For many enterprises, team collaboration is the engine that powers innovation. Bringing together different perspectives and a diversity of experiences, collaboration can spark new products, new services, and new ways to drive revenues and increase profits. Not only that, cooperation and collaboration can be a force in motivating workforce productivity—in general, a win-win for all concerned.
However, effective and efficient collaboration requires the deployment of tools, platforms, and systems that make working together for a common goal easy and effective. Over the past few years, Microsoft Office 365 has been redesigned to emphasize team collaboration by incorporating cloud computing into every application. Perhaps no other application epitomizes this philosophy more than Microsoft SharePoint.
SEE: Cost comparison calculator: G Suite vs. Office 365 (Tech Pro Research)
Microsoft SharePoint, especially when deployed as part of Office 365, creates a virtual workspace where teams can meet, collaborate, and complete tasks. The key to SharePoint's success within an enterprise is that any employee can create and maintain a SharePoint instance and then designate which team members can join. The busy enterprise IT department doesn't have to get involved.
To illustrate some of the benefits of SharePoint in a modern enterprise setting, here are five ways the application can help teams collaborate.
1. Team-only access
One of the primary features of Microsoft SharePoint is its exclusivity. In general, unless purposely restricted by an admin, any employee can create a SharePoint instance. Once it's created, that employee becomes the admin of that instance, deciding who can participate, what access each participant will be allowed, and how long the SharePoint instance will exist.
Only members specifically designated and authorized can access the documents located on their particular SharePoint server. This gives employees the flexibility to have SharePoint instances for teams, departments, divisions, the entire enterprise, or even just for themselves as an individual. It also allows team leaders to adjust access to the server depending on the ebb and flow of the work.
2. Central location
Once an instance is created, SharePoint becomes the central virtual location where team members can meet. Not only are shared documents stored there, but team members can chat, video conference with Skype, set up and complete tasks, and compare calendars. Members can even exchange email that's exclusive to the SharePoint server. With the addition of the updated mobile app, SharePoint's collaboration team meeting space is available to members as they travel. The shared space means that team members are never that far away, regardless of where they are currently located.
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3. Simultaneous editing
SharePoint storage uses the same synchronization protocols as Microsoft OneDrive, so every document, and every edit of a document, is saved instantaneously and continuously to the cloud. From there, the update is propagated to all devices and workstations connected to the network, keeping every team member up to date at all times.
Beyond storage, Microsoft Office 365 documents stored on a SharePoint server allow more than one team member to access, edit, and annotate a document simultaneously. Team members can collaborate to formulate the document by breaking down tasks or sections, and SharePoint will cohesively stitch together a complete document on the fly as they work.
4. Tasks set for the team
In many situations, collaborative teams are formed with a specific goal in mind—create a new product, develop a new app, figure out a new more efficient way to work, etc. To accomplish this goal, team members may be asked to perform specific tasks. With SharePoint, the team leader has the tools necessary to set up individual tasks and then assign those tasks to team members.
Team members can see what tasks they need to perform, as well as the tasks other members will perform. Efficient and effective collaboration often requires that members know how their assigned task relates to other tasks. More often than not, Task B can't be started until Task A is completed. SharePoint can reveal those dependent relationships to the entire team.
5. Shared calendar, notebook, chat, publish, and other tools
Without a doubt, SharePoint is most effective as a collaborative tool when it is coupled with Office 365. The productivity suite adds applications that simplify and enhance the collaborative ability of an enterprise team. Teams can share a calendar to help plan their workload, use OneNote to document progress, and use Yammer to chat with members no matter where they are or what device they are using.
Office 365 gives collaborative teams access to presentation tools like PowerPoint and Sway, scheduling through Bookings, and advanced collaborative tools through Microsoft Teams. Other smaller apps like Delve and Stream could also come into play, especially when the project is complete, and the team must present its findings or accomplishments to a wider audience.
SEE: How to choose a workplace communication and collaboration tool (TechRepublic)
A new approach
Team collaboration within an enterprise is not a new concept—it has been part of enterprise culture since the invention of business. However, the way teams collaborate in a modern enterprise work environment has changed significantly. With a dynamic workforce operating in a mobile environment, enterprises have been compelled to deploy better tools to accommodate collaboration over distance.
Microsoft SharePoint, supported by Office 365 and cloud computing services, is one of the more powerful and useful tools in this category and could provide just the edge your enterprise needs to keep your employees engaged, productive, and ahead of the competition.
- Microsoft Office 365: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- Microsoft tries to stem its self-made collaboration-tool confusion (ZDNet)
- Microsoft SharePoint: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Microsoft Teams: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- The Microsoft Graph is about to light up a new way for business users to search (ZDNet)
Has your enterprise embraced digital tools to help teams collaborate? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.