What exciting things can I do with SharePoint?
February 23, 2015 4:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm the SharePoint admin for a Scientific Affairs department, about thirty people. Half of our people are at our corporate headquarters, half are scattered around the globe. I feel like we have barely scratched the surface of what SharePoint can do, but I don't know how others use it.

Here's what we are doing in SharePoint now:
  • We have a (mostly HTML) homepage.
  • We have another page for our scientific library, which has lists of our holdings.
  • We have an InfoPath ticket for service people in other departments use to get us to do stuff.
  • We have a document library of our main work product, for the benefit of people in other departments.
  • I am trying to get management to use the Collect Feedback Workflow to gather edits to documents by multiple people, since we do that kind of work a lot (so far without success, but I did use it for a document I authored that needed people's edits.)
I hear that people are sometimes resistant to using SharePoint sites, but I think people are mostly fairly comfortable with it both within and outside my department. Though Friday I was asked to create a page with links to several views of a list, because people felt that simply sorting and filtering the list itself was not "user-friendly." (That's the reason the home and library sites are mostly HTML, too.) Thanks for any suggestions you can offer!
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have an order/fulfillment process? That can be done on SharePoint using workflows.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:07 AM on February 23, 2015

We use it for collaborative document-editing. You can host the documents and also keep track of changes, revert the changes, make edits and comments which are signed and color coded by the individual users, and easily compare various versions. There's also a way to "check out" the documents so simultaneous users aren't editing them at once. If you have a really spread-out group either in space or in schedule, it's a really nice way to discuss or try out changes in between meetings.
posted by spelunkingplato at 5:26 AM on February 23, 2015

Given the number of things you're already doing with SharePoint I suspect you may already be aware of this, but just in case, it's worth making sure your users know about the 'Open with Explorer' feature in SP. You mention pushback because SharePoint is not user-friendly; personally I've found it to be MUCH more user friendly ever since I learned that I can upload/move things around in batches with Explorer.

And of course there's version history. Huge fan of version history.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:45 AM on February 23, 2015

Work with users to make sure that the metadata fields used in document libraries are serving their needs. Keep it simple (as few columns as you can, with as few options as you need in each) and make sure everyone has training so that they all use it the same way. When you have lots of documents to sort through, it is much better to find things by sorting the metadata than by wading through folders.

You could work on document naming conventions at the same time and create the unreachable paradise that is a useful, efficient, document structure.
posted by cubby at 5:56 AM on February 23, 2015

Please don't try to go down the path of forcing Sharepoint workflows to do more than Sharepoint workflows are designed to do. We have an internal document approval workflow tool at my organization that is fragile and horrible because of a series of hacks implemented to push workflows past their capacity. (also sharepoint lists shouldn't have more than 5k entries...that turned out to be another unfortunate limitation)
posted by rockindata at 6:26 AM on February 23, 2015

It's discontinued (but still supported through 2023), but InfoPath allows you to make forms using SharePoint.

Whoops, didn't read that you were using that already (how did I miss it?)
posted by xingcat at 6:30 AM on February 23, 2015

> it's worth making sure your users know about the 'Open with Explorer' feature in SP

Only works under IE, incidentally, but it's very good and useful if you can make it work.
posted by scruss at 7:53 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

(also sharepoint lists shouldn't have more than 5k entries

They can have way more items than that. The limitation is that items be stored in a hierarchical folder structure such that any one folder has fewer than say 5,000 items.
posted by mmascolino at 8:31 AM on February 23, 2015

Best answer: the sharepoint listview threshold is 5000 items, a sharepoint list can hold up to 22,000,000 items. the trick is to keep your queries from returning more than 5000 at one time. you accomplish this via views and indexed columns, for example - you don't need folders for this (folder in SP are a bad idea in my opinion anyway).

now, what can be done with SP? lots! you can send out surveys. you can have discussions. you can track changes and issues for various departments. you can implement document libraries with documents being born from a template (content type) with metadata and direct the entire lifecycle from creation to draft to approval to disposition via retention policy. You can, via the excel REST api, show "live" graphs, charts and tables from excel sheets on SP pages with an image viewer webpart only. So far, all of this is out-of-the-box. if you start exploring what Sharepoint Designer can help you with, you'll find custom workflows and data view webparts.

Combine this with infopath and you can have custom DIP's for word and excel to propagate user-friendly metadata fields to the document and, ultimately, to the list. With infopath you can also have forms with cascading dropdowns (choice in field A then limits what you can choose in field B). Infopath can also help with "if you answer 'yes' here, you can then only fill out these fields" (the others are hidden via conditional formatting).

i hope this gives some inspiration.
posted by alchemist at 12:35 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've used Sharepoint's Community Site feature to create a discussion board where colleagues can share information and insights. It has some nice social features, including the ability to like posts, mark them best reply, and earn "reputation" points that display next to your name to show the most active users. The biggest challenge is shifting the culture to get people to go there and participate, so actively moderating and reaching out to folks with engaging, relevant questions is critical.

My secret goal for the site is to create a mini-Metafilter for my organization!
posted by platinum at 2:19 PM on February 23, 2015

I've also experienced the "View Switching is Unfriendly in Document Libraries" complaint. It's a bit of a time to setup, but for read-only users in more widely-shared libraries, I created my views (based on Metadata), then dropped web parts with those views on to Wiki pages. You can drop multiple web parts on to a single page, have multiple columns on the page, place text before/after the web parts, etc.

It's sort of reinventing the wheel, but this effectively removed the "clutter" in a standard document library view, and made things a little more friendly for the (very) non-technical users who have read-only access to libraries.

You can also co-edit (have two people simultaneously edit) Word and PowerPoint documents. I believe you have to be on SharePoint Enterprise to co-edit Excel sheets.
posted by cnc at 12:18 PM on February 24, 2015

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