How Organizations Use SharePoint
SharePoint is designed to help organizations manage their documents and files, as well as to enable users to collaborate with one another. Although every organization with a network already has tools in place (file shares, shared directories,
) to store files and share information, SharePoint offers more powerful and flexible tools than the average company had previously. For example, SharePoint allows the creation of document libraries that can store not only the documents uploaded to the library, but also information about the documents (called
) in special
that can be added to the libraries. Access to this information can be quite rigidly controlled so that some users can only read the documents whereas others can read and modify them. The libraries can be configured to store previous versions of the documents as well, so a history of changes can be kept.
In terms of collaboration, most companies rely on email to share files and use face-to-face meetings when multiple people need to be involved in a conversation. Although emailing a document to a
of people is one way to share it, most users agree it is not the most efficient way to share information, and things can get confusing when more than one current document is floating around. SharePoint sites provide an alternative, where specific network users can be invited to the site to access the latest version of the document, track document versions, add comments to documents, and use discussion
to share ideas.
Following is a short list of some common uses for SharePoint sites:
A departmental site to provide a central place to store files, contacts, announcements, and other departmental information
A project site to allow a team of people to collaborate and share documents within the site, which is managed by a designated project manager
An event site created for an important meeting or gathering to provide directions, an agenda, a menu, a list of attendees, and other information
A management site to collect information from other sites or external sources and enhance a manager's ability to keep an eye on the many sources of information
A variety of other companies offer similar knowledge management software, but Microsoft's SharePoint offers several key advantages:
It integrates with the Windows Server 2003 software.
It integrates with the Microsoft Office 2003 family.
It has very competitive pricing.
It's relatively easy to set up for the IT staff.
It's relatively easy to learn and use for knowledge workers and end users.
The bulleted point pertaining to integration with the Office 2003 family bears some explanation. Office 2003 is not required, but it does add a number of powerful features when used with SharePoint. Although some integration is provided by previous versions of Office, Office 2003 integrates the most completely, providing additional functionality. Lesson 13, "Using Word with SharePoint," and Lesson 14, "Using Excel with SharePoint," discuss some of the benefits of using Word 2003 and Excel 2003 with SharePoint. As shown in Figure 1.3, when a document stored in a SharePoint document library is opened for editing, the Shared Workspace task pane is available, and it displays information about the site that
the document. In this figure the Members tab is active, and it shows that several other individuals have access to this same document. The other tabs can provide information about
assigned to the
from SharePoint, other documents in the same library, links in the site, and metadata connected to the document.
Figure 1.3. Word 2003 Shared Workspace task pane.