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How Has SharePoint Evolved and Where Does It Fit Today?

By Nikki Dent

Not long ago, Microsoft SharePoint was the go-to platform of many businesses for a wide variety of tasks from company intranet to building entire websites or custom systems. You could quickly create collaboration spaces for teams, share documents and resources across your business, and create workflows for processes with hands-on configuration. Additionally, you could tie in business intelligence and outside applications through integrations and secure it all with Windows-based authentication. It was even successfully stretched to manage content for enterprise-level websites and used as a platform for custom application development. Armed with those capabilities, SharePoint swallowed up other business applications that could only satisfy one of the above.  

So, what changed?  

With the continual expansion and introduction of new tools to Microsoft Office 365, it’s clear that Microsoft is moving toward more of a “one tool for one problem” solution and allowing users to create integrations between those. Microsoft Teams is a great example of this. Teams is a platform that competes with Slack for team communication. It integrates with Microsoft’s Planner tool for task management, OneDrive for file storage, and provides built-in connectors for many other Microsoft and non-Microsoft platforms. Plus, you don’t need to be a developer to use Office 365 tools to create a data workflow into Teams using the apps Forms and Flow.  

Office 365 Apps--a visual listing of logos for available apps.

 

In the years following Office 365’s initial release, Microsoft has added more and more specialized tools to the platform. With one subscription you can now use OneDrive to store documents, Teams for collaboration, and PowerBI to surface business intelligence. And yet, SharePoint is still there, accessible online as part of the subscription. So, what’s left for SharePoint?  

 

SharePoint Today 

 

While many new tools have taken the place of what you might have once done in SharePoint, we still feel that it has its place in the lineup of Office 365 tools. In our opinion, the best use for SharePoint Online is its original intention—intranet. While, the company intranet of today is different from how it was 8 or 9 years ago, there is still a need at many organizations for centralized collections of information and springboards to other resources. As part of Office 365, standing alongside all the other competitive tools you get with a subscription, SharePoint can now serve as a hub to access all the documents, forms, business intelligence, workflows, and even static site content you harness in the other systems. Create a site, assign a team, add your integrations, and quickly provide a central place to collaborate. 

 

Example of SharePoint Online interface

 

So, we’ve established SharePoint’s niche, but are there applications where it should really be avoided? In a word, yes. Where SharePoint once competed as a platform for enterprise-level website content management, or custom business applications, there are tools today that are better suited to those tasks.  Content Management System (CMS) tools are designed specifically for that purpose and offer stronger digital marketing capabilities and design flexibility for responsive websites. In terms of custom app development, the practice of rolling business requirements into an already functional platform has been made virtually obsolete by using agile development processes and lean mentality to quickly develop custom, baseline solutions. This offers you a better designed solution from the beginning and more flexibility to expand or change your app based on user acceptance and market ROI.  

 

Conclusions 

 

Wondering if SharePoint Online is the right solution for you? If you’re looking for a hub or connector to drive your internal users to documents and basic data collection or reporting, then SharePoint is likely a solid solution for you. However, if you’re looking to support a custom website or cutting-edge application, you’ll want to look for a more modern tool. Don’t fall into the trap of using one tool for every job! The Aptera team can help you choose the best tool based on your business needs and requirements.  Reach out to us today! 

 

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