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In this article, Gavin Wood, CTO at Chess, explains what role SharePoint Online plays in enabling your workforce to work collaboratively. He covers:

  • What is SharePoint?
  • How can you use Sharepoint to collaborate?
  • How Chess uses SharePoint


When starting these articles, I like to google around to see what interesting results I get on a topic. Googling SharePoint revealed that people mainly ask: "What is the purpose of SharePoint?"

SharePoint in a nutshell:

"SharePoint is a web-based collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft Office. Launched in 2001, SharePoint is primarily sold as a document management and storage system, but the product is highly configurable and usage varies substantially among organizations."

- Thanks, Wikipedia...

Everyone has issues with data to a lesser or greater extent, including siloed data from different sources, disparate systems, mixed legacy information stores, containing unstructured data with no information lifecycle, governance or control.

On top of this, people also want to collaborate effectively. We want to connect people with their data, which is challenging to do considering the above reasons.

With SharePoint 2016 going end-of-mainstream-support in July, many people will also be looking to move to SharePoint Online. I see a definite shift to SharePoint Online as the onwards march to the Cloud continues. Therefore, I will focus this article on the migration of data into SharePoint to help you work better together and collaborate effectively.

"Over 200 million users rely on SharePoint..."

- Microsoft

Connect me with my data

When thinking about migrating data into SharePoint, consider several steps:

  • Do you know where all your existing data sources are?
  • What existing data lifecycle and governance is currently in place?
  • Do you need to do a clean-up or archive off old data?
  • How will your teams access the data when it has been migrated?

What are the goals of moving to a single data source?

Depending on the size, complexity and controls required, you will need to assess and define a new information architecture.

Completing the data migration using scripts and automation will ensure that the data is migrated efficiently. This method will drastically reduce admin overhead, providing automatic archiving, document clean up, document history and versioning information, and other metadata manipulation.

However, bringing data into SharePoint isn't the only task to be completed here. The information security model provided by Microsoft provides an excellent framework for the three pillars of security (CIA):

Confidentiality
Integrity
Availability

For an effective migration, your Active Directory should be as structured as possible, including well-structured security groups and permissions. Using the principle of least privilege is the place to start and will ensure that when the data is moved across, it will be accessible to only those who require it (C), it will have a clear audit trail (I), and it will be able to be accessed when required (A).

 

How to work better together and collaborate successfully

Once you have completed your migration into your new information architecture and SharePoint, it's time to think about how this will help your organisation work better together and collaborate.

You will have a single source of the truth, one copy of your data, in one place that is searchable, audited and hopefully automated (with Power Automate or using the built-in approvals processes, you can add automated versioning and document control and perform many other functions).

 

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It is then possible to improve the information governance within your organisation using versioning with document lifecycle and retention policies for specific data types identified through document classification and even applying Data Loss Prevention rules to protect your customers' critical data while adhering to compliance regulations.

I believe that the real benefit from moving to SharePoint Online is the additional collaboration through the wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem.

While being a great collaboration tool for chat, messaging, and video conference calls, Microsoft Teams is actually built on SharePoint technology for document management.

Imagine migrating your data into SharePoint sites based on your Microsoft Teams structure and then surfacing that data directly through the Teams interface. Your people are connected to your (well structured, searchable, audited) data through a single pane of glass.

At Chess, since Covid- 19 hit the country, we adopted a hybrid approach and our people work from anywhere. We were massive advocates of Teams even before the pandemic. Now, we rely on it to collaborate daily.

In April, I worked on a strategic document for a company presentation with 4 of my fellow board members and our marketing team. We all collaborated in real-time: the slides were accessed securely through Teams. The data was stored securely in SharePoint with governance controls in place. I could see where the changes were and comment on what was a need in specific parts of the document. We were all working from home all over the country, and not once was an email sent asking "who's got" or "where is the latest…" A truly collaborative effort!

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Gavin Wood

Gavin Wood

Gavin Wood is the Chief Technology Officer at Chess. With over 20 years in the IT industry, Gavin has a track record of driving successful business transformation through technology. An avid yachtsman, he's a massive advocate for remote working and anywhere operations. 


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