It may sound like some manufactured holiday resort in Delaware but luckily names aren’t everything.

While Microsoft has had a lot of bad ideas over the years – Zune, Vista and that irritating paper clip for example – SharePoint is not one of them.

At its core SharePoint is a collaboration platform – but what on earth does that mean?

At its most basic it’s a content management tool – it shares content.

The trouble with SP is that it does a lot more than that, which is where most come unstuck and can’t get their head round it, but that’s okay because it isn’t just one thing.

SharePoint isn’t Word on steroids but it is more platform than application. It’s a collection of many different products and technologies all wrapped up and given a singular title.

Learning SP is like learning MS Office, you don’t ‘learn’ Office, you learn Excel, and you learn Outlook and so on.

To give another perspective, you don’t just eat the base of a pizza, you want the sauce too and you can make that sauce any way you like, but what’s a pizza without the topping? Well, just bread and tomato, however, the applications that SP enables are what give you the flavour your business needs.     

There is an important distinction with SP from the conventional viewpoint, you don’t install it on your desktop or your laptop, it’s installed on your server, shared across your network and you connect into it.

MS explains SP as having six key areas: sites, communities, content, search, insights and composites.

Lost again? Me too. Maybe we need a translation...

SP makes websites, you don’t need special programmers, you don’t need to be a web designer, you don’t need HTML and you can edit, change and contribute to these websites.

SP helps you collaborate with other people. That may be just you and Freddie in the sports and leisure committee working on the Christmas party internal comms, but if you need a company-wide Wiki page edited by 100 people it’ll do that too. It’ll share calendars, task lists and discussion boards. It will track immense amounts of content and let you know when things change.

This collaboration tool, and collaboration is the operative word here, allows you to take all the content that makes up your organisation’s day to day operations, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, agendas, images, audio, video, databases and whack it all into SharePoint.

So forget your local folders, shared drives, that game of email tag you play with the awkward one in development, SP deals with it all in a controlled and fully-audited manner that doesnt drag your system down.

You can create a document on your desktop, David makes an update on his laptop after a meeting in London, Jenny accesses it on her mobile later that day and then the boss edits it within the web browser at 1am.

That is a lot of stuff I hear you say, which is why search is an important ingredient of SP’s taste – it’s got a smart search engine built into it and you’ll never lose a thing.   

It’s a bit of a monster, so you need to bring all that information together to help try and understand what it is the boss was on about at one in the morning: SP helps you understand it better, organise and make sense of immense amounts of content, taking different kinds of things, spreadsheets and blogs and business intelligence systems and presenting it in a way that makes sense via dashboards, bar charts or whatever suits your business needs.

SP helps you build on top of itself. No platform, no program, no operating system can know exactly what you need, so SP has capabilities to be extended and customised and you don’t have to be a programmer.

You could spend now until Google go bust playing with SP and not see everything it can do. You might end up living in the site section, hibernating in the composite section or getting lost building workflows. Or maybe you have a dashboard fetish and can’t leave the insights section.

The point is that SharePoint is all things to all people and whatever floats your business SP will provide – except a manufactured holiday resort in Delaware or a cool name like Zune.

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