Friday, November 09, 2007

What Is SharePoint?

Microsoft provides a set of functionality called Windows SharePoint Services, now on version 3.0, within Windows Server 2003 that is free to use. This free group of services provides document collaboration, information-sharing, list creation, Web page creation and related services. It is very useful for workgroups, departments and other small groups of users to work together on a set of documents, share information and otherwise collaborate.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is the new version of SharePoint Portal Server (combinging Microsoft Content Management Server) and provides additional functionality for business intelligence, business process integration, enterprise search, enterprise content management, and personalization.

The most common uses of SharePoint that I've seen are:
  1. Creating team sites where only certain project team or department members can login, see, edit and add information and documents
  2. Creating lists of information that can be easily customized by adding new columns, value lists and multiple filters
  3. Setting alerts on information or document areas so that all team site users receive an email notice of information added or notified.
  4. Using issue lists that email the assignee of the issue of any change with a before and after summary of the change, as well as keeping a history of comments on the issue.
  5. Using document libraries (lists) that allow version histories of the documents, including checking in and out, creation of folders for organizing groups of files, and an Explorer-type view that supports drag-and-drop.

The types of business uses I've seen include:
  1. Tracking employee hours, including using a lookup of tasks to choose from so that information is always correct.
  2. Data entry of metric data that drives other graphical reports
  3. Letting teams have their own designated and central area for their documents and other information
  4. Creating a business process of several required steps
  5. Using the discussion functional to capture a conversation thread of multiple users on a document posted to the team site.
  6. Using a modified issue list to categorize, prioritize, track, assign and drive issues on a project, as well as quickly export the list to Excel and send to additional outside users.

There are Microsoft partners that run SharePoint Services as a hosted service, lowering the barriers of complexity and effort for small and medium business to try out the functionality and see if there a good return for the money.

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