There are moments in all of our working lives where something just clicks, opening our eyes to a small but radical new way of working. Usually those light bulb moments are simple things like figuring out what conditional formatting in Excel actually means, or the first time we discover miracle tools like the
format brush in Word.
The sad part is that many of us will go through our careers never knowing these things exist, and instead waste years trying desperately to turn one paragraph the exact same miscellaneous shade of grey as the rest of the document.
As an intranet consultancy, helping employees work smarter and making their lives easier is our business, and so we’re taking this opportunity to point out some of the SharePoint fundamentals that no employee should be ignorant of.
While SharePoint is highly sophisticated, the below features should, or at least can, be available to all. That’s not to say that how well implemented an individual intranet is, and how recently it was updated can’t make a difference, but if any of the below isn’t the technological reality for your company, that’s probably something to try and fix.
Final disclaimer: We’re not Microsoft, but we are fans. So, if a little evangelising can be forgiven, we won’t be shy in explaining why we think the Office 365-SharePoint combo is great, and how it enables companies and employees to do great work. Maybe you’ll even catch a little of our enthusiasm.
Starting simple, we’re kicking off with one of those features that, once you start using it, you can never go back to how things were before, it’s a game changer.
Co-authoring documents is already a hugely popular way of working, thanks, in part to pioneering software that actually sits outside the Microsoft product suite – online tools like Google Docs and Dropbox paper. But with Office 365 and SharePoint, collaboration isn’t just in-document, its joined up across the whole platform. Social sharing and live links let colleagues chat, collaborate, write and edit all in one place, all at the same time.
Collaboration on this scale will sound the death knell of Word documents as email attachments within companies, meaning no time spent uploading or download files, no time wasted saving and re-saving new versions of a document in the same network location as the old, and far less scrambling around trying to figure out where actually that is. System wide collaboration is the future – just share a link in a group chat window and unleash the combined skills and creativity of a whole team at once. Heck, why not Skype all the collaborators together and work in the same way you’d play Xbox.
If working in real-time seems a little daunting at first, after so many years of sole document ownership, that’s understandable, but it will become increasingly tough to hide from its myriad benefits over the next couple of years, so why be a laggard?
The way that many of the features within SharePoint are changing leaves us at risk of missing out. In order to keep the well known and much loved features of existing programs, improvements have arrived subtly, available to all, but not always obvious.
One such improvement, that promises to save us lot of time and boost efficiency is the integration between calendar and other office apps. When a note in OneNote or a thread on Yammer turns into something worth keeping track of in the diary, that can now be done instantly and effortlessly with the click of a button that prepopulates basic event information directly into Outlook. Not just a time saver, but a way to quickly and easily improve time management and the organisation of daily tasks.
Don’t just collaborate on working, collaborate on planning. It’s almost never a positive experience when you get sent a plan for the first time which details the work you’ll be delivering on a project, and when you’ll be delivering it. The natural reaction is often stress, sometimes with a hint of panic as your brain tries to figure out how that’ll fit with all the other projects and tasks on your to-do list.
Office 365 Planner offers the chance to make that whole task mapping process a team one, letting employees work together to shape the work they’ll be doing and fit it around all their other priorities. Not to mention letting them form a more realistic scope of the time and resources required to make each stage happen, based on the specialised experience of each member of the team.
Anyone who has worked for a large company will appreciate the meaning of ‘internal networking’. Professional services companies in particular seem set up to put a huge emphasis on internal networking for everything from finding the next project to getting the next promotion. But as almost everyone everywhere will attest to, networking isn’t something that is easy to do well.
One thing that really helps is enterprise social networking, and one place where that concept comes into its own is SharePoint. Being able to ‘follow’ others, keep tabs on what they’re working on and interested in and then engage with them gradually over time, can really take the sting out of the tail of internal networking. Embracing this technology to do more than co-ordinate with close colleagues and share a few jokes can be the hidden catalyst that sets employees on their fast-track career, opening up conversations based on news, ideas, challenges and solutions – conversations which would never have had the chance to get started in the physical office space.
There’s a lot on offer from a SharePoint intranet, and a lot of opportunities for employees to decisively up their game. Embracing even some of the technologies available will make working faster, easier, more efficient and more productive. On the flip side, the cost of remaining attached to out-dated processes has never been higher.