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Intro to Company Portals With Microsoft SharePoint

One of the largest technology problems that plague businesses, particularly those that have been around for many years, is operating with a set of disparate systems and applications. This can make things difficult for your employees and creates duplicates of data everywhere you look.

A technology solution that can help fix these issues is Microsoft SharePoint – a Microsoft product that allows businesses to build their own company portal. This allows organisational data to be unified, accessible, searchable, relevant, and displayed neatly to each of your employees.

To understand the benefits of implementing a solution like SharePoint, we first need to take a look at the concept of data silos – once a technology staple, but now being transformed to allow for better use of data.

What are data silos and why are they bad for business?

Data silos are standalone sources of data that generally don’t integrate with other data sources. They are isolated storage systems where information is confined within specific departments, teams, or applications. They hinder the flow of information across an organization, leading to inefficiencies, data duplication, and missed opportunities for collaboration.

Example: Legacy payroll system

You may have a software application that your employees use to log hours, holidays, etc., with an administrative view for whoever is in charge of payroll. The data this software collects and references will be stored in its own unique database. Payroll may be mostly automated, with the ability to check over it for administrators, however, all that data sits in a silo. To change or access the data, employees and administrators need to run the software. The software historically has been installed on their machine, with a connection to the database backend on your server.

What’s wrong with this system?

There are multiple issues with continuing along using this example system:

  • Local installation of the software needs to occur with each new hire or machine.
  • An employee can’t access the system if they are working from home.
  • An employee will have a range of similar enterprise software applications on their machine, perhaps not clearly organised.
  • Managers can’t extract future holidays from the payroll system to assign work.
  • Inter-departmental collaboration is hindered, as relevant departments can’t easily access payroll data for cross-functional projects.

What data silo problems can SharePoint address?

SharePoint is a Microsoft product that is used to create a company portal. A company portal is a web-based software application that provides a space where employees can access all their enterprise applications, find company data and files, share news, collaborate with teammates, and more. Your company portal is the view shown to employees of your business’s intranet – your internal network, applications, and files.

SharePoint’s UI has been designed to be modern and intuitive for your employees. The look and feel will be intuitive and familiar for those who are daily smartphone users. When set up correctly, your SharePoint portal should require minimal training for use, even for the tech-adverse in your organisation.

Centralized Information Repository: SharePoint offers a centralized hub where documents, data, and information from various departments can be stored and accessed, fostering a collaborative environment.

User Permissions: Access control can be finely tuned, ensuring that employees only see and interact with information that is relevant to their roles.

Search and Discovery: SharePoint’s powerful search capabilities make finding relevant information across the organization quick and easy.

Version Control: With SharePoint, multiple users can collaboratively edit documents, while version history ensures that changes are tracked and reversible.

Real-time Updates: SharePoint’s cloud-based nature enables real-time updates, ensuring that changes are immediately reflected for all users.

Getting back to our example software, the payroll system, you can have this application available via your SharePoint portal, so it no longer requires local machine installation. You could store it in the HR section of your portal, along with other applications and information, such as Payment Summaries for taxation, essential yearly training software (such as safety, etc.), and internal job openings. Having these organised data hubs makes it easier for employees to find and access information and software applications.

When set up correctly, you can also allow your employees access to your SharePoint system so they can easily access resources and do work at home in exactly the same way they would at work.

SharePoint + Power Automate to unlock the data from your silos

We still haven’t addressed the fourth problem point from our example – Managers can’t extract future holidays from the payroll system to assign work.

Microsoft offers Power Automate, formerly known as Microsoft Flow, which helps connect software applications to other software applications – with data flows. In essence, you use Power Automate Templates to have data flow from one application to another.

There are plenty of pre-made Power Automate Templates ready to go, with a plethora available between Microsoft products, but also with connections to third-party applications, too. These include automation like synching calendar events from a Microsoft 365 Calendar to Google Calendar (or vice versa), saving Tweets with a specific hashtag to a SharePoint list, and getting a push notification when you receive an email from your boss.

If you’d like to continue using your legacy payroll software with SharePoint but want to unlock the data within it for use cases like assigning project work based on holidays, you’ll need to make some changes.

Your legacy software may or may not have been built with APIs for accessing data from its database. If it does have a good API, it may be easy to programmatically extract the data from the system – but you’ll need a developer to work on this for you. They will be able to design custom templates for you to work with your other systems.

Automated Workflows: With Power Automate, you can establish sequences of actions triggered by specific events. For example, when a new document is uploaded to a SharePoint document library, Power Automate can automatically send notifications to relevant team members, initiate approval processes, or even update information in other interconnected systems. This real-time automation not only accelerates processes but also minimizes manual errors, freeing up valuable employee time for more strategic tasks.

Trigger Actions for Swift Decision-Making: The integration between SharePoint and Power Automate empowers organizations to create trigger-based actions that facilitate swift decision-making and response. Consider a scenario where a sales contract is uploaded to a SharePoint library. With Power Automate, you can configure the system to automatically trigger an approval workflow. Relevant stakeholders receive notifications, can review the document, and provide their feedback. Once approved, the contract moves seamlessly through the process, ensuring timely execution and reducing bottlenecks.

Seamless Integration with Apps and Services: A key strength of Power Automate is its extensive integration capabilities with various applications and services. Whether you’re working with Microsoft 365 tools, third-party apps, or even custom-built solutions, Power Automate serves as a bridge, connecting disparate systems and enabling data to flow freely. For instance, you can integrate Power Automate with Microsoft Teams, allowing you to automate notifications and updates directly within your collaboration platform.

Need help setting up your SharePoint portal?

Having data silos across your organisation is bad for business. With the help of Microsoft SharePoint, you can start breaking down these silos, making your systems more unified and user-friendly at the same time.

Using SharePoint with Power Automate can break down these silos even further, by creating data flows so that relevant information can inform other systems automatically.

If you would like assistance in setting up SharePoint and Power Automate within your business, then make sure to reach out to us at A1 Technologies. We can assist in building your SharePoint portal, integrating all your current systems, as well as letting you know the benefits of updated Microsoft 365 products that work well with SharePoint. It’s time to update your systems to save resources in the workplace!

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