SharePoint is a web-based application that was introduced by Microsoft Corporation over 20 years ago—i.e., 2001. SharePoint is a platform that provides businesses, organizations, and institutions a place to access, share, and store information across different devices.

SharePoint in its early iterations was intended to provide IT professionals an easier way of network provisioning and collaboration. As with any product in its infancy SharePoint had its share of bugs, quirks, and limitations. Microsoft took note of this and over time made improvements to it largely based on feedback from the user community.

It was not uncommon in the past to see a business attempt a SharePoint deployment in one form or another to only see it abandoned. In fact, failure was often the result even after multiple attempts. Four major reasons for SharePoint falling short of expectations was frequently attributed to:

  • The lack of a clear objective and vision resulting in poor design/development and rollout
  • A lack of end user understanding of SharePoint, resulting in challenges with company/organizational wide buy-in
  • Limited functionality and cumbersome to develop, especially with earlier iterations
  • Costly to develop and maintain

SharePoint was often seen as a nebulous concept to the typical end user. It was relegated as a back-end tool for IT personnel and to a lesser degree developed with a front-end that featured UIs (user interface) that were underdeveloped and not particularly user friendly.

The challenge for the typical end user in relation to understanding the utility of SharePoint in its earlier existence was a consequence of its capacity for broad application to many different business needs and processes. Essentially, SharePoint was a blank canvas that required a business use concept, then built into an accessible application. The business uses SharePoint could be applied to abound. For example,

  • Customer/Vendor Portal
  • Employee Intranet/Portal
  • Document library
  • Dashboard
  • Calendar and Bulletin Board
  • Document Collaboration (e.g., projects, contracts, proposals, etc.)
  • Notifications and Alerts Tool
  • Business Intelligence
  • Websites
  • Forms

SharePoint’s Building Blocks

SharePoint can be viewed in three components; they are sites, pages, and web part. For Example, Microsoft 365 is the site, the Microsoft 365 homepage is the page, and all the accessible apps such as, OneNote, Visio, Lists, etc. reflect the web parts. To get an expanded explanation of SharePoint, here’s a link to an article that does a reasonable job at explaining the composition of SharePoint in simple terms.

SharePoint’s Move Toward More Practical Use and Wider System Adoption

As SaaS (Software as a Service) community and collaboration platforms such as Slack and Google Workspace (now Google Apps) gained momentum and made rapid advancement in the 2010s, the visibility of more third-party platforms connecting to or implemented on SharePoint began to evolve as well—e.g., Infowise, Trello, Zapier, Zendesk, etc. Microsoft released its own unified collaboration platform, Teams in 2017 as part of Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). Teams is the front-end application—i.e., user interface—and SharePoint is the mothership. SharePoint is the document library where the all the files, recordings, chats, images, and emails live and are retrieved from Teams as well as from other apps—e.g., Lists, Visio, etc.

In a relatively short span, Teams has become a staple in the small, medium, and enterprise spaces as business has shifted to a hybrid and distributed workforce model. Its popularity and practical interface have led to the development and release of a slew of third-party Apps and integrations within the SharePoint sphere. SharePoint has become the leader in collaboration and document management bringing increased business productivty to a wider audience globally. 

Here's a shortlist of how SharePoint drives productivity: 

  • Collaboration 
    • highly flexible, scalable, and easy to adminster across an organization 
    • Wide accessibility to any device
    • conducive to sharing and communication 
  • Project Management 
    • using workflows 
    • syncing to Outlooks and Calendars 
    • leveraging SharePoint with Teams 
  • Management of Data 
    • oraginzed document storage and library 
    • easy accessibility to data 
  • Tightly Integfrated 
    • Microsoft 365 - access to the suite office tools and native Apps right from SharePoint--i.e., Word, Excel, etc.
    • Access to Teams, One Drive, etc. 
    • Third party extentions--e.g., Infowise, etc.