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Planning Your SharePoint 2013 Solution Strategy

This chapter starts with a discussion of what SharePoint is and clarifies its role as an application, a platform, and a framework. The remainder of the chapter provides a roadmap for framing your SharePoint solution strategy.
This chapter is from the book

According to Microsoft market research, nearly 80% of Fortune 500 companies are using SharePoint.1 Adding educational institutions, government agencies, small businesses, and nonprofits means that a significant number of people who go to work have access to SharePoint. But what does that really mean? Are all of these millions of SharePoint users getting value from the investments their organizations have made in SharePoint? It doesn’t take too much Internet research to find that the answer to this question is . . . “Not always.”

Our goal for this book is to help ensure that your organization can deliver value with your investment in SharePoint. One of the most powerful lessons learned from all of the previous releases of SharePoint is that truly successful SharePoint solutions have a significant user focus: from design to implementation to training to persistent communications. With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft has truly embraced this learning and has even overhauled the way it positions SharePoint. Instead of focusing on what SharePoint is, Microsoft is now focusing on what you can do with SharePoint. Understanding what you can do with SharePoint and what organizational problems you want to solve or scenarios you want to enable are critical inputs to business success. The most effective way to think strategically about SharePoint is to first make sure you have a good understanding of the business2 problem you want to solve. Start with an understanding of what you want to accomplish, and then evaluate the features and capabilities of SharePoint that are available to help achieve the desired outcome.

While Microsoft would like to position SharePoint by talking about what you can do with it, we assume there are people reading this book who need to frame their strategy by better understanding what SharePoint is all about. We begin this chapter with a discussion of what SharePoint is and clarify its role as an application, a platform, and a framework. The remainder of the chapter provides a roadmap for framing your SharePoint solution strategy.

SharePoint: What Is It?

In the past, a great deal of the confusion around SharePoint has related to the difficulty in defining what it is. SharePoint has been compared to a Swiss Army knife—multiple tools in a single package. The Swiss Army knife typically includes a blade as well as other tools, such as a screwdriver, can opener, nail file, and corkscrew. Similarly, SharePoint has some built-in capabilities such as file libraries, calendars, task lists, Web publishing tools, and blogs that can be used to solve a variety of organizational problems.

Just as the Swiss Army knife is not the right tool for constructing a house or making a complex recipe, SharePoint is not the tool that you will use to solve all organizational problems. SharePoint 2013 is positioned as the “new way to work together.”3 This simple definition helps put an appropriate lens on the classes of organizational problems that are appropriate for SharePoint—and on a way to answer the “What is it?” question. As stated earlier, rather than focus on what SharePoint is, Microsoft wants to change the question entirely and focus on how you can use SharePoint to get work done.

What does that mean? It means that there are classes of organizational problems that are well suited to SharePoint’s strengths, and those classes of problems are those that require collaborative work—both directly and indirectly. For example, SharePoint can be used to

  • Share information with your employees on your intranet: because this is where you collaborate and communicate with your employees. Internally, the information that you share is about both people and content—and SharePoint enables both document-based and conversation-based internal collaboration.
  • Share information with trusted nonemployees on your extranet: because this is where you collaborate with your current partners, suppliers, and even customers.
  • Share information with your organization’s teams and communities: because this is how day-to-day work gets done.
  • Share individual documents securely with people on an ad hoc basis: because this is how to get some control over the myriad document-sharing methods that put your organization at risk.
  • Enable ad hoc and more permanent conversations: because this is how people develop relationships and learn from one another.
  • Organize the information shared in each of these solution environments: because this will make it easier to find information consistently.
  • Showcase key business data from operational systems: because this will enable individual and collaborative decision making.
  • Manage the life cycle of the information in your organization: because this will ensure that your content is compliant with the business rules and legal requirements of your organization or industry.
  • Discover enterprise information: because this is how you can ensure that your users can get work done.
  • Share information about your organization on your public-facing Web site: because this is the site where you collaborate and communicate with your external existing and prospective customers, partners, and suppliers. Of course, not all Web sites today are collaborative, but many of the most interesting and engaging sites have a collaborative component.

SharePoint includes features that make it particularly well suited to deliver information such as documents, videos, blogs, discussions, expertise, and even business data. But the overall goal for SharePoint solutions is to provide an environment in which this information can be used to solve organizational problems.

Not to leave the information technology (IT) community out of the conversation, SharePoint also includes capabilities for developers to use to build these applications and for IT professionals to use to manage the risk, cost, and time associated with the solutions that are enabled with SharePoint.

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