Guide Microsoft SharePoint for Business Executives: Q&A Handbook

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Here's a look at how and why the Hendrick Automative Group is using Microsoft's Office cloud service to relieve an overburdened staff, scale the company and save money. Take a look at a slew of cool features inside Microsoft's cloud-based service that combines Office, SharePoint, Lync and Exchange. Microsoft's focus at the Office launch event in New York City was on small and midsize businesses. For enterprises, however, moving to Office is more complicated, but benefits await those big businesses that plan accordingly.

Several companies, including Manpower and Tampa General Hospital, are announcing their adoption of Microsoft BPOS applications, pointing to progress the software giant is making in the cloud realm and also to new features and pricing models users would like to see as such software becomes a bigger part of corporate IT. But as usual, it produced a confusing pile of versions: We break down your options.

SharePoint's many moving pieces have not traditionally fit neatly into the cloud. But SharePoint addresses that problem — with three key changes.

Go modern with SharePoint

Corporate VP of Microsoft Online Services Ron Markezich discusses the joys and pitfalls of productivity apps in the cloud, how to mix your own data center with Microsoft's cloud model, and the rising tide of BPOS competitors. Hint: It's not just Google. Here are the latest Insider stories.

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Policy Management Software Add-In on Microsoft Office Your organization is tasked in keeping your policies updated, employees well-trained, and business compliant with an ever-increasing amount of regulations and oversight from numerous sources. Leverage Your Policy Lifecycle on Microsoft Office With our one-click approach, you can obtain the power of our three comprehensive policy lifecycle modules on one secure, centralized SharePoint add-in.

Policies and Procedures Creation. Policies and Procedures Distribution. Policy Training and Acknowledgement. Role-Based Access Restrict policy documents to only people who need to have access to them. Search and Reports Easily find approved policies and procedures with powerful search options. Document Storage Employees access and easily find up-to-date policies and procedures from one central location.

Expiration Notifications Notify a policy manager when a policy is up for renewal, revisions or retirement. Custom Quizzes Test employees on any or all of your policies with custom quizzes. Revisions and Renewals Easily revise policies and be notified when they need to be renewed or retired. In my case, the cost was minimal, but the value was potentially huge.

I decided to take multiple document libraries, each of which had 20 or more separate folders, and recreate it as one document library with metadata and content types. Rather than try to explain content types, it was easier to showcase how using a content type could not only add to the data structure but also allow them to properly govern the additional metadata associated with a file. Many of the files contained important, highly useful information. The business decided to group the files using a very complicated folder structure.

For example, they had a folder for each of their 15 brands, and within those folders, they had subfolders for marketing, finance, and other key categories; within those subfolders they had yet more subfolders. This had allowed them to more easily find a particular file, or files, rather than having to open and view individual files.

Microsoft Sharepoint for Business Executives: Q&A Handbook

But because of this complicated folder structure, they now needed a business process to ensure every file was placed in the right folder. As they found out, the new business process was simply too difficult to manage, and many files ended up in the wrong place. This allowed me to incorporate and explain the use of metadata to the business. I broke down the file structure into a few key content types, which we then used to include key data elements, along with important data validation.

It was this simple approach of content types, metadata, and data validation that was the first major success in my journey to present to my business a better business case for SharePoint. I showcased to them the true value of metadata and content types by filtering and sorting their data. To my amazement, they were simply awed by some of the basic SharePoint features that they never even knew existed. I then decided to include a custom filter page to really show them what could be done with some simple page creation, web parts, and filtering. I was very careful not to fully customize any of these pages.

I wanted to only use OOTB web parts. That way they would have a better understanding of the basic SharePoint features before I moved forward to more complicated scenarios. I wanted to hold off on the search engine until after I had better adoption of SharePoint basics. In my humble opinion, SharePoint workflows have been the single most important factor in my ability to educate my business clients and ensure the adoption and use of SharePoint within my organization. When it comes to SharePoint, the initial conversations that I have with my business clients are usually around their business processes.

Business processes are key to using SharePoint to increase productivity and reduce costs, something any business client is eager to discuss. Every business unit has processes, and most of these processes have checkpoints or points of approval, and this is where workflows come in handy, whether it be through the sending of an approval email or the creation of an approval task.

Once I have convinced a business client of how workflows can improve their processes and reduce their costs, I then educate them on how they can use those same approval tasks to then create service-level agreements SLAs or key performance indicators KPIs. How great would it be for a business unit to understand just how long it takes for a document to be reviewed and approved? They could then take that information and adopt a strategy to improve the overall process. That would then allow them to create KPIs to monitor and govern the process.

This is usually the home run that convinces a business client of the true value they can achieve through the adoption and use of SharePoint. When I first heard of Office and SharePoint Online, I understood the value of a hosted SharePoint environment, but again I struggled with how to convince my business clients that this new direction was the best for their future. I was excited to hear about PHAs but was also cautious about the potential cost this could have from an application support perspective.

My company had started down the direction of third-party development vendors with an outsourcing model, which can easily lead to vendors creating complicated business applications with a big residual cost for maintenance and enhancements. Like with every hosted model we need to prepare ourselves for change. As I started to review what Flow had to offer, I was disappointed in what I saw.

Microsoft SharePoint for Business Executives: Q Handbook

This has made it a major player in my business discussions around improved business processes through integration with various line-of-business applications. This has become a standard topic of conversation that I, as a technical executive, have with many of my business clients. We can also discuss how SharePoint is utilizing responsive web pages to create a better SharePoint experience on mobile devices.

Microsoft has even developed a mobile SharePoint application. But usually, the discussion heads in the direction of having a standalone mobile application. My answer from the SharePoint world is PowerApps. It utilizes existing SharePoint lists and libraries as the back-end data source for my application. PowerApps is what I call a configuration-based development platform : It allows for very quick development of mobile applications.

It even automatically creates many of the screens to add and edit new items into a list or library.

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It has also been tested with all of the current leaders in the mobile device space. It has its own IDE, along with a very simple configuration-based language that can be easily adapted to by a technical developer or even a tech-savvy power user. Incorporate this new tool with SharePoint and Flow, along with push notifications and the ability to use inherently mobile features like location services and phone calls, and PowerApps has become my new favorite point of conversation to discuss with my business clients around the adoption and utilization of SharePoint.

In fact, my POC was not only received by my business eagerly but because of my use of mobile features like location services and GPS navigation, I was asked to present my POC application to the PowerApps engineering as an example of what could be done with the tool. As I was sitting there in my window seat heading to San Fransisco, I could never have imagined how that simple trip would have such a major impact on my technical career.

SharePoint is a truly innovative and collaborative tool, and Microsoft continues to deliver on their vision and direction with SharePoint. Like any of the thousands of SaaS or PaaS solutions available to us today, we must ensure that we truly understand how to best utilize these solutions. Continuing to improve our overall business processes and satisfy our business clients, SharePoint has become a key tool in my arsenal. I look forward to the future and what SharePoint will have to offer for me and my business.