Tuesday, 13 January 2009

SharePoint Cost Benefits and Business Savings

Apologies for the boring title, but this week I want to show you how SharePoint can really save your company money. In football (the European sort with the round ball, where you don’t have to have shoulder pads like an actress from an 80's American Soap) January brings the ‘Transfer Window’. A time when managers try to gamble on bringing in a player (or loads of players) who might turn-around their whole season. At the Villa the need for a backup striker is obvious, but how much should they spend and what will the return on the investment be. If they sign a striker for ten million and he scores the goals to qualify them for the Champions League (worth around twenty million) then that would be a good investment. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in football (except that Man United will always be allowed at least five minutes injury time if they are losing). So what about SharePoint as a signing? What Return on Investment should companies expect to see? This is a very difficult question to answer and it is interesting that Microsoft themselves don’t offer a document listing cost savings. Instead they list the ten benefits can be found at the following site; http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointserver/HA101655201033.aspx Certainly some pretty impressive claims but you will notice no mention of actual financial savings. So how does an IT Manager, or Marketing Manager, sell the idea of SharePoint to their MD. The first thing they will be asked is how much will it cost and then, how much will it save? Perhaps it is not always possible to put a figure on the savings a system makes. For example (yes, I am going to offer another football comparison). If the Villa were to sign Michael Owen in the transfer window then he might turn out to be a valuable addition, but it would be difficult to put an exact value on his contribution. He might score vital goals, increase the sale of replica shirts, allow other players time to rest, encourage other top players to join the club, make one of the existing strikers work even harder to keep him out the team or just be sold in the summer to Manchester City for twice what we paid for him. Like the introduction of SharePoint Michael would affect all areas of the business. So in this ‘Credit Crunch’ time how can we show that by installing SharePoint will really help the bank balance? To try and help I have put together a list of ten ways that many companies have found SharePoint can save them both time and money. SharePoint Business Savings 1. Reduce Man Hours by allowing faster locating of information 2. Reduce Man Hours by increasing use of electronic forms 3. Reduce Costs of stationary by increasing use of electronic forms 4. Reduce Licensing Costs for 3rd Party business systems (SharePoint can replace many of these systems) 5. Reduce Costs of development work for 3rd Party business systems 6. Reduce IT Support Costs 7. Reduce IT Training Costs 8. Reduce Website Costs (using SharePoint system both Intranet and website). 9. Reduce response times to Sales leads (employees can access SharePoint remotely) 10. Reduce response times to possible problems (with ProActive Alerts with SharePoint Workflow) Hopefully you can start to see the possible savings from SharePoint but it is only when your SharePoint Project Team firsts sits down and looks at how SharePoint will be used that you see how many of your Business Processes could be streamlined by SharePoint. Systems like Expense Claims, IT Helpdesk, Staff Reviews, Meeting Room Bookings, Sales Orders, Holiday Requests and many more can all be moved to SharePoint to reduce time and costs. If you are starting a SharePoint Project then the Officetalk SharePoint Project Checklist is a great place to start and best of all (unlike Michael Owen) it is FREE. Just click the link below to request your copy. Free SharePoint Checklist Now, I shall just check the Sky Sports Transfer Centre website to see if a new striker will be on their way to Villa Park.

Monday, 5 January 2009

SharePoint via Email

Snow on the ground, a new Villa Calendar on the office wall and a new pair of ‘climate control’ socks on my feet, yes 2009 has really begun. First day back in the office means a thousand emails (slight exaggeration but only just) to go through and booking your next vacation (OK ‘Vacation’ is quite an American word but 62% of my blog readers in 2008 were from the US). So how can SharePoint help with these post-Christmas tasks? Firstly, the rather large Inbox, a disease that hits many of us at this time of year (as well as the festive-flu and catching re-runs of the Vicar of Dibley) even with all our Spam Filters working in overdrive, can be solved with some SharePoint medicine. Like all of the other Officetalk SharePoint Consultants I need to remain up-to-date with all the advances in SharePoint so I join many SharePoint email groups including the excellent SharePoint UK Usergroup (http://www.suguk.org). Whilst these are all great sources of information it can very easily lead to email overload which is why SharePoint can be so useful. From SharePoint Central Administration you can set your SharePoint to receive emails from ‘Operations’ – ‘Incoming Email Settings’. Just make sure that ‘Enable sites on this Server to receive Emails’ is set to ‘yes’. Now when you create a ‘Document Library’ you will get the option ‘Incoming Email’ which can be set to allow the ‘Document Library’ to receive emails. All you have to do is give it an email address to use. This will be an internal address that all your internal mail users will be able to send emails to. How will this help my festive email overload? Well, before Christmas I could have setup a rule on my Outlook or on my Exchange server to move all messages from one of my SharePoint groups directly to a SharePoint document library where all of our consultants could see it. Perhaps I should have given you this tip before Christmas! Mind you, you can set up the rule on your current Inbox now in Outlook and then under ‘Tools’ - ‘Rules and Alerts’ click ‘Run Rules Now’ and watch your inbox shrink. Just make sure you haven’t got an Alert setup on the SharePoint Document Library that informs you every time a new document is added. With the addition of some SharePoint workflow on the Document Library you can automatically deal with these emails even more efficiently. This way if a customer enquiry comes through when you are eating your chocolate egg during your Easter Vacation you can have SharePoint automatically handle it for you. Apologies for mentioning Easter when you have only just finished your final helping of cold turkey. Next job for first day back is to see when you can take the remainder of your Holiday Entitlement. This is a process that your company can easily incorporate into their SharePoint. Using calendar views and some simple workflow you can develop an easy to use system for organising your employees holiday requests. The workflow can automatically send emails to Line Managers requesting confirmation that the request is acceptable and can record in a calendar view who is on leave when. If you would like help to develop a Holiday Request system or any other SharePoint electronic systems please give Frank at Officetalk a call on 01386 833 535. So with my inbox now down to single figures and my next holiday booked I am ready to really start work and think of any other ways that I can make SharePoint make my job easier in 2009 (the year when Aston Villa will finally win the FA Cup again). For those of you interested the ‘Climate Control’ Socks are available from Marks & Spencer priced £7.50 for two pairs.