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Microsoft SharePoint: 7 Ways To Achieve More

SharePoint is used by most of the Fortune 500 -- so why do we still hate it so much? Here's how to make Microsoft's intranet platform work better for you.

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Among major enterprise technology products, Microsoft's SharePoint is something of a Catch 22. On one hand, surveys routinely conclude that around 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies use the platform. But despite widespread adoption, surveys also find a lot of dissatisfaction; according to two Forrester reports released last month, between 50 percent and 60 percent of SharePoint users dislike it.

This dissonance is striking. Microsoft Excel and Word, for example, are even more ubiquitous than SharePoint but neither suffers the same widespread criticism. Yes, some claim that Google Apps and other competitors are good enough to be used in place of Office products -- and if you have specific needs, they might be. But even among these dissenters, you'd be hard-pressed to find many who deny Excel and Word offer superior features and more wide-ranging applications.  

But despite a huge user base, SharePoint doesn't command this kind of support from customers. What gives?

[What can Yammer do for your business? Read Is Yammer-SharePoint Integrate Right For You?]

To a degree, the product gets its reputation because it can be hard to use, not just for regular workers but also for the developers who write custom code for their employers' SharePoint deployments. But Microsoft has made the product more user friendly over time, with SharePoint 2013 being a notable step forward. This shifts some emphasis to inadequate planning by customers.

One of SharePoint's biggest strengths is that it's extremely malleable; it can be a social collaboration platform, a portal for shared resources, a launch pad for enterprise apps, the backbone for websites, and much more. But this flexibility can cause problems; because SharePoint needs to be shaped, it doesn't just "work" out-of-box. It's a collection of tools that can help businesses execute a plan -- but there has to be a plan in the first place.

How can your business get the most out of SharePoint? Here are seven tips to consider.

1. SharePoint deployments require careful planning.
Before actually installing SharePoint, businesses must first negotiate a number of obstacles -- and those who cut corners often pay the price later. SharePoint works with a lot of other products, such as Windows, SQL databases, and Active Directory. As IT prepares infrastructure and provisions accounts, it needs to ensure that any resources tangent to SharePoint are operating correctly.

But that's only part of the challenge. SharePoint is valuable largely because it organizes and displays information in ways that help employees be more productive and collaborative. But this only works if companies sweat the details on certain tasks, such as defining site taxonomies.

According to recent survey data from research firm Forrester, fewer than half of SharePoint customers have had a positive deployment experience. Some 39 percent of survey respondents reported difficulty with custom code, and almost 30 percent experienced management and security problems.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Will all SharePoint sites across the company intranet need to maintain the same look and feel? How can this be implemented without affecting the user experience? Has the company planned employee training to avoid common pain points? The questions and decisions are numerous, but careful strategizing can be the difference between a successful SharePoint deployment and one that underwhelms.

2. Yammer is becoming a bigger part of the SharePoint end-user experience.
"Enterprise social" has been a buzz phrase over the last year, and Microsoft has been transparent in its intention to make Yammer a leader in this space by integrating it into SharePoint. The company began making good on some of its promises this fall, with additions such as the ability to initiate Yammer conversations from within SharePoint documents.

This progression is significant. In an August report titled "Is Yammer + SharePoint Right For You?" Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz wrote that Yammer will become the front-facing tool, with SharePoint providing document management on the back end. Many end-users have had a rocky relationship with SharePoint, so this evolution will be something to watch.

The report found 53 percent of users have no plans to adopt Yammer, but a quarter of the group said they've resisted SharePoint because they aren't ready for enterprise social in general. Only 23 percent of these respondents said they are using a competing solution instead. It's also notable that though social and mobile go hand-in-hand in many ways, Forrester data shows that SharePoint's mobile capabilities, a major aspect of SharePoint 2013, are not currently a priority for many businesses.

3. Just because SharePoint has many uses doesn't mean you should use it for everything.
SharePoint can do a lot, but that doesn't mean all its functions are equally useful for all customers. Corridor Company CEO Russ Edelman wrote in InformationWeek earlier this year that companies were learning SharePoint's merits and limitations. Many found it great for public-facing websites, contract life cycle management, case management, human resource portals, and similar tasks, he said, but others ran into walls that required workarounds. If SharePoint isn't an ideal inventory management tool, it can still serve as the portal into a more robust system, Edelman said.

This point underscores the importance of planning. By examining use cases in which SharePoint excels or struggles, businesses can better understand how the product's limitations and potential apply to their specific needs.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
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User Rank: Apprentice
1/9/2014 | 7:59:41 PM
Build SharePoint intranets for power business users
I work for a third-party SharePoint Business Application Template company that has helped hundreds of clients get SharePoint to work for them. We are the only company offering an entire SharePoint Business Suite that runs on premise or in the cloud through SharePoint Online. We focus on small to medium sized businesses that need help increasing the effectiveness and user adoption of their SharePoint solutions.

In response to the article, I agree with all of the points but I must emphasize number 6. Many of the businesses that adopt SharePoint, for whatever reason, cannot afford to have a consultant or full time person to build and manage their implementation. There are many reliable and affordable options for third-party help with SharePoint. My company, SP Marketplace (, is receiving more and more demand for our product every day. Our templates are fully customizable and designed to greatly increase user adoption and effectiveness, therefore improving ROI. 

Check us out at our website or search for us on youtube if you would like more information.
IW Pick
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 8:11:18 AM
The catch 22
SharePoint really is a diverse platform and that's why I think it gets such hate at times.  It can be as simple as an intranet site used for company announcements and simple informational messages or it can be a beast of burden and house everything from calendars to providing an interface to Access databases.  I've seen it used extremely well and I've seen it used not so well.  In most cases it falls somewhere in the middle where it's done just well enough not to drive a company to scrap it but it's not done well enough that people look to it as their first pick solution.   2013 bringing a better mobile experience will help this but services like Dropbox are going to be hard to unseat as document stores but if you're only looking for a document store then you probably shouldn't be looking at SharePoint in the first place.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 3:19:19 PM
SharePoint Functionality
New to SharePoint I find it pretty easy to maneuver if you have some time to sit around and work with the different features.  We are provided a lot of learning tools to reference if you do run into an issue with SharePoint.  I am excited to hear that SharePoint 2013 has good enhancements!
User Rank: Apprentice
11/17/2013 | 5:15:50 PM
The # 1 MAM and User Experience Upgrade is missing from this article
As one of the first 5 developers in SharePoint (powered the Xbox website when SharePoint 2002 was called "microsoft for internet business"), my comment is simple:  You can save a lot of pain, dramatically increase user adoption, by adding our User Experience layer and self-service Mam functionality into any SharePoint deployment.  Visualize all the files, extract the metadata on ingestion, view all the files (over 450 filetypes and counting) from any browser or device, add html5 video support for a "Business EQTube Experience" for all your users.  Do this in a couple of days quickstart and easy deploy, then "Instant-On" the capabilities in any library.  To be clear, this is not a simple plug-in like many of the mentioned "utilities" in this article.  This is enterprise class infrastructure upgrade to SharePoint that has been adopted by hundreds of SharePoint enterprises to supply millions of dollars per year in productivity gains and approvals acceleration...This will save IT and Marketing departments massive amounts of time and money, while making your users smile. Consider us for a scalablle enterprise adoption and business accelerator and make your users and management very happy. SC Johnson, Monsanto, World Vision, Bentley, L'Oreal and hundreds of other companies are enjoying the benefits of MediaRich ECM for SharePoint. Watch the intro video here:
IW Pick
User Rank: Ninja
11/16/2013 | 5:07:32 PM
Use it to it's capabilities
You have to use sharepoint for what it is capable of doing. For instance, it's not a document management system so don't use it as one. It's good for sharing info within a company. I'm not saying its the greatest but it does the job if you know the limitations of it.
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/16/2013 | 2:22:29 PM
Sharepoint is what you make of it
It's a contradiction, but Microsoft is the king of having products that a lot of people use but don't particularly like. Sharepoint is a leading example. Sharepoint may suffer from complexity but it was never designed to be a plug-and-play product. If IT and business groups sit down and map out what they need to use Sharepoint for -- and don't worry about using every feature -- then Sharepoint can be very useful. Having Yammer integrated for social is a big plus. Increased adoption of Yammer via Sharepoint seems inevitable.
Susan Fogarty
Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 1:26:47 PM
Suffering with SharePoint
Your point about SharePoint needing customization is the key. I have worked with SharePoint in several of my jobs and in none of those cases has the IT department made the effort to make the platform a useful tool. I think you really need a speacilaist or someone experienced to get the most out of it, especialy the new version which apparently has lot of great features. Unfortunately every time I have used SP, it ended up as a huge, unmanageable document dump.
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