SharePoint as a collaboration solution offers a multitude of functionality.  But how do you decide what features to use and what to implement first?  I have been designing and deploying SharePoint business solutions for over 10 years.  As a result, when I think about how an organization can best make use of the capabilities of SharePoint, I think about them as the Four Corners of a box that includes all the great things SharePoint can do.

In the first part of this four-part blog series, I discussed Corner 1 – Information Sharing.  The blog outlined how SharePoint Information Sharing tools makes it easy to provide diverse multi-media presentations of information. In my second installment, Corner 2 – Document Management, I reviewed how you can use SharePoint to create document management features.

Corner 3 – Collaboration

The concept of collaboration can mean different things to different people.  For some, collaboration means working with someone to create and edit a document.  For others, it means cooperative idea conceptualization.  Others might include formal project management and review processes to execute an idea.   In SharePoint, collaboration functionality supports all these different concepts and levels of people working together to meet a common goal.

This is the third way SharePoint can help your organization.

How SharePoint Facilitates Collaboration

I like to think about collaboration process design based on the concepts of formality, deliverables and scope:

  • Formality – How formal is the process? Are a couple of people spending an hour reviewing and updating the text of a document, or is a team of personnel creating a formal specification for a new product?  A more formal process usually means specific steps are followed, there are defined approvals, and the deliverable needs to be in a specific format.   We may need to record who completed the steps of the process.
  • Deliverables – What is the outcome(s) of the collaboration? Is it an email back to the client or dozens of files with specific formats?   More complex deliverables require more processes around editing, reviewing, and approving the output.
  • Scope – Scope is what needs to happen to create the deliverables. Scope helps us identify the tasks associated with our collaborative process.

To get the most out of using SharePoint to facilitate collaboration, we need to understand the deliverables of the collaboration, what we need to do to create the deliverables, and how formal the process needs to be. This allows us to identify how we can leverage SharePoint tools in the collaboration process.

SharePoint provides a variety of tools to facilitate collaboration:

  • Formality
    • track changes in your deliverables using versioning control
    • identify your deliverables using content types and metadata
    • set specific access to your deliverables
    • create review and approval workflows
    • use tasks to track assignment and completion
    • use discussion boards and surveys to record collaboration work outside the deliverables
  • Deliverables
    • use document templates to create consistent outputs
    • use SharePoint Alerts to notify team members that changes are occurring
    • use Office documents Track Changes functionality to manage content changes
  • Scope
    • use Task List templates to create repeatable work process
    • use SharePoint workflow to manage reviews, updates and approvals
    • use SharePoint Project sites to support projects

How to get started?

The best way to get the most out of your collaboration solution is to:

  1. Understand the capabilities it brings to the table
  2. Identify how to best leverage these capabilities
  3. Prioritize development and deployment

If you would like help to evaluate your work processes and determine how the SharePoint business and collaboration solution can work for you, contact us at info@peters.com or 630.832.0075 for a complimentary consultation.

Also, be sure to check out our next series blog The Four Corners of SharePoint Design – Part 4 focusing on Business Workflow next month.