Why Outlook can hold the key to SharePoint user adoption

February 20th, 2014   

Matt Maunder, Automated Intelligence

Microsoft SharePoint is a diverse, feature rich and intuitive platform.  I call it the Swiss Army Knife of the ECM world.  But when looking at your SharePoint deployment, the features you want to utilise, how it can fit your business, how the Information Architecture should work, how it should be scaled and so forth, there is one fundamental component often forgotten… the user, the most fundamental component of any ECM platform.

Why is user adoption so key for successful SharePoint deployment?

In a fully adopted SharePoint solution, users can collaborate better and the organisation benefits from knowledge sharing. Corporate data will be in the corporate system rather than being siloed on desktops and within people’s heads.  It is frequently the case that organisations have remote workers and disparate teams. Breaking down these geographical barriers with a centralised ECM solution will vastly improve productivity. In Short, user adoption will dictate the success or otherwise of your ECM strategy.

CMSWire carried out a study on the top 10 reasons why a SharePoint project fails.  If you take a look at the list, a lot of these reasons stem from how the user interacts with the platform.  Understanding what SharePoint is, technical skills, requirements, managing information all revolve around how the user takes on SharePoint as a concept, which is why it is essential to have a plan to maximise user adoption.

There are many reasons dictating how well users adopt SharePoint.  From user training and familiarity, to simply resisting change, we need to consider all of these points to ensure success.  The ability to work offline, and quickly finding information can also contribute to users resisting SharePoint, if not considered properly.

Why Outlook?

Microsoft Outlook is one of the core productivity tools that is commonly used right across organisations. As a fundamental communication point, Outlook is the most natural and familiar place to integrate users and your SharePoint platform. Users know how to use and navigate Outlook, and it is this familiarity that we want to tap into. Many of AI’s customers use Outlook as the central route to access SharePoint.

We’ve heard feedback time and time again that the majority of an organisation’s content exists in email.  A customer AI are currently working with commented that around 70% of their content lives in their user’s inboxes.  It’s important as much as possible to remove information silos. Bringing together email and other content is key to ensure robust information governance and compliance.

Outlook is designed from the ground up for hybrid online/offline use, and users have come to expect this kind of working.  Whilst we are rapidly moving to an always connected world, we’re not quite there yet.  We like Outlook for its ability to seamlessly switch between a connected and unconnected state when it comes to emails, so we can look at leveraging the same concepts for content stored in SharePoint.

And the simplest fact of all, Outlook is most likely already deployed in some form throughout the business, so why re-invent the wheel?  Instead we can augment the existing solutions which are deployed throughout the estate, to maximise the organisations investment, limit user training and significantly reduce any additional deployment costs.

What’s the solution?

Organisations are benefitting from AI.SYNCPOINT, an easy to deploy solution which bridges the gap between Outlook and SharePoint.  AI.SYNCPOINT works with on-premise SharePoint, private cloud or hosted SharePoint and Office 365.  AI.SYNCPOINT connects to SharePoint libraries and allows the user to access SharePoint content, as well as drag and drop content from Outlook into SharePoint.

Providing access to SharePoint locations through Outlook (either manually or through automated push) users are connected to the locations relevant to them and their jobs.  Users become less aware of the tools in use and more focused on the accessibility and availability of their data. As a result SharePoint becomes less of an ‘unknown’, as Outlook, an already familiar interface becomes central to their working practices.

AI.SYNCPOINT provides full offline capability allowing users to add, view and update content when working remotely in offline situations.  Users can view, edit and save documents whilst offline, any additions or changes are automatically synchronised when the user goes online.

We provide a seamless user experience where email is no longer a second-class citizen when it comes to information management.  If a user copies emails into SharePoint, all email metadata including email headers are captured in SharePoint, whether that be in a document library or as records directly into a record centre..

Crucially, emails and documents live seamlessly side-by-side. These can be easily transferred and managed within SharePoint against the corporate information policy.  The advanced information capabilities of SharePoint can now apply to email content, without costly and complex integration mechanisms.  Information becomes much easier to find as we can use both Outlook and SharePoint search to locate content.  This also means that we can greatly improve governance and compliance, further enhanced by solutions like AI.COMPLIANCE EXTENDER from AI.

And finally, all of this is performed in an asynchronous manner, meaning the user isn’t impacted when transferring data, Outlook remains responsive and your wider infrastructure is not adversely affected.

Outlook can hold the key to SharePoint user adoption

User adoption can be a challenge for SharePoint, and yet it is key to ensuring you realise your investment in SharePoint, and ensure content is stored in the right way, in the right place.  AI.SYNCPOINT allows us to utilise an already familiar interface into SharePoint via Outlook, providing a mechanism to ease users into the world of SharePoint, provide advanced capabilities to enhance the user experience, and keep the information stored properly managed governed.

To find out more, please get in touch at: info@automated-intelligence.com