What is the best way I can introduce SharePoint Online into my organization?

As a SharePoint Architect, I often get asked by clients how they can introduce SharePoint Online into their organization.  To answer this question, I think it’s extremely important for an organization to view Office 365 (O365) and SharePoint Online as online applications used to solve business problems. 

Getting Started

To get the most value out of O365 and SharePoint Online, focus your solution design based on leveraging the features the application brings to the table.   

These are the high-level business processes where I think O365 and SharePoint Online can provide value: 

  • Information Sharing 
  • Collaboration 
  • Business Records Management 
  • Business Workflow Automation 
  • Governance and Compliance Processing 

That’s great, my client responds, but what do we start with? 

Because O365 and SharePoint Online are online assemblies of many business applications, it can be overwhelming to organizations as to where to start.    In many cases, there may be more than one application in the O365 suite that can be utilized to solve a business problem.     

In those cases where the business wants to introduce the benefits of SharePoint Online without a larger overall plan/budget,  I typically recommend focusing on business workflow automation as a great way to demonstrate how O365 and SharePoint Online can help the organization. 

Why business workflow automation? 

  • Business workflow data and process steps typically can be readily defined to provide a clear scope of work and outcomes. 
  • Automating a single business process provides a clearer outcome for the project and can be more readily measured to validate the application adds business value. 
  • SharePoint and O365 provide a large toolset to create the elements of a business process application without the need for custom coding (SharePoint lists and libraries, workflow and forms, PowerApps and Flow). 
  • Business workflow automation typically has a smaller project timeline and workload than other types of deployments. 

Basic Steps to define the scope of a business workflow application: 

  • What is the data associated with the process?  This can be the values of fields in a form, files associated with the process, and information communicated verbally or via email. 
  • What are the steps in the process and who is associated with each step?   
    • Remember that there may be individuals and groups who have an impact on how each step is accomplished without actually interacting with the data.    
    • Define what access each individual and group should have to the data in the process. 
    • Once the process has finished, who should have access to the data?   Limit groups and individuals to just the level of access they need to accomplish their part of the process. 
    • Use the features of O365 and SharePoint to enforce population of all the data needed to make decisions and run the process. 
    • Specify how much time it should take for each step to complete. 
  • What are the rules and exceptions to the process?   This is usually the hardest part of the process to define.   Here are a few guidelines: 
    • The more exceptions to the process, the higher the complexity of the automation.   In some cases, it makes sense to adjust the process to remove the exception. 
    • It’s okay to handle infrequent exceptions manually. 
    • Often, it’s more efficient to initially create the application to handle all exceptions manually, then adjust the application as a later phase based on real-world experience. 
    • What information should be available to monitor the processing of each request or item? 

Need help to understand the capabilities of O365 and SharePoint Online or to design your business workflow application?   We’ve helped dozens of clients build workflow automation. Contact us at info@peters.com to discuss further.