It is rare for a technology product to attract as much attention as SharePoint has in recent years. The industry has historically paid little attention to new product suites, particularly those related to web design. SharePoint products and technologies, however, have managed to excite and rejuvenate industry followers, causing them to take notice of the ease of use, scalability, flexibility, and powerful document management capabilities within the product. A number of organizational needs have spurred the adoption of SharePoint technologies. Some of the most commonly mentioned requirements include the following:
A need for better document management than the file system can offer—This includes document versioning, check-out and check-in features, adding metadata to documents, and better control of document access (by using groups and granular security). The high-level need is simply to make it easier for users to find the latest version of the document or documents they need to do their jobs, and ultimately to make them more efficient in those jobs.
Improved collaboration between users with a minimal learning curve— Although virtually everyone has a different definition of what comprises collaboration, a functional definition is a technology solution that allows users to interact efficiently with each other using software products to share documents and information in a user friendly environment. In regard to SharePoint, this typically refers to document and meeting workspaces, site collections, discussion lists, integration of instant messaging and presence information, and integration with the Office suite of applications. Integration with Office applications is a key component: Most organizations do not want to force users to learn a new set of tools to collaborate more effectively because users generally resist such requirements.
A better intranet—Although most companies have an intranet in place, the consensus is that it is too static, that it is not user friendly, and that every change has to go through IT or the “web guy.” This level of request generally comes from a departmental manager, team lead, or project manager frustrated with their inability to publish information to a select group of users and regularly update resources their team needs to do their jobs.
A centralized way to search for information—Rather than using the “word of mouth” search engine (that is, asking coworkers via email for a specific document), there should be an engine in place that allows the user to quickly and efficiently find particular documents. The user can search for documents that contain certain words; documents created or modified during a certain timeframe; documents authored by a specific person; or documents that meet other criteria, such as file type.
Creation of a portal—Many definitions exist for the term portal, but a general definition that a portal is a web-enabled environment that allows Internet and, potentially, external users to access company intellectual resources and software applications. A portal typically extends standard intranet functionality by providing features such as single sign-on, powerful search tools, and access to other core company applications such as help desk, human resources software, educational resources, and other corporate information and applications.
SharePoint is a set of products and technologies with informative and collaborative web-based capabilities that help people create, organize, distribute, and maintain stored knowledge. SharePoint web sites and pages are commonly used to build intranet and extranet portals and team sites, as well as public-facing Internet sites.
SharePoint is a great platform upon which to build applications and provides many key services in the greater story of the Microsoft Application Platform. SharePoint shows great maturity in terms of its user interface, database design, and workflow and communication features. It provides a standard interface with standard navigation, enabling users to focus on tools and information, not on learning how to navigate new menu controls.
SharePoint helps resolve database and business logic issues by providing a powerful complement to structured data – that is, a managed environment to store unstructured data that gets the information and business rules onto the network and out of local Excel files. SharePoint takes advantage of the first workflow platform built into an operating system and makes it easy for developers and power users to use Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) to automate business processes.