During these trying times that the entire world is facing with COVID-19, many companies are trying to figure out how to survive. In many instances it may not be safe, or even allowed for workers to go to the office and provide the necessary services for the company. The question on most business owners’ minds is “How do I keep my workers safe while ensuring that my business can remain functional?”
In some cases, this may not be possible due to the nature of the business, for example bars that are considered a high risk. What about your company, can services still be provided while the office doors are closed or with limited employees onsite? The answer for many of you is yes, but can SharePoint fill all of your needs? That answer would be specific to each company, it’s not a one size fits all solution.
At BLU we have been using Office 365 for over a year, this has allowed us to “shut” the doors of our office without a significant impact to our business. We are now a Virtual Team and still function effectively while ensuring that our users do not notice a difference. We collaborate on documents, meet together, have whiteboard sessions and much more. The focus of this blog, however, would not be Office 365 as a whole, but SharePoint Online. It should be noted that while there are other effective remote work solutions, we are focusing on SharePoint because we have found this to be effective for us.
What is SharePoint Online – Put VERY simply SharePoint is a document storage solution that allows users to access company documents. SharePoint can be configured with varying permission levels to restrict or grant access to data as necessary. This document storage can then be presented to users in the form of a website that they can easily navigate.
Accessible Anywhere – One major advantage of SharePoint Online is that it’s accessible from anywhere. This means that once you have a device with an Internet connection, SharePoint is available to you. You read that right, a device, this means that you can use a phone, a tablet or a laptop…. Whatever is available to you at that point in time. I’ve had the experience of working from my phone (multiple times) on while waiting for my wife to finish an appointment, from the comfort of my car. In this case because of the Pandemic, everyone at BLU is working from home and using the internet connections available to them.
Updates – Because business/IT requirements and security are always changing; updates have become a necessary part of any application. An advantage of SharePoint online is that Microsoft plans and handles all updates. We are notified of these updates in advance and what we may need to do in order to prepare for them. This ensures that our productivity is not affected by these updates. It also ensures that we receive all new features available in the application.
Centralized Data Store – All of your company’s data is stored in one place. This means that even if an employee’s laptop crashes, no data will be lost. The major benefit of this while working from home is that email storage doesn’t have to be used up by sending various copies of the same file throughout the organization. Instead of emailing the file, a link to the file can be sent. Before we migrated to SharePoint we constantly had to check to see who had the latest version of a document before we could begin editing. If that person wasn’t available, precious time would be wasted waiting for them to send the document. The intended user(s) can then pick up where you left off and just inform you when the necessary changes are made. Sharing the link to documents also facilitates Collaboration.
Collaboration – In SharePoint, this means that multiple users can work on the same document simultaneously. No need to wait for someone to update a document and then send the updated version, collaboration saves time. While working from home your staff can increase their efficiency by getting their proposals/solutions out faster to customers. This could also remove the need for some meetings because we are seeing what is done in real time and can make changes and or comment in documents to provide our feedback. This feature is one of my favourite features in SharePoint. It should be noted that this collaboration can work if you are using both the online or offline versions of office.
Versioning – What happens if someone makes changes to your document that you don’t like? Do you have to manually go and fix everything yourself? NO. SharePoint supports versioning; this means that SharePoint saves copies of your document as you go along so you can go back to a previous version. The feature is very easy to use and has saved time even when I changed my mind about what I wanted in a document.
Delve – Delve helps you to see what your colleagues are working on. This is a great feature, but it is not intrusive. Delve only gives you updates on SharePoint files (and emails) that you already have access to. This means that you don’t need to wait for the link to be sent to you but you can locate the file and start editing from right there. The Image above shows a snapshot of our delve setup and some documents that we are using to prepare for our upcoming webinar.
Presentation – SharePoint online allows you to present all your data/documents on a website or websites to allow different users access to the data. Presenting the information on web pages allows us to control how the data is displayed by using various web parts. The customization allows us to take full advantage of our data and show users the relevant information to get their jobs done effectively.
I guarantee you that these are not all of the benefits of SharePoint online, they are just some that I found to be personally useful. I would also like to repeat that SharePoint is effective for us but that doesn’t mean that it would be effective for everyone. Different companies have different requirements; in our upcoming 2-part Webinar series entitled “Remote Work – The Virtual Team” we will discuss how SharePoint can be used effectively in different use cases. We will also cover different organizational scenarios and show the importance of the need for an in-depth understanding of your requirements before selecting a solution. Please use the link to register for the Webinar.
Jeremy John has been in the technology field for over 10 years. He now serves in the position of Network Engineer – Team Lead at BLU Networks Consultancy Limited.
My name is Jeremy John and I’ve been in the technology field for over 10 years. During my time I have had experience with different areas of IT ranging from computer repairs to engineering. I now serve in the position of Network Engineer – Team Lead at BLU Networks Consultancy Limited. In this role I have been a part of many meaningful projects that have allowed me to grow as an individual as well as train others to be better. One of my greatest achievements is designing a zero trust network for a major financial organization that ranges from their Head Office to all of their branch locations. During this project Active Directory integration, SD WAN and many other wonderful technologies were deployed.
I hold certifications from Microsoft, Fortinet, Juniper and others. Although I have accomplished much in the IT field, I believe that there is always more to learn and room to grow. My goal is to continue developing both professionally and personally so that my family, employers and customers can continue to see me as someone who delivers on what is promised.