Borrowing From the Big Boys: Small Business Grows Up With This Super Cool Tech Tool

A few remnants from a past business ecosystem: printed phone lists tacked to the wall, a company email that only half the office opened, a herd of people marching toward the exits with the foreknowledge of that day’s fire drill while one clueless person is left behind on a conference call.

Small business can do so much better.

Let’s start at ground zero. SharePoint was originally built for Fortune 500 companies. The technology was used for document sharing, and management of information like web content and company processes. At big companies, there were legions of people that managed the information housed in SharePoint (can you even imagine?).

In 2011, Microsoft included SharePoint in its bundled suite called Office 365. The share-ability and collaboration of SharePoint gives leverage to small businesses (the same kind the big boys enjoyed for years) as people share information faster and with more ease.

SharePoint is, in effect, an intranet or private network accessed internally. You can post a great quote to get the mojo going, post a new HR form or quality management process, announce the new VP, send a reminder about the staff meeting, recognize an employee, or feature the latest testimonial from a client. The best part? Everyone sees it.

If I were picking the best of the best in tech, SharePoint wins in three distinct categories:

1. Best in Collaboration.

Think Google Docs. Then think SharePoint without the vulnerability. As people in your company share and edit, you are not working with a publicly exposed document. Just go into SharePoint, edit in web browser mode and leave it for the next person to edit. Everything is stored with password-protected security.

2. Best in Process and Procedure.

SharePoint is a great place for company handbooks, internal processes, forms and applications. Some businesses might have a binder, but having information front and center on the local intranet gives employees quick access to procedures as they are updated.

3. Best in Uploading Business Documents You Want Others in the Company to See.

This is not a place to put photos of your dog Lulu or a copy of your resume. It’s strictly business files. Without SharePoint, you are typically sharing everything on a server’s drive.

Let’s take an example. At 3Points, our home page is the intranet. We start the day together as a team. We have access to our company phone list, onboarding document, holiday calendar, vacation request forms, HR forms, and expense report schedules. Within the intranet, each department has its own site.

As director of operations, there are tons of documents I reference regularly, from a master PC checklist to how-to process and procedures for specific hardware systems. We house technical training videos – great for people who miss a training session or who need a quick refresher. Kind of cool: Adopting SharePoint gives you your own company WIKI. (While the intranet is a private network, a WIKI is an internal website that allows all users to make changes – in effect, we are webmasters of it because we can add and change information.)

For people outside the organization needing access, just share a link with the SHARE LINK icon. Permission rules provide built-in security just as you would expect on a traditional server. For example, level 10 documents are password-protected for leadership only while the upcoming chili cook-off rules are posted for everybody to see.

SharePoint delivers ROI, too. If you took a look at Jon Pisani’s blog post about OneDrive last month (see below), buying a server can be expensive. SharePoint allows you to store and upload files, which may take the burden off of purchasing an extra server. Thank you, cloud technology.

3Points is here to help you integrate SharePoint with support and training. While it requires more than just a flip of a switch, SharePoint squarely puts small business in the winner’s circle by creating a collaboratively-rich, always-on environment.

Frank Anderson is director of operations for 3Points. Solution-minded by nature, Frank is passionate about enhancing innovation in the small business environment and has deep experience in more than 25 technology specialty areas. Email Frank at fanderson@3points.com.