Has anyone ever asked you, “what is SharePoint?” Or perhaps you’ve been the questioner, innocently curious about this enigma of an application. If you work in IT like I do, it’s a question a lot like “what is time?”—I was sure I knew the answer until I tried to explain it.  

The fact is, since its inception in 2001, SharePoint has been a lot of things…or perhaps you could say that it has been made into a lot of things. SharePoint can be an intranet platform, a document management system, a social networking site, a collaboration space, a project management solution, a process automation tool, or a development platform for a myriad of other possible uses. And at Symplexity, we’ve been part of our fair share (pun intended?) of SharePoint implementations, upgrades, migrations, clean-ups, and rescues—you could say we’ve just about seen it all. And we’ve learned a lot of things along the way. But perhaps the most indispensable lesson-learned has been to let SharePoint be SharePoint. 

I know, that begs the question we began with—”what is SharePoint!?” Well, sometimes it’s easiest to define something by clarifying what it is not: If it requires custom code or the purchase and integration of a third-party add-on, then (by definition) it’s not SharePoint—at least not out-of-the-box SharePoint.  

Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when I would recommend and have recommended the use of some code or an add-on to accomplish a targeted need. But sadly, on many SharePoint implementations, this seems to have been the first impulse rather than the last resort. SharePoint does so many things well right out of the box that it’s a shame not to start by leveraging these tools to their full potential. 

For most Microsoft applications (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, OneNote) we happily use them as they come to us—ok, maybe we add a personal theme in the ribbon. But with SharePoint, for some reason, there is a nigh-irresistible impulse to create custom features or a branded UI before we let our team use it. (Food for thought: why don’t we brand Excel?) What if we stopped thinking of SharePoint as a development platform and started thinking of it more like a business application? Might we stem the tide of SharePoint installs that are over budget or—worse—going unused completely, even though the licenses have already been paid for!? 

It should go without saying—but bears worth repeating—that the purpose of purchasing a business application is so that it can create value for the business. But somehow, with zeal to create the perfect intranet, SharePoint can become a Frankenstein. Then, aghast at the monsters they’ve brought to life, many businesses are trying to eliminate or minimize the customization on their sites, recognizing the licensing costs, maintenance costs, delays, and speed issues which can result. 

The way to avoid this fate is to bring together these 2 important bodies of knowledge: 

  1. What are the important business goals that you want to achieve? 
  2. What can SharePoint do, out of the box? 

You’ll notice that neither of these requires a SharePoint Developer! To start getting value from SharePoint, first you need a relevant understanding of the challenges and opportunities in your business. Then, you need access to detailed knowledge of how SharePoint works. The magic happens when we identify where these 2 come together. You’ll get your team using SharePoint sooner, cheaper, and with less maintenance—and it’s a lot less scary. 

At Symplexity, it is our passion to help you achieve your business goals with technology. That’s why we have both Business Analysts and SharePoint/O365 technical experts on our team—to make the complex simple, so you can make SharePoint work for you. 

Kevin is a Business Analyst for Symplexity. He helps with strategic change in an organization by clarifying needs and recommending solutions that deliver strategic value for the business. He works with business leaders, front-line staff, and technical experts to analyze the tools and processes in an organization, identify strategic goals, and break complex problems into understandable, actionable, prioritized pieces that produce value.

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