SharePoint and the Intelligent Workspace
The ubiquity of technology – notably smart devices, wearable tech and other portables – has made us as users very demanding. We all expect instant access to information, our connections or an app to make us more productive.
At home we have smart speakers, smart sockets, smart bulbs and smart thermostats, so our homes are toasty warm and playing our favourite tunes when we get in from work.
Apps on our phones are designed to be productivity enablers. They can be personalised and underpinned by machine learning or AI in order to provide a more valuable experience with each use.
The same cannot be said for most work computers.
Most working environments can be classified as digital workspaces but they’re not intelligent workspaces. Intelligent workplaces go beyond offering employees “out-of-the-box” software applications and letting them blindly stumble around menus looking for the functions they need.
An intelligent workspace provides the organisation with the core tools they need to do their job more effectively, and efficiently. This isn’t a matter of limiting access, but giving users the information or functionality they need in one place.
Moving to an intelligent workspace is about spending less time producing more valuable outcomes. By eliminating the disruptive, mundane tasks from the day-to-day, you allow your teams to focus on driving value.
Moving away from the conventional mindset is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses. It can require a lot of change which not all businesses are comfortable with, even though the benefits vastly outstrip the cost of any disruption caused.
Manual and/or paper-based processes may seem cheaper than a software-based solution. However, a cost analysis of the people hours spent on administrating those processes will likely cost far more. There’s also the added cost on those occasions when the process fails due to human error.
If a document goes missing, gets misfiled or one person in the chain is out of the office, the process stalls. This results in delays. Productivity drops, costs increase, and targets and deadlines are missed. This amounts to a very expensive problem, especially for any organisation that relies heavily on a supply chain.
Even organisations who are digitally minded suffer from a lack of intelligent systems. Automated processes can eliminate tedious tasks from the average working day, freeing up time for more valuable (and more profitable) output.
These processes don’t need to be complicated. It is just about putting the right information in front of the right people, in an easily accessible and concise way. And failure to do so doesn’t just have a financial impact on the business. There’s a human cost too, in the form of frustration, poor job satisfaction and high turnover rates.
Today’s workforce is digitally savvy yet people are using disparate systems, none of which work terribly well together. This impacts negatively on both morale and productivity.
Although the case for increased productivity can’t be overstated, neither can reducing turnover. Hiring and training new staff is a lot more expensive than keeping the ones you have, especially if you use recruiters.
So utilising tools that make the business more productive and more profitable, while improving the happiness of your employees is an easy decision to make.
But how do you achieve it?
Depending on who you talk to, Microsoft SharePoint is a browser-based collaboration and document management tool, or a content management system for secure document sharing. It’s also a web-based intranet that can help your organisation streamline the management and access to data, or an information portal that can be configured to run intranets, extranets or even websites. It can also be used as a blog or Wiki-style website.
In reality, SharePoint can be all of these things.
It can be tailored to meet the needs of both the business and the employees. It allows a greater level of focus because all the information, files and apps can be accessed from one place. This means there is no need to run multiple apps. Users just open up a single portal and everything is a click away.
This is especially useful if your teams are dispersed across the country or countries. It eliminates the IT headache of making sure everyone’s computer is set up the same and shipped to them, especially if that person lives and works abroad.
By utilising SharePoint employees can – if necessary – source a computer locally and just login. No lengthy installs, nor costly shipping charges. Providing there’s an internet connection, they will have the same access to information and apps as anyone else in the organisation.
That’s incredibly empowering.
From a productivity standpoint, it also bypasses the issues caused by adverse weather, or unforeseen circumstances like car trouble or waiting in for the plumber to fix the heating. SharePoint allows you to build powerful workflows, portals and consolidate data in order to give your teams the means to focus on their work.
How to deploy SharePoint
SharePoint can be delivered in one of four ways depending on your IT structure and how you intend to use it.
The important thing to understand is that it’s designed to make your business more streamlined, so it’s important to choose the option that will allow you to achieve that. Here’s a brief summary of each of the SharePoint tools currently available:
- SharePoint Online
A Cloud-based service, hosted by Microsoft and intended for businesses of all sizes. Any business can subscribe to a standalone SharePoint service or have it as part of an Office 365 plan. Your employees can create sites to share documents and information with colleagues, partners, and customers.
- SharePoint Server
If you have an on-premise IT infrastructure, SharePoint Server is what you need. It also works with an Office 365 Enterprise subscription, which will allow you to take advantage of all the latest features. It also offers additional features and capabilities, such as modern site pages, modern web parts and authoring, modern lists and libraries, modern search, integration with Power Apps, Power BI and Flow, and SharePoint homepage.
- OneDrive for Business sync
OneDrive for Business sits on your desktop and allows you to sync documents from a team site or OneDrive for Business to your computer for offline use.
SharePoint’s versatility in streamlining processes, consolidating information and giving teams access to the apps they need in one place is incredibly powerful. It also helps to improve business cohesion if yours is an organisation of satellite/home workers.
A Technical Consultant with a strong background in Microsoft technologies, Aaron heads up the Intelligent Cloud team at Transparity. He uses his expert knowledge to support pre-sales, tender responses, implementations of bespoke IT solutions and other related activities. Aaron is also Transparity's Microsoft SharePoint evangelist, having worked extensively with all iterations of this solution.