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Getting the most out of SharePoint and other collaboration tools

Collaboration tools are changing productivity rates and daily workflows. Learn more about how to get the most out of SharePoint and other collaboration tools in this briefing.

IT and business users alike are realizing the benefits of incorporating collaboration tools into their everyday workflows. By bringing together multiple data flows, improving information share and often cutting out the middle man, collaboration tools can improve productivity and efficiency.

One of the most popular choices in the midmarket is Microsoft's SharePoint. SharePoint has evolved over the years to include social networking features, Web 2.0 capabilities and a growing number of third-party add-ons and plug-ins. And while SharePoint and other collaboration tools aren't necessarily new, how you use them can be.

In this briefing, you'll find resources to help you utilize SharePoint in your organization, customize the platform to meet your needs, and learn how your peers are making the most out of these tools in their organizations.

This guide is part of SearchCIO-Midmarket.com's CIO Briefings series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic management and decision-making advice on timely topics. For a complete list of topics covered to date, visit the Midmarket CIO Briefings section.

The benefits of collaboration tools

Midmarket companies are finding collaboration tools and strategies to be cost-effective ways to better align with the business, streamline internal and external processes and even cut costs. To achieve such goals, organizations are using Microsoft SharePoint and social media platforms to share documents and collaborate on projects in lieu of expensive content management systems or lengthy business process engineering initiatives. Some CIOs, however, say such tools are not the first and foremost aspect of collaboration projects.

"The type of tools weren't important. Getting the business aligned was," said W. Jerome Oberlton, vice president and CIO at Coppell, Texas-based Mannatech Inc., a $333 million developer and provider of proprietary nutritional supplements, weight management products and skin care solutions.

Oberlton is using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server to drive efficiency and collaboration throughout Mannatech, which has 500 internal employees and distributes its products through a network of 500,000 associates worldwide.

Learn more in "How collaboration tools bring cost savings, business alignment." Also:

  • Save money and boost collaboration by deploying Web apps, Office 2010
    Some organizations are dipping their toes into the cloud by deploying Web apps. In Office 2010, Microsoft takes this one step further -- offering its Office suite in the cloud.
  • The benefits of using collaboration tools in your organization
    Learn how collaboration tools can increase employee productivity and overall business efficiency.
  • Do collaboration tools really increase employee productivity?
    Many midmarket IT organizations are looking at collaboration tools like Microsoft's SharePoint and social media platforms to help centralize documents, manage people, tasks and time, and ultimately improve employee productivity. But do they really work?

SharePoint customization tips

SharePoint is where information stored in a variety of different places can bubble up to the surface. So, customizing SharePoint and its data flow can be a huge timesaver. You may have invested in SharePoint as a collaboration platform and a tool to help your employees work more cohesively, but there are also benefits in integrating it with other systems in your organization.

Learn more in "Customizing SharePoint: Integrating tools, data flows and more." Also:

Available alternatives to SharePoint

When it comes to departmental file sharing or collaborative workspaces, Microsoft's SharePoint has legions of fans in midsized companies. But for those not interested in paying for SharePoint (the basic version is free), or who find some features immature in the latest version, there are SharePoint alternatives.

Learn more in "SharePoint alternatives seek to fill in the gaps." Also:

  • SharePoint 2010 good, Enterprise 2.0 tools may be better
    If you've missed the SharePoint boat, now might not be the best time to buy your ticket.
  • Office, SharePoint 2010 face competition, tight economy
    Microsoft needs to convince IT pros to upgrade to SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 if it wants to lock them in for at least another three years. Then again, there are alternatives.

Leveraging SharePoint features

Forthcoming survey data from Forrester Research Inc. indicates that SharePoint is making inroads into records management systems, a subset of enterprise content management (ECM).

"Microsoft has blown the doors off the traditional ECM vendors from a content management perspective," said Forrester analyst Brian W. Hill, survey author and ECM expert at the Cambridge, Mass.-based research house. "What surprised me is that organizations are also using SharePoint for records management purposes."

Of the 434 respondents in the Forrester survey who identified themselves as records management stakeholders, 17% said they were currently using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server for records management software. That was more than double Microsoft's closest competitor, Hill said.

Learn more in "SharePoint muscles into records management systems." Also:

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