I have spent the last eight years of my career consulting to over a dozen different Pharmaceutical organizations ranging in size from 10 people start-ups to 500,000 employee companies. Each one of these organizations leverages SharePoint to provide the glue for various types of collaboration as well as an aid to improving specific styles of data capture and reporting. The single most common use of SharePoint is Document Management. SharePoint actually provides a rich environment that supports a wide variety of practices for managing documents. I have seen SharePoint support implementations that vary in sophistication from a simple replacement for a shared drive to an intricate system that provides a carefully choreographed life cycle for documents (including validated environments.) I have found many different uses within a single company.
After Document Management, the most common use of SharePoint is to create an Intranet for the organization. Not only does an intranet provide company information such as company news, employee directory, lunch menus, events, and executive blogs, but it also provides electronic forms that employees can use to request and signup for different services. Examples of these vary from signup for flu shots, to requesting cell cultures for experiments.
When I first started using SharePoint in 2007, if you had told me that companies were going to start leveraging a cloud based version of SharePoint, I would have pointed you to the armies of lawyers that were vehemently opposed to using any system off premises. Fast forward 8 years and I am here to report that many companies are using Office 365 (Exchange and SharePoint) being hosted in the cloud. NOTE: all the validated environments that I have seen are still hosted on premises. The advantages of Office 365 are numerous, just to name a few key ones:
- * The platform is always being upgraded (No one time “big bang” to a new version)
- * The uptime and performance is decent
- * Employees can easily login from anywhere and need not use a VPN
- * The company can easily share information with business partners
The competition: There are a number of competitive products that I have run across. They include:
- * Dropbox
- * Box
- * Egnyte
- * ShareFile (Citrix)
- * Igloo
In each one of these cases, the products are easier to use for the specific purpose that they have been designed for. However, they tend to provide just a sliver of the functionality that SharePoint provides. Microsoft views SharePoint as a key strategic product and is constantly improving SharePoint. So, if I was a betting man, I would put my money on the SharePoint horse.
SharePoint is a very deep product and a true overview would take a small book. My perspective is that it can be used in many ways and is a very useful product.