Friday, 30 July 2010

Uses of SharePoint

As a SharePoint Consultant a common problem when trying to sell SharePoint is actually explaining what it can be used for. You see, the fact is that SharePoint has an infinite amount of uses. Nearly every day we at Office Talk hear of somebody using SharePoint in a different and unexpected way. This week Office Talk has designed a Football Template on SharePoint to monitor a Premier League team’s performance during the 2010/11 season, but you will have to wait until the end of this blog to find out how to get it. So what are the basic uses of SharePoint?

I have put together my Top Twenty basic uses of SharePoint and placed them in order;

1. Document Management
SharePoint is one of the best Document Management Solutions. It is ideal for managing manuals, policies and procedure documents.

2. Record Keeping
With easy to create and customise columns SharePoint can be used to keep electronic records of customers, employees or suppliers.

3. Inventory Management
SharePoint can be used to quickly keep track of equipment or supplies.

4. Helpdesk Systems
Easy and cost effective way to manage and monitor Helpdesk Requests. These could be IT Helpdesk or service requests from customers.

5. Websites
More and more companies are using SharePoint to not only manage content of their Websites but also to be their website.

6. Electronic Forms
Forms can be quickly created with SharePoint making it easy to automate systems like Expense Claims, Travel Requests, Holiday Requests or Purchase Orders.

7. Reference Centre (Wiki)
SharePoint can help store and share information. Information that an employee found helpful can quickly be available to other employees.

8. Reporting
SharePoint can take data from many different data sources including SQL and Oracle databases. This means it is easier to compile reports that even Senior Managers can quickly understand.

9. Contact Details
An easy way to store as much information as you need about either internal or external contacts. Saves the issue of the company telephone directory stuck by your desk always being out of date.

10. News Distribution
The Announcements section in SharePoint lets you easily share company or department news. Quickly let everyone know that Jane from Purchasing has given birth to triplets or that the staff car park is closed next Tuesday.

11. Surveys
To get feedback from a training course or the performance of a department SharePoint can create surveys that can be distributed in seconds.

12. Appointment Management
The Calendar feature integrates with Outlook and allows you to have shared calendars. It can be used to display weekly movements of key members of staff.

13. Catalogues
SharePoint allows you to list items and view them in customised ways. As it can also include thumbnail pictures in the list it is ideal for cataloguing.

14. Discussions
Employees can use the discussion boards to chat on various subjects and share ideas.

15. Storage of Digital Media
SharePoint can be used to store many forms of digital media including photographs, videos and podcasts.

16. Information Searching
Every word of every document on SharePoint can be indexed meaning that suddenly it is much easier to search and retrieve company information.

17. Projects Management
SharePoint can be set up to monitor and track multiple projects. Making it easy for managers to see which Projects are falling behind schedule.

18. Time Management
To record time taken on individual projects or to manage contractors SharePoint is ideal.

19. Meeting Management
With its Meeting Templates you can use SharePoint to plan agendas, create minutes and check on follow-up actions.

20. Blogging
Blogging is becoming more and more popular with an increase in internal business blogs. SharePoint allows site members to easily comment on these blogs.

These are just a selection of the business uses of SharePoint, but many companies are also using SharePoint to add some more social and light-hearted aspects to their company. The idea is that a happy staff will be a productive staff. SharePoint installations Office Talk have been involved in recently have included sections like ‘Coffee Break’ where employees can win prizes and see some funny pictures of themselves on company outings. These kind of social pages can not only help morale but also get employees using SharePoint.

Office Talk had great demand over the summer for their free World Cup SharePoint Site Template. Even if England were a letdown the SharePoint Template was very popular. So with the new English Premier League season now only two weeks away Office Talk have been busy again and now we are offering a new exciting SharePoint Football Template. We are giving away a ‘My Team’s Premier League’ Template that allows you to keep track of your favourite team throughout the coming season. You can keep track of your team’s transfers, fixtures, goalscorers and even see why the great Aston Villa are only the second team to have completed hundred seasons in the Top Division.

To receive the free ‘My Team’s Premier League’ SharePoint Template please visit the Office Talk website at

As part of the ‘My Team’s Premier League’ site you can predict the final places of all the Premier League Teams so here are my predictions;

1. Chelsea
2. Manchester City
3. Manchester United
4. Aston Villa
5. Arsenal
6. Liverpool
7. Tottenham
8. Birmingham City
9. Everton
10. Blackburn
11. Bolton Wanderers
12. Sunderland
13. Wolverhampton Wanderers
14. Fulham
15. West Ham
16. Newcastle
17. Stoke City
18. Wigan
19. West Bromwich
20. Blackpool

So don’t forget to claim your free Football Template and use it as many times as you want in your organisation.

Blog Bonus Video - The best penalty kick ever !!

Monday, 26 July 2010

SharePoint On Trial

Wherever you look these days people are trying to save money. My own football club, Aston Villa, are no exception with American owner, Randy Learner, tightening the purse strings. The Villa manager has been told he needs to reduce the wage bill before we can buy anymore players. Many companies are putting a block on any new spending. So projects which were in the pipeline are now being shelved. This has meant that a number of companies, both in the ‘Private Sector’ and ‘Public Sector’, have postponed SharePoint Projects. Even though long term SharePoint would offer considerable savings to these organisations it is the initial project costs that are making them think twice.

In English football, unless you are Manchester ‘Moneybags’ City, you have to watch how much you are spending. Sometimes it is better to use the loan system and take a player on loan for a few months to see if he is really going to improve your team. It is even possible to share the cost of the wages with the club he plays for as they are just keen to reduce their wage bill. If only there was a way of loaning SharePoint!

Perhaps Hosted SharePoint could offer a short term answer. Hosted SharePoint can be a way to try SharePoint out in your organisation without having to make any major investment and also without affecting your current computer environment. The advantage is that you can experiment with SharePoint and see how you could use it to streamline some of your business processes. If you only want to try it for a handful of users the monthly prices of Hosted SharePoint can be very cheap. It would probably cost less than replacing the toner in one of your laser printers.

There are so many companies worldwide offering Hosted SharePoint that it can be confusing knowing which one to choose. Although, as long as you are not paying too much each month and there isn’t any long tie-ins it doesn’t really matter which one you chose. Mind you, I would get in trouble at work if I didn’t mention the Office Talk Hosted SharePoint offering ‘Office Manager’. We even offer a one month free trial (pity some teams don’t do this with players Villa are interested in) and include over ten useful pre-configured department sites. Visit to try it for free.

So don’t let lack of money stop you trying out SharePoint because you will soon discover the many ways it could start to save your organisation money. Or you might after trying it decide it isn’t for you.

Now, I wonder if Liverpool would loan Villa Steven Gerrard for the next eight months.

Great News : 'My Team’s Performance 2010/11 Season’ SharePoint Template is available FREE OF CHARGE by clicking here.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Where to SharePoint Shop?

Yesterday was an interesting day, even if I did have no hot water at home, and it actually ended with me appearing on the TV news. The no hot water was caused by a broken boiler. It wasn’t broken until the Gas man came to service it last Wednesday. In this week’s blog I am going to blatantly promote the new Virtual SharePoint Shopping Centre ‘SharePoint Village’ which excitedly launches on 1st September. I want to share with you why I think it is going to become a valuable source to both SharePoint End Users and companies trying to sell their SharePoint solutions. But first back to yesterday and my eventful day;

Maybe I am slightly sad, but I decided to go and see the unveiling of the new Aston Villa shirt in Centenary Square Birmingham. The great thing where I live, near Wolverhampton, is there is a tram (called ‘The Metro’) that takes me straight into the Centre of Birmingham. As I approached Birmingham I noticed the stop for ‘Jewellery Quarter’. This made me think about SharePoint Village. ‘Jewellery Quarter’ is a place where all you will find is lots of jewellery shops. Even though many competitors are almost neighbours it works because people go there just for jewellery and it is locally very well known. If you want a special ring or a gold watch the ‘Jewellery Quarter’ is always a good place to start. Jewellers know that even if a visitor is interested in an item in the jewellers next-door there is still a very good chance they will pop into their shop as they are passing. This is the concept behind ‘SharePoint Village’. The SharePoint users, or potential users, get to know that for anything SharePoint the best place to go is ‘SharePoint Village’. For the shopkeepers (there is a limit on the number of shops in SharePoint Village to give them maximum exposure) they know that when a visitor looks at another one of the seven shops in their section (i.e. Web Parts) that the visitor will also see the entrance to their shop and hopefully, in Mr. Benn style, enter in.

As many of you know there are already a number of excellent SharePoint information sites available. For any SharePoint users looking for SharePoint advice, in basic English, then is a great place to start including the popular ‘Stump the Panel’. My favourite part is the area ‘SharePoint for Non-Geeks’. Another favourite site of mine and always worth checking out is SharePoint Reviews. This is a little like a ‘Which?’ guide to SharePoint. It offers unbiased reviews on many SharePoint products and services. So when ‘SharePoint Village’ is launched and you see a SharePoint product that takes your fancy then visit and see if anybody has reviewed it. The third SharePoint information site I always recommend is SharePoint Magazine. This is a superb online magazine dedicated to the ever growing world of SharePoint.

Sorry I got side tracked from the events of yesterday. Well, I arrived at Centenary Square just in time to see the unveiling of the new Villa shirt which was, surprisingly, a claret body with blue sleeves. The new away strip was mainly black which I really liked. After the unveiling was completed and the large crowd started to disperse I took out my blackberry to read my emails. My concentration was interrupted by two gentlemen. One had a large camera pointing at me and the other had a microphone and announced he was from the BBC. So my views on the new strip were later transmitted on the Midlands Today news and I was actually the first person to give my opinion on TV about the strip.

My lunchtime was then completed with a visit to the ‘Handmade Burger Company’ at Brindley Place. With a printed voucher in my hand that gave me a 50% discount I was ready for my dinner. It was only at the till that I realised that my voucher was in fact for the ‘Gourmet Burger Kitchen’.

SharePoint Village has its grand opening on 1st September 2010 to find out more please visit

If you didn't click on the shopkeepers link earlier and see the classic comedy clip then why not do it now?

Happy SharePoint shopping !!!

Friday, 9 July 2010

World Cup 5 - SharePoint ROI

Even though we are still having a World Cup theme ROI here means ‘Return on Investment’ not Republic of Ireland. At least France didn’t prosper too much from the dodgy goal against the Irish. Yes, I am going to try and explain how even in these difficult economic times the different ways that investing in SharePoint can bring a Return On Investment.

So what ‘Return on Investment’ (ROI) should companies expect to see then with SharePoint? A good starting point whenever trying to estimate ROI of any project is to break them down in to three types of ROI’s. The three are Hard ROI, Soft ROI and Risk Mitigation. Let me try and explain what these mean;

To keep my World Cup theme let’s look at the FA’s decision to not sack Fabio Cappello. A ‘Hard ROI’ is a direct saving of a system. So by keeping Mr. Cappello the FA don’t have to pay him a big wad of compensation. Also, they don’t have to have the costs of advertising and interviewing for a new manager. A ‘Soft ROI’ is an indirect benefit. For example, because Sir Trevor Brooking doesn’t have to spend days looking for a replacement manager then he can spend his time doing other things like finally setting up a National Football Academy. Another Soft ROI of keeping Cappello could be they will save on hotel costs for the 2012 European Championships. ‘Risk Mitigation’ is often the hardest to estimate as it is really what might go wrong if you didn’t do something. It is a bit like having car insurance. Although you might not have a crash how much would a crash cost if you didn’t have insurance. So if Cappello wasn’t kept on and the FA had employed somebody else who was a bigger disaster (remember Steve McClaren) and they had to quickly sack them, how much would the FA have to pay him?

So let’s now break down these ROI’s for a SharePoint Project;

Hard ROI
Will it replace any existing systems and associated licences?
Will it reduce any maintenance or support contracts?
Will it reduce cost of development work for third party solutions it replaces?
Will it reduce any training costs?
Will it reduce the amount of stationary to be purchased?
Will it reduce cost of physically transporting information?
Will it reduce cost of development work for third party solutions it replaces?

Soft ROI
Will it save employees time they can spend doing something else. - If there are 200 people in your company and everyone saves just 10 minutes a day, your company would: Recover the equivalent of £100,000 in salaries? Have the equivalent of an extra 5 man years?
Will it improve process speeds of information meaningless delays?
Will it reduce printing costs?
Will it reduce energy costs?
Will it encourage employees to be more productive as they have more information available?
Will it help relationship with customers or suppliers?
Will it help gain certifications or standards that will help generate more sales?
Will the shared information reduce marketing costs (i.e. all corporate images stored in one central location)?
Will having one main system reduce IT Helpdesk calls?

Risk Mitigation
What would be the cost if you lost paper copies or data?
Without it will you lose certifications and if so what would be the possible loss to the business?
How secure is the current data and what would be the cost if it leaked out?
Is the current system still supported and what would the cost be if it breaks down.

If you are starting a SharePoint Project then the Office Talk SharePoint Project Checklist is a great place to start and best of all (unlike sacking Fabio) it is FREE. Just click the link below to request your copy. Free SharePoint Checklist

So on Sunday is the World Cup Final and excitingly there will be a new country as World Champions as neither Spain nor Holland have won the golden trophy before. Good luck to both countries and I am going to predict a score of Holland 2 Spain 1, but then I thought England would be champions. At least the team of referees will be English. The big question though is who Paul ‘the psychic’ Octopus is going to predict the winner to be? If only he had not predicted Germany to beat England.

If you haven’t yet tested this SharePoint I keep going on about then why not try it for free now at promise we won’t ask for your credit card number or inside leg measurement.

Friday, 2 July 2010

World Cup 4 - Why Can SharePoint Fail?

Apparently the World Cup 2010 did not end last Sunday at a quarter to five so I writing my 4th SharePoint World Cup blog about ‘Why SharePoint Projects Fail?’

As I walked to Church last Sunday morning every other house seemed to be displaying an England flag and you could feel the belief that this was finally going to be the year of England World cup glory. I genuinely believed that we could beat Germany, Argentina, Spain and then Brazil to bring back those glory days of 1966. Five hours later my dreams like all the England flags had disappeared after we had been humiliated by Germany.

So this week the inquest into why England keeps performing poorly at World Cups has started. Front pages of newspapers, radio shows, Alan Hansen even the House of Commons all want to find somebody to blame. The finger of blame has so far been pointed at the players, the manager, the Football Association, the media, the Uruguayan officials, the Premier League and even James Corden. So who is to blame or are England really just not good enough?

Office Talk is often contacted by companies who are disappointed by the way their SharePoint is going. They sometimes feel it is failing because employees just aren’t using it or it just isn’t doing all the great things they hoped it would. So why do some SharePoint Projects Fail?

It is widely accepted that the English Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world yet the national team continually fails to deliver. Microsoft SharePoint (especially the new 2010 version) is one of the best Information Management Systems in the world yet again it can fail to live up to its hype.

I think enough people are discussing England’s reasons for failure so I am going to list some of the reasons that I think can cause SharePoint Projects to fail;

1. Expectations Not Reached

It is important that you set realistic expectation levels. Yes, SharePoint can do many impressive things but the SharePoint Project Team needs to agree an initial scope for the Project and let the users know exactly what is going to be delivered. SharePoint can integrate with many ERP systems and offer many cost saving benefits, but all these take time and effort so may not be part of the first phase of the project.

2. Not Enough Testing

A Pilot Group is vital in any project. It gives that chance to iron out any little problems and to see where users might struggle. It is interesting that Germany played with the World Cup ball for six months in the Bundisliga but the Premier League didn’t because of a sponsorship deal. Never be tempted to skip the testing phase.

3. Lack of or wrong SharePoint Consultant

It is an interesting fact that no country has ever won the World Cup with a foreign coach. Both Argentina and Brazil are doing well this year being led by managers who have played for them at World Cup Finals. With SharePoint it seems knowledge is so important to helping a project work. A SharePoint Consultant knows from experience how to make SharePoint successful so are vital to the project. Also consider a SharePoint Consultancy company that are fairly local and that you know talk the type of language that your Project Team understands.

4. Wrong Members of Project Team

Did Mr. Capello choose the right players? Putting together the SharePoint Project team is a very important part of the project. It is important to get the balance right and represent all areas of the organisation who will be using SharePoint. It is important to choose people who will give an input without being too dominating. All of Project Team needs to feel they have an equal part to play in helping develop the best SharePoint system for the company.

5. Poor Security

Data and Identity Security is so important these days with so many horror stories in the media. Every week there seems to be stories about how a long list of private information was left on a train or in a pub. SharePoint has many high level security settings included and it is important that all users know that the system is secure.

6. Security Too Tight

Security is vital, but if nobody can get to the data what is the point of it being on SharePoint. The key part of the name SharePoint is ‘Share’. Although, the information is totally secure to people outside the organisation don’t be scared to let other departments share certain parts of it. If you tie it down too much then users won’t get the full benefits.

7. Lack of Quick Wins

One of the best ways to sell SharePoint to employees is with ‘Quick Wins’. If there are things on there that will instantly make a routine task they do faster they will quickly starting using it. Included sections like IT Helpdesk, Holiday Requests, Travel Requests or Visitor Booking can earn a few points and get people to start using the system. Perhaps if England had beaten USA in first game things might have been very different.

8. Too Complex

If the SharePoint system is too difficult to navigate then users won’t use it. Keep it simple and where ever possible standardise so employees can easily know where to find information. Always take a step back and look at a site and see if it is obvious where you want a user to be clicking.

9. Lack of Training

Even though SharePoint should be simple to use all End Users will benefit from receiving a short Training session on how to use the system. Office Talk offer On-Site ninety minute End User training sessions to introduce the users to the new system. The Project Team should also receive SharePoint Administration Training (1 day) so they can understand the kind of things SharePoint can do before they start designing the system.

10. Not Flexible Enough

One of the great features of SharePoint is that it is very customisable. Some companies make the mistake of tying it down too much and leaving it very much under the control of IT. The more departments and individuals are able to customise it to meet their individual needs the more they will use it. Don’t be afraid to let them create sub-sites if they wish to. A lot of former footballers believed that the England formation of 4-4-2 was not flexible enough and restrictive.

11. No Leaders

SharePoint needs developing after it has been rolled out. A successful approach is to use the Project Team as Super Users who can assist members in their department to use SharePoint. Office Talk always advises customers to have review sessions to see exactly how SharePoint is being used and how it could be further enhance the organisation.

12. Information Not Good Enough

Are England players basically good enough? The most important part of SharePoint is the information it stores. If the information isn’t accurate or complete then the system will fail. With any SharePoint project one of the most important steps is uploading the information. Make sure good housekeeping is done first. Don’t just upload all the files you have stored from the last ten years. Remove duplicates or expired data before uploading them. Are Gerrard, Lampard and Terry expired?

13. Poor Performance

SharePoint depends on good connections speeds so it requires a good network infrastructure first. If it takes a user several minutes every time they access a file they will soon get frustrated and start reverting to storing them on local PC instead. The hardware needs to be able to cope with SharePoint and allow for expansion.

14. Reliability

It the system keeps going down users will soon lose faith in it. After three world cup failures I have finally lost faith in the so called ‘Golden Age’ of England players. It is important to continually monitor the SharePoint Servers, to consider virus protection options and to make sure you implement a suitable SharePoint Backup solution.

So back to the World Cup then and despite me predicting with the accuracy of a Uruguayan linesman last week I am going to try to predict the results of the four quarter finals;

Brazil 1 Holland 2
Ghana 1 Uruguay 1
Argentina 3 Germany 1
Spain 1 Paraguay 0

Oh well at least the Premier League starts again in only six weeks. Up the Villa !!!