Is Outlook the gateway for better user productivity in SharePoint?

October 22nd, 2015   

Simon Cole, CTO, Automated Intelligence

Outlook Sharepoint integration - user productivity in SharePoint

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”.

These words by Henry Ford apply to many things and are equally relevant when creating a successful information management strategy involving SharePoint/SharePoint Online. We could easily change it to say, “If both the organisation and the users are moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”.

The implication is that we need both the organisation and the users working towards the same goal. To guarantee success, the organisation needs to ensure that the information strategy is clearly defined, the benefits it brings are understood and that it is widely adopted across all users. The last of these requirements is often the hardest to achieve, the biggest and most common failure in information management is lack of adoption.

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Forcing users to adopt new and unfamiliar platforms can lead to resistance in adoption, however if the new capabilities result in an improvement to our working life then we naturally adopt it. Achieving natural adoption across a larger organisation or department is the ultimate goal and drives user productivity. Adoption leads to success. By incorporating user needs from day one, organisations will also realise all of the other goals, whether that be compliance with the strategy, better records management or efficiency gains through maximising the return on investment for the organisation.

Three tips to drive better user productivity in SharePoint/SharePoint Online

1) Provide access to SharePoint/SharePoint Online at the point of user engagement

When designing your strategy, incorporate a platform that fits the user and helps them to do their job. By helping users you are naturally encouraging them to adopt the SharePoint/SharePoint Online platform. This in turn increases your return on investment by increasing their productivity.

One of most commonly used productivity tools in any business is email.  User adoption of SharePoint/SharePoint Online can be greatly increased by providing a way that users can access and work with SharePoint/SharePoint Online through their email client, typically Outlook (one organisation that we helped had around 80% of their information stored in Outlook prior to integrating it with SharePoint/SharePoint Online, which goes to highlight how central the platform is!).  The benefit of integrating SharePoint/SharePoint Online with Outlook is that the user is working with an interface that they already know and rely on. Getting users to work in SharePoint/SharePoint Online from Outlook is completely intuitive, very quickly they are automatically accessing and storing information within SharePoint/SharePoint Online. This allows enhanced collaboration for the user and knowledge sharing for the organisation as information is no longer siloed on people’s computer desktops or worse… in their heads! Key to the success of this approach is ensuring the integration is extremely simple to use as this ultimately guarantees adoption and reduces time spent on training.

2) Consider how and where your users work

Identifying the answers to how and where your users do their work can have a big impact on the platforms they are using. For example, let’s take a user that spends time on the road travelling. If they do not have some sort of offline access to their files will they use the SharePoint/SharePoint Online platform? Probably not.  They will most likely use substitutes, such as their desktop or personal storage areas that contain no method of governance!

The ease of use of these substitutes alongside the perceived barriers to using SharePoint/SharePoint Online will influence whether or not the users adopt SharePoint/SharePoint Online as a good place to work. Ultimately, organisations should offer the ability to fit SharePoint/SharePoint Online within the user’s daily routines and ways of working.  This will organically motivate them to use the governed platform. Embedding offline capability within Outlook will ensure that SharePoint/SharePoint Online continues to be the source and destination of corporate information regardless of where the user is.

3) Free the user from being responsible for choosing and applying policy

Information governance/records management is increasingly important right across all industries and sectors. Recent high profile and widely publicised cases only go to highlight the challenges facing all organisations. Many of the cases over the last 10 years have related to the poor application of information policies, either through not keeping adequate records or through mismanagement of the records that were retained.

One of the key decisions organisations have always faced is when to apply information governance regulations. In reality governance and compliance obligations begin when a document is created or an email is sent or received. Organisations need to put in place systems that ensure information is tagged and managed against policy from the point of origin, even if the record is of no long term value.

Having the ability to this without the user having to either understand the policy being applied or actively participate in the application of the policy is key. Preventing the user from having to deviate from their regular routine is a necessity if we want to see both adoption and compliance. Automatically capturing metadata and applying existing SharePoint/SharePoint Online metadata directly via Outlook will allow this to happen. Likewise when a user adds a document to SharePoint/SharePoint Online we want the policy to be applied at the point of capture automatically.  This allows organisations to maintain control of all information for audit and compliance purposes while ensuring that users can get on with their job.

Overall, there are many things that organisations should consider to drive user productivity and adoption within SharePoint/SharePoint Online. These 3 tips outlined above demonstrate that Outlook can be a key gateway to SharePoint/SharePoint Online productivity and better information governance compliance.

Below is a video of how users can collaborate and increase productivity using a SharePoint/SharePoint Online and Outlook integrated platform.

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Find out more on how to collaborate using Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint by watching this video: