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Understanding Organizational Uses of SharePoint Technologies

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Sharepoint is suddenly a hot subject. But if you're new to the subject, it might be hard to figure out what the shouting's all about. In this sample book chapter, you'll learn about specific areas where benefits can be realized from SharePoint, and how some organizations are using the technology.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Unlike many software applications developed for a specific purpose (for example, an email application for sending messages back and forth, a calendaring application for managing appointments and meetings, an accounting application to maintain financial records), SharePoint technologies provide a framework that can be used for many different types of functions. The extent of what SharePoint can do is limited only by the creativity and imagination of the developers and users. This chapter explores some of the ways organizations can use SharePoint technologies to improve the efficiency and decision-making power of their employees.

Why Would an Organization Want to Use SharePoint?

From an end-user viewpoint, SharePoint includes many "cool" features such as being able to tell when specific group members are online so that "chat sessions" or instant messaging can occur, and the ability to set up a personal Web page with things such as the latest local weather report. However, an organization's management is not going to install SharePoint so that its employees can have instant messaging services or create their own customized Web pages. Management is concerned with the bottom line, which is affected by the productivity of employees. In a typical organization, many obstacles result in reduced productivity. Some of these obstacles include

  • Lack of an efficient mechanism for sharing knowledge, resulting in duplication of effort. For example, User A needs to create a document and does not know that User B created a similar document, which could have saved User A many hours of work.

  • Inability to find information, resulting in wasted time. Carrying the previous example one step further, even if User A knows that User B created a document similar to what User A needs to produce, User A spends an hour trying to find the document and then finally gives up and starts from scratch.

  • IT departments backlogged with requests for granting employees access to applications or information and/or application customization, resulting in the inefficient "manual" way of doing things. An example of this situation is the Payroll department that wants to make pay-stub information available online to employees, and thus has put in a request to IT to make this happen. Until it does, the Payroll department needs to take the time to respond to employee requests for this information.

  • Budgetary restraints, resulting in a lack of funding for hardware and software that could improve productivity. For example, an organization has recently purchased a new accounting system but has only purchased user licenses for accounting department personnel. Other departments, such as operations, could benefit from having access to the accounting data but must rely on putting in requests to the accounting department, or continue making decisions based on estimates rather than actual data.

  • Applications difficult to use, resulting in lack of information accessible to users. For example, an organization has implemented SAP, but it requires intensive training to know enough about the application to retrieve the desired information. Therefore, the organization is not taking advantage of the information provided by the application.

As is shown in this chapter, SharePoint addresses many of these issues. This chapter focuses on some specific areas where benefits can be realized from the use of SharePoint and demonstrates how some organizations are currently using the technology. This chapter focuses on the generic use of SharePoint 2003.

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