerPoint and Words. You will be able to bring colleagues’ perspectives to the projects you are working on.
“Social will follow you wherever you are. That integration is going to become more pervasive adding significantly to productivity.” It looks as though SharePoint which has been the bane of communicators’ lives could well metamorphose into a hero product.
This article originally appeared on simply-communicate