SharePoint in Context
This article applies to: Office 365 Productivity Bundle
SharePoint is a powerful, flexible tool that can help you and your group work better together, stay more informed, and automate tasks that you currently take care of manually.
With that flexibility comes some complexity. Because it's designed to be adapted to the needs of your group or project, SharePoint doesn't make any assumptions about what features you need, the way most consumer applications do. It's largely up to you.
This means that more work is required getting started, but once that's done, you should have an application that fits your specific needs, and that can be adjusted as your needs change.
Like building a house
Getting started with SharePoint is kind of like building a house. An IT@Cornell site collection administrator can provide you with a lot to build in, and Microsoft will drop off building materials, then the rest is up to you.
In the same way that you probably wouldn't end up with a very satisfying house if you just started nailing lumber and boards together without first creating blueprints or plans, starting a SharePoint site without first sorting out what it will do, and how, is likely to leave you dissatisfied with the results.
Prepare, learn, and create
So that you have the best odds of reaching your goal of a SharePoint site that brings real benefits, CIT recommends you:
Clearly identify what role you hope your SharePoint site will fill.
Do you need a common space where your group can share documents, notes, or discussions? Or perhaps manage forms or documents that need to be processed a certain way? Most tasks that require more than one person's attention can be handled well by SharePoint, and to get best results, it's important to understand as clearly as possible what you need to accomplish. Microsoft provides some examples you can use for brainstorming at the Discover SharePoint site.
Decide who will build your site
Creating a SharePoint site is kind of similar to building a website, but with a completely different set of rules. You'll need someone to translate your business needs into settings and apps in your SharePoint site, and that requires some specialized skills. For this, you can
- Use a resource chosen by your site collection administrator.
- Commission someone to do it for you, like Cornell Custom Web Development.
- Train yourself or someone on your team to do it.
Whichever path you take, remember that the work is not done when the site launches. Over time, you'll probably need updates made to the site and questions answered for people who need guidance on how to use it.
Make sure the people who use the site are comfortable with SharePoint
If you were introducing someone who had no prior experience to an organizing system of filing cabinets and folders, you'd probably want to show them how they were expected to put information into it. In the same way, it's very important that people newly introduced to SharePoint have some training to help them make sense of an unfamiliar environment. CIT frequently offers SharePoint Online training. Supplemental online courses are available through Cornell's campus license to Lynda.com.
Because it's a new experience, SharePoint can be a little intimidating to people if their introduction to it is a grand, complex application. If your group wants to test the waters first, try something simple, like a shared document library, notebook, or events calendar. You can always try something more complex once you're all more familiar with what it's like to use the service.
SharePoint is a great tool. Give it a try.
Taking all the the above into account, SharePoint can take care of a wide variety of business needs around the university. Getting started involves some work, just like organizing paper documents is more work initially than stacking them in piles around the office and trying to remember what's where. In the long run, the time you save can more than make up for the time spent upfront, and everything is much easier when you introduce someone new to your team.