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TechnologyOct 19, 2018

New Ways to Leverage SharePoint and Office 365 to Enable Collaboration

Hannah Walsh, and Ryan Mann

Collaboration is becoming increasingly important in the workplace. Virtually every task today requires communication with others. Many business leaders are looking for solutions to enable both internal and external collaboration.

At Credera, we believe the future of collaboration is going to be more specialized, single-focused, and will follow market demand of being nimble by leveraging out-of-the-box tools with less customization. Each particular solution will need to have a targeted approach.

You may be asking yourself, what is the right approach for my team to maximize collaboration? By analyzing your needs, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each tool, we can combine technologies to provide the most effective solution. Not every situation will need the same set of tools. Let’s dive into some examples of common scenarios in which SharePoint and Office 365 can help.

short-term collaboration

scenario 1

Let’s say, for example, that a small committee has been established to update a human resources policy. The group will need to collaborate frequently for a short period of time to define the new policy. However, once the policy is defined, the committee will be disbanded. The only content that needs to be retained is the final policy document.

proposed solution

For short-term collaboration, we may recommend setting up an instance of Microsoft Teams and creating a OneDrive folder for document management in a temporary context. By creating a solution that combines these tools, the committee can store files in OneDrive and connect to them in OneDrive or directly in the Teams instance. OneDrive provides a simple way to work on files together in real time and share the files securely. An instance of Teams is very easy to set up. With integrated apps such as Adobe Creative Cloud, SurveyMonkey, Visual Studio Teams Services, and many others, the group can easily collaborate in-context in a device agnostic manner. The group can view messages and missed calls on mobile devices in the Teams mobile app.

long-term collaboration

scenario 2

At the same company as in the previous example, let’s say a group of new hires all start on the same day. The group needs to complete training over a relatively short period of time. Once the employees complete the training, they will move on to their assignments. However, all of the training materials would need to be retained for future use, so there is a need for a much longer life cycle.

proposed solution

For longer-term collaboration, we might suggest creating a SharePoint site to maximize knowledge management capabilities. SharePoint is traditionally a more robust solution than Teams, making it suitable for long-term projects. SharePoint and Teams can accomplish similar goals, but the approach taken is different. SharePoint is more in-depth and regimented, but it takes more time to get started.

A SharePoint site can be customized to streamline work and highlight important tasks. Business leaders can view insights on how the site is being consumed to quickly make changes where needed. With SharePoint, an email could be sent out automatically on a new employee’s first day of work with links to targeted training materials. When the new user logs into a company portal for the first time, the new hire training materials would display on the home page.

On a recent project at Credera, we were able to deliver a responsive SharePoint client training application that is primarily accessed via users on an iPad. We provided a solution to this scenario for users on the go. We created the application with collaboration in mind. Users can easily find answers to relevant questions, ask an expert, link to training courses, and view documents. This is all possible now using new functionality that is available through the SharePoint online platform.

scenario 3

Within the same company, let’s say there is another group of employees working together for campus recruiting. For the upcoming recruiting season, they need a calendar to share dates of career fairs, speaking events, and workshops. While at the career fair, they need a central place to store candidates’ resumes. They want to keep resumes, but they need to archive them to organize the resumes by recruiting year. The group will need to work together for a few months year after year.

proposed solution

Like the solution above, we would recommend creating a SharePoint site. While at the career fair, the team can drop candidates’ resumes into a central location and utilize SharePoint’s document management capabilities. With a workplace automation engine, the resumes are automatically archived after one year—just in time for the next recruiting season.

Credera turned SharePoint into a content management system and built simple, elegant, and responsive communication websites for a client. During the process, we built an inventory of features that could be reused on other websites, decreasing the cost and time required to implement each new site. With little time and investment, clients can get a collaborative content management solution that does not look like a traditional SharePoint website.

scenario 4

A marketing team needs to share files with an external agency as they are working on a new release. There are many different assets that need to be shared, and both teams need to communicate about the assets. The two teams would also like to share a calendar and timeline of events.

proposed solution

SharePoint and Office 365 provide great solutions for external collaboration as well. If the two parties only need to share files, we may suggest OneDrive for business. However, in many cases, there is more information to be shared, so we might recommend a SharePoint site.

Users can search SharePoint sites for files, people, and other sites. While searching, users can preview documents such as PowerPoint decks before clicking on them. Moving forward, we expect to see increasingly powerful search capabilities with SharePoint and Office 365. The trend is moving toward requiring less metadata so searching is easier.

At Credera, we created an engine to automatically tag items in SharePoint. The engine can not only tag a document based on the location where it was stored, but also based on the words in the document. For example, upon uploading, if the engine finds a product name or geographical location, the application can tag the document without any additional actions by the user. Unlike in the past where tagging documents was a bothersome task, users can upload a document without tagging first.

putting it all together

We often find that a firm’s need for collaboration tools is not just limited to one of these scenarios. More often, there is a need for a combination of tools to solve problems in all the above scenarios. Instead of creating a solution with one tool, we are increasingly using many specific, individual tools to solve individual problems and enable collaboration.

If you have an existing Office 365 subscription, you may already own many of the technologies we have highlighted. Take advantage and maximize the return on investment of your own subscription by implementing an effective strategy.

Credera’s Collaboration and Digital Workplace team helps leading brands leverage SharePoint and Office 365 to enable collaboration. If we can help your company collaborate more effectively, contact us at findoutmore@credera.com.