Back to School: A Lesson in SharePoint

SharePoint tips and tricks to get you going this fall!

School has already started back up and is in full swing, so we thought we could do some educating ourselves. SharePoint is a very widely used ECM (enterprise content management) system, but shockingly, most users don’t know how to use all of its features. We have compiled a list of 5 things to help you use SharePoint like you majored in it!

  1. Utilize the search function

How many times have you said or heard the phrase, “I can’t find anything in SharePoint?” Unless you work for a magical company in a perfect magical land, and you are using SharePoint to its full potential, you have probably heard that sentence countless times. How many times have you used the search function to find what you’re looking for? SharePoint’s search function was created for a reason, and most times it isn’t touched by the users. I know you are probably thinking “search functions never find exactly what I am looking for.” Well, that is the great thing about SharePoint’s search. You can narrow down what you’re looking for by search scopes, use the words “and” and “or” (note: these words have to be all caps to be recognized as operators) to expand or narrow your search results, and use quotes to ensure that the words you are searching are used together. And don’t forget that metadata is your friend! You can tag your documents with additional attributes to help utilize the search function more efficiently. Metadata like “author” or “date”, usually referred to as refiners, can really help narrow down a search in a SharePoint site with a ton of documents. SharePoint 2016 has made adding additional metadata attributes much easier, and the search will now bring up both SharePoint Online and SharePoint results in a single unified list. This saves you from having to run two separate searches.

  1. Increase your collaboration

We are aware that SharePoint is sometimes mainly used as a repository of data, or as a team site for use within an organization. However, SharePoint is a great collaboration and client sharing tool. Before you begin using SharePoint as a collaboration tool, it is wise to make sure it supports your IG plans. Once your external sharing use of SharePoint is aligned with your IG plans, you can begin! SharePoint really makes it easy for clients and colleagues alike to have visibility into what work has been completed and what still needs to be done. Not everything in your repository needs to be shared, so you can pick and choose which files can be made public. SharePoint 2016 now makes the set-up of a client site much quicker than it used to be!

  1. Be careful with document libraries

This isn’t so much a warning as it is a tip! The better you have your document libraries set up, the easier SharePoint will be to use. Some ways to do this are to avoid making folders during the set-up of SharePoint that you think you might be useful in the future and use metadata to store each document as much as you possibly can. When you are initially setting up a SharePoint site, you might think it’s a great idea to put folders in your document library that you think will serve a purpose at some future point in time. All good intentions aside, that usually isn’t the case. You might change your mind later on, and folders could be sitting in your document library empty, confusing the end user. I know I have been a part of some SharePoint sites where I am asked to find something, and I find an obvious folder for such a document, but nothing lives in that folder. Super inconvenient. If you add folders as you need them, you will find that it makes SharePoint easier to use and your document searching on the surface will be much more efficient.

  1. Maximize user adoption

Have you ever overheard any of your SharePoint users sing “I hate SharePoint” to the tune of Frere Jacques? If you ever do, it might be time to make your SharePoint site more user-friendly. SharePoint makes it easy for admins to change the layout within SharePoint, and that small change can make it easier for users to find and filter through document libraries. Another great feature in SharePoint is workflows to assist with task management. A very useful feature in the workflows in SharePoint is reminder emails about “high priority” tasks. This can be useful to give clients or attorneys visibility into next steps for an open case. A feature that seems to get ignored in SharePoint is the ability to add Microsoft Office Apps to the site. An example I saw recently was a contact list App. When you add these various features to the SharePoint interface, it will increase user adoption, and you will avoid singing about how much you hate SharePoint.

  1. Remember that SharePoint is just a part of a whole solution

SharePoint, to put it in the simplest of terms, is really just a part of the Microsoft “kingdom.” It is completely integrated with Office 365, which has been used at some point by virtually everyone and is a useful tool to house all of the information you have created with 365 and other document creators. It gives you the ability to publish things out for client use, or keep things internal to your team or business. Another new feature that is going to be extremely helpful to a lot of users is an upcoming integration with Microsoft Visio. This will extend SharePoint’s abilities and add value to the product.

SharePoint is an extremely useful tool when you know how to use it and how to get others to use it too. We hope that you can utilize some of these tips and tricks to help in your everyday use of SharePoint!