- Mostly the documentation management features.
- Managing information such as events and announcements, document libraries, picture libraries, using calendars, lists and custom lists.
- Sharing files, document storage and retrieval, the check-in and check-out functionality, version history, custom properties, customized views, customizable workflows.
- Collaborative team sites for sharing and managing information.
- Search features, including advanced content processing, managed metadata, and continuous crawls.
- Security features, including permissions and document/page/site control.
Improvements to My Organization
We are now able to organize and control our documentation easily. Versioning, check in, check out and setting permissions for pages and sites enable us to manage our document and picture libraries without a fuss. We can now easily find documents within sites and pages, as long as documents are named and tagged appropriately. We can now create more complex workflows using SharePoint Designer, which is easy to use. However some improvements to SharePoint's workflow functionality could prove useful.
Approved and updated templates and documentation are now available on SharePoint. This ensures consistency and standardization across the organization. Documents and templates are centralized in this one repository, and only selected individuals are permitted to edit documents within the organization’s main documentation library.
There is transparency to the organization; whereas, previously there was none. Knowledge sharing and collaboration is more prevalent; therefore, communication has increased. We use the SharePoint home page to make company announcements, such as employee birthdays, anniversaries ,and upcoming events. We have also recently started using SharePoint to automate some of our manual processes.
Room for Improvement
SharePoint Designer enables creating workflows easily. However, they produce errors at times. There seems to be glitches which require workarounds to sort out. It is an amazing feature to have because workflows can fully automate processes that would otherwise be manual.
Use of Solution
SharePoint Foundation was found to be adequate to our prior business needs and has been used company-wide for the last two years. However, due to its limitations in features, a decision was recently made to move away from Foundation to either Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition.
We have not experienced any serious issues regarding stability, except for the minor glitches with workflows. As previously mentioned, we are still on the Foundation version. However, I believe if SharePoint has been properly set up on a stable server, using proper governance and a strong infrastructure, we should not experience major issues with stability.
We have not yet encountered any scalability issues. SharePoint 2013 is reportedly scalable. As long as the solution has been properly configured, our organization should not experience any foreseeable issues.
Customer Service and Technical Support
We have not engaged with technical support from Microsoft at this time. We deal directly with in-house technical support. We will definitely be using external technical support from Microsoft when moving over to the Standard or Enterprise Edition.
We were previously using a network drive that we accessed directly from our laptops and desktops. There was simply no control of information and documentation; and loss of information occurred. There were inadequate, non-existent, or deep folder structures, messy content structures, and a lack of document management and control. Versioning was done manually. Important documentation with sensitive information was being stored on local drives. Updated templates and documentation were not being used.
There was a fair amount of research, investigation and infrastructure planning involved prior to its implementation and setup. SharePoint was a new initiative that was attempted by our in-house team. Initial setup was not so straightforward. It was a bit complex, as it is with most new products; but we did eventually get it up and running.
Our technical team is now up-to-speed, and the current process moves smoothly. With that said, it is useful to have prior technical knowledge and experience in SharePoint in order to facilitate a smooth setup and integration process.
Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing
Pricing and licensing options are structured according to the size of the organization. Good business leaders make the best decisions and choose the best fit for their organizations based not only on its business needs, resources and budgets; but also based on what people at their organization need and will use. Make sure that all areas of the organization buy-into it. Don't invest in a solution that you have not properly investigated first. Weigh out all your options first.
Other Solutions Considered
The SharePoint project had already been initiated before I joined the organization. However, since we are only on Foundation, the organization has embarked on a comparison between SharePoint and Confluence. After proper investigation and research, it was decided that both solutions were useful in their own right. Confluence is a collaborative working tool; and SharePoint offered a documentation management solution.
SharePoint and Confluence integrate well with each other. Confluence also connects with SharePoint. The business leaders and decision makers of our organization decided to test the SharePoint solution using Foundation 2013. Based on user feedback and interaction with SharePoint Foundation, they have recently decided to go with the Enterprise version.
I advise organizations or business leaders to fully investigate and research SharePoint, as well as all the features that are available for each edition. Based on your business needs, it might or might not be the right fit for your company. Properly weigh out your options and make the right decision for your organization, based on what your organization’s needs; how people work; or ideally should work.
Indecisiveness from a management and leadership perspective on what tool to use reflects poorly on the rest of the organization. Therefore, people feel discouraged.
SharePoint is a great document management tool. It works for me and fits the specific needs of my job. However, while it works for me, it is not being used in the same way by the rest of the organization, or sometimes not at all. There must be buy-in. It is best to survey whether people in your organization find this tool useful, and help them understand how it could best be used. It is also in the best interests of the organization to consult with a SharePoint Expert before, while, and after implementing SharePoint. Many organizations implement the best tools without helping their people realize the full potential of their use. Therefore, people become wary of new technology. They don't welcome the change and fail to engage with the new product.
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Our organisation has a strategic partnership with Microsoft.