Microsoft’s SharePoint is a set of web technologies with an Office-like interface that’s designed to be usable by non-technical staff. It can be used to provide internet and intranet sites as well as enterprise document and content management.
At the core of SharePoint’s functionality is the site. A SharePoint site is a collection of pages, templates, lists and libraries. Sites can be used for blogs, team meetings, documents and more, and sub-sites can be used to extend the options available. A site can be created from scratch or built according to a package template.
Key components of sites are lists and libraries. These work in a similar way to database tables. For example, lists could be of links or external data sources. Libraries have the same features as lists but refer to files that are stored within SharePoint.
Sites are built using web parts. These are sections that can be inserted into pages to display content, and list items or functions such as searches. Pages themselves can be edited via the package’s ribbon toolbar so you can insert web parts at any point.
Integration and compliance
SharePoint works with a number of other Microsoft products. It integrates with Office (from Office 2007 onwards) and is compliant with the OpenXML document standard.
It also provides application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow it to integrate with other applications such as ERP software or other enterprise systems. It can be integrated with SQL servers too, allowing for database access and the ability to build a self-service business intelligence platform.
SharePoint 2013 introduced a Cloud App Model that allows users to create apps to extend the capabilities of the SharePoint solution. These can be hosted within the package itself or via an integrated cloud platform such as Microsoft Azure. Many ISPs offer hosted SharePoint support, allowing you to run it remotely.
The latest versions of SharePoint offer improved collaboration and social features that allow users to stay informed and share knowledge. The MySites feature allows the building of personal profiles and the package can also support wikis and organisation structures. All of this helps to ensure that knowledge is freely available within the organisation via an intranet and, more importantly, that it’s retained even when employees leave or move on to other roles.
This sharing can be achieved without added strain on the IT department too, thanks to a simplified permissions model which makes it easy for users to follow items in SharePoint without individual permissions needing to be granted.
Thanks to SharePoint features such as interactive dashboards, users can access and view the information in a way that suits their requirements. They can also share information in a secure way whilst using applications and tools with which they’re already familiar. Apps for mobile devices ensure more flexible access too. For the IT team, it offers centralised management and the ability to keep track of how and where data is being accessed. When taken together, what all of these features mean is that SharePoint can help your team work together and access the business intelligence they need when they need it.