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ECM – SharePoint – Gain Momentum for Your Business

Microsoft for Enterprise

At the end of 2016, the magazine MIT Technology Review, issued by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, published a list of the 50 most innovative and efficient business enterprises (“50 Smartest Companies 2016”). In 26th place in the ranking was the American company Microsoft, valued at $405 billion. This is probably the biggest company around the globe operating in the information technology industry.

The company was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and by 2012, it already held 10,000 patents on various inventions. In 2015, journalists at Business Insider ranked Microsoft in third place among the richest brands. This was based on the value and visibility of the company. It is certainly sufficient to say that Microsoft remains an influential, thriving corporation, known primarily for its operating systems and Microsoft Office software suite. However, the company’s management announced at a press conference that the product bringing the greatest profit and growth to the company was Microsoft Azure. This is nothing but a platform/cloud that provides mechanisms for processing and storing data.

Azure is often used to work by sole traders, medium-sized and larger companies. Other Microsoft software used to organise and manage the companies human and physical resources is the SharePoint platform. Comparing customer opinions about the application quite often yields mixed responses. Some praise SharePoint, others prefer to work according to different principles. The latter often return a poor evaluation due to unsuccessful attempts at SharePoint implementation. This could be due to lack of user involvement, or passive engagement with the platform. Ignorance about the new environment could discourage, leading ultimately to an unsuccessful attempt at SharePoint implementation. Guidelines for managers could enhance the workplace.

The platform used by employees should have a clean, uncomplicated interface, and even have the potential for certain kinds of entertainment. Examples might be photographs of important company events, posts concerning employees of the month, birthdays or joint trips. Several factors suggest that SharePoint implementation is worth the effort, as the potential of this software is there to be exploited. Such factors include:

  • Automation of business processes (the end of paperwork, manual signatures, and even sending e-mails. Everything is done within the platform, and often with just a single click).
  • Quick and easy work with documents (when several people are working on one document, SharePoint does not block access to anyone. The information is constantly updated).
  • All information in one place (relevantly catalogued and tagged to facilitate and shorten time for working in the future).

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is a place that is used for group work. Participants in a given project have constant and fast access to necessary information. Each employee, by logging in using a unique password to connect to the network, can switch between tasks, connect with supervisors, and access plans, instructions, documents and announcements. What is more, the system can be extended to cover subpages, and SharePoint does not require special technical skills.

The platform is the brainchild of the Microsoft team. The company developed the software to facilitate the administration of complex web applications. In addition, SharePoint implementation within a company increases the security of web pages and of documents and files imported between the server and the client. Other features of the platform include server integration and the option for webmasters to undertake application maintenance. It is worth noting that Microsoft offers a SharePoint trial version free of charge, and that only purchasing the premium version (offering many more options) attracts additional fees.

The SharePoint Wheel

So extensive are the features and functionalities offered by SharePoint implementation that Microsoft decided to identify six major ones in the “SharePoint wheel”. These are:
1. Sites – SharePoint is the main control centre of a company, a place to manage sites and which guarantees security and protection. Importantly, no specialist expertise is required in this respect.
2. Communities – the platform is perfectly suited for institutions with many branches and employees scattered around the globe, or working according to a matrix organisational structure (the hierarchy of the company being director, deputy director subordinate to the director, with, for example, responsibility for finance, marketing, human resources, operational departments, or managers of teams A, B, C or D. In each team is an employee from one of the departments, and a finished project can be exchanged between employees in individual groups, which prevents routine), which is often considered to be the most effective; It enables communication between employees and whole project groups, quickly, easily and conveniently.
3. Content – providing a place (servers) where customers can add files such as various types of documents that can later be modified using a web browser.
4. Search Insights – forms a database of documents and employees. Thanks to correct cataloguing, this information can easily be searched later.
5. Composites – solves problems on the level of page modification and source code editing.
6. Insights – well-described information assigned to appropriate concepts can be more easily exploited later, which translates into increased efficiency.

sharepoint wheel

Where to Use SharePoint

There are three most popular ways of using SharePoint in companies. These are:

  • Websites – the software is used to serve public websites.
  • Internet portals – SharePoint focuses access to data and applications across a company’s entire network.
  • Information management – storing, managing, cataloguing and modifying data in electronic form.
Sharepoint implementation - SII

Hardware and Software Requirements

Companies that opt for SharePoint implementation for organising work should bear in mind the hardware requirements. This usually poses no great problem, as the platform is compatible with most available and popular operating systems.

Server hardware requirements for SharePoint implementation:

  1. Processor – four core, 64-bit.
  2. RAM – 8GB for developers and standard use, or at least 12 GB for production use on the server.
  3. HARD DRIVE – 80 GB for fast system operation and room to store information.
  4. SOFTWARE – Windows Server 2008 SP2 (64-bit), Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016 versions: Standard, Enterprise, Data Center, or Web Server and Windows 7 (64-bit) or Windows Vista (64-bit).
  5. SERVER DATABASES – Microsoft SQL Server 2016, Microsoft SQL Server 2014, Microsoft SQL Server 2012, Microsoft SQL Server 2010, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (64-bit) R2, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (64-bit) with Service Pack 1 and Cumulative Update 2 (Reporting Services Integration requires Cumulative Update 8), Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (64-bit) SP2.
  6. SOFTWARE:
  • Web browsers: Internet Explorer 7 – 10 (fully supported), Microsoft Edge (fully supported), Mozilla Firefox 51.0.1 (current as of 28 01 2017, stable version supported with limitations), Apple Safari 10.0.2 (supported, with limitations), Google Chrome 55.0.2883 (current as of 28.01.2017, supported with limitations).
  • Applications supporting SharePoint: Microsoft Office, Windows Phone (from 7).

SharePoint Implementation in the Company

Experts suggest that SharePoint is currently the most effective company suport and management solution. The platform operates as and information and communication channel for employees of smaller companies and corporations around the world. Its extended functionality is not limited to two applications. SharePoint implementation makes it much easier to improve administrative processes in a company, and for this reason the software is constantly being expanded and enriched with fixes and additional capabilities.

When deploying SharePoint in a company, it is sound practice to implement the Deming Cycle, commonly known as PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act/Adjust). This process is the brainchild of William Edwards Deming, and American statistics specialist working in Japan. There are two versions of PDCA – the original and the popular. The popular PDCA cycle works as follows:

Step one – PLAN – do not settle for the first action plan stumbled upon. Analyse all the possibilities and select the best one.

Step two – DO – follow every point of the plan strictly (in trial version first), under real time conditions.

Step three – CHECK – analyse whether the implemented plan is more efficient and effective than the one previously in place.

Step four – ADJUST – if the planned activities prove to be efficient and fulfil their role, make them the norm for standard operating procedures, and monitor them continuously.

When Might SharePoint Implementation Fail?

Although SharePoint is an intuitive platform that does not require a great deal of skill to operate, the implementation process itself is about more than just installation and configuration. The following are some of the mistakes made by companies encountering the programme for the first time:

Mistake one – lack of training

An employee who does not know how the programme operates will probably be frustrated and discouraged from continuing engagement with the system during the first week. It is important not to skip practical training during SharePoint implementation, as pure theory is not sufficient. Employees should engage with real business cases which they may encounter.

Mistake two – poorly fitting solutions

The manager responsible for Sharepoint implementation within the company does not take into account employees’ work processes, and in particular those which apply to software.  Enforcement, coercion, and attempting to exploit all the functions of the system at once can slow down the performance of the company. A better solution is for the employee or consultants organising SharePoint implementation to first assess needs, and then develop an interface that matches the nature and activity of the company.

Mistake three – lack of planning

As a company has specific, one-off (such projects and programmes) and ongoing plans (defining corporate policy), SharePoint implementation should be carried out in accordance with the agenda. This is easy to see, for example, in the way a weekly journal operates on the market. The management board of the publication plans to implement an electronic edition, which is associated with specific procedures, employee training (often broadening staff qualifications), and different distribution of tasks. The first thing required is planning for the end result and effective control of processes, after which success will transpire and profits gained.

It is the same with SharePoint implementation, which requires the development of specific strategies, usually based on consultation with employees, so that the operation of the platform remains under control.

It should be remembered that our goals should be:

  • Timely – they could be achieved in given a period of time.
  • Ambitious – they inspired curiosity and motivated employees to meet them.
  • Rational – the objectives should have the goal of advancing the company, while not overestimating the strengths of employees.
  • Clearly measurable – so that you can determine the degree to which they have been reached, the level of progress, and which parts have been completed.
  • Specific – clearly defined, and unambiguous for all employees.

Mistake four – failure to address issues

The value of SharePoint implementation is that it allows processes to be controlled, irregularities in the operation of the company to be highlighted, and problems to be diagnosed. Then you can develop a process to resolve them, and it is at that point that we need SharePoint. An example of this could be the time-consuming process of submitting leave applications in company X.

After establishing standards (for example, the waiting time for a decision about whether leave is to be granted) discussions with employees, and analysis of documents, you can determine which procedures should be implemented to reduce the time taken by this process to a minimum. In this case, the manager develops an electronic platform for leave applications in SharePoint. This saves time, avoids multi-step verification by superiors, and even reduces the materials used in the process of completing a written application.

Protection of Server Farms

Data centres, commonly called server farms, are places designed to keep operational computer equipment including, among other things, servers, data storage devices (storage) and network infrastructure. Such places gather together enormous amounts of information, and therefore use a great deal of energy. For example, Google’s demand for electricity is the equivalent of the average output of two traditional coal plants. In 2015, the corporation had about 24 server farms around the world, each using between 30 and 50 megawatts. The Data Centre Knowledge service estimated that two Google searches theoretically produce as much carbon dioxide as an energy saving lightbulb lit constantly for 60 seconds, or as a kilometre drive in a car. In contrast, listing and running a complete auction on Allegro translates to the production of 18 grams of CO2. Over the last decade, however, it great emphasis has also been placed on ecology, behind which also lies energy saving.

An important problem for engineers to solve is how to provide higher performance equipment with low energy consumption. This has, in part, been achieved in relation to available computing power. A few years ago, 126 servers were required to carry out 5.1 million operations. Today, the same number of operations can be carried out with just 17 servers – a dramatic reduction of up to 80%.

Modern machines are smaller, more efficient and safer for data storage. Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, announced in 2014 that the company had more than a million servers storing data. SharePoint Central Administration deals with, among other things, security issues and protection. It is installed on one server in the farm, allows information to be managed via a centralised interface, and offers technical configuration in the event of failure.