Q. How has the journey to SharePoint improved the way CodeBlue collaborate as a team?
Matt: A key benefit of moving from a full server environment to SharePoint, like we did, has been collaboration. One of the features we’ve found particularly useful is the ability to have multiple people working on the same document at the same time. When your team is collaborating across documents in a server environment, only one person can edit the document at a time. By moving to SharePoint, we can now collaborate more efficiently. You can also chat inside the document and as one person is typing the other person can see it happening right then and there—for example, we’ve had 14 people working on the one document at the same time. To prevent confusion, you can’t edit the same paragraph in Word or cell in Excel while someone else is working on it, and, there’s also tracking and tracing edits to maintain control. While this may seem simple, in practice this is a very powerful feature.
Q. How has productivity and workflows changed?
Matt: One of the big things we’re trialing, and we’re only in the early stages at the moment, is automation through Microsoft Power Automate in Teams. SharePoint has also helped us to increase productivity as a result of smooth collaboration through Microsoft Teams where you can share and edit documents, collaborate on the same document and communicate through the built-in chat. The other big advantage is that it gives you full workflow and automation. So, for example, before SharePoint, if we got a new client, we’d create them in the SharePoint back-end by making a new folder, manually put the files required inside it and our team would populate them as required. With workflows in SharePoint, I can go in and create a new client and SharePoint will automatically create a customer area with a set of top-level folders for that client, it applies all the templates we need for that client and will also create a projects area for the client. Then we can add tags to streamline the entire process and make file discovery easier for the team. This makes the process more efficient and ensures consistency.
Q. What impacts has the change had on file sharing around security and data control?
Matt: When you move to SharePoint, everything is public facing so it’s important to talk to an IT expert to set your system up securely. There are a lot of different ways you can do this which is great because it gives you the opportunity to tailor SharePoint for your business. For example, we have large areas of our environment where external sharing is completely banned and blocked off so that only our internal team can access it. But we do have other areas where we collaborate with customers which means we need to share files or folders with them. So, to mitigate the risks associated with this, we’ve enabled multi-factor authentication for all external parties. In addition, we’re starting to implement data loss prevention and Microsoft information protection policies as well.
SharePoint also has some great features that allow you to reverse changes and restore the original document. For example, when you’re sharing files you can use full version control, which is applied anytime a change is made to a file. Our document history is locked down and we have retention policies, which cover anything in our environment—if someone deletes something it will sit in retention for anywhere from 3-10 years, which means even if a file is deleted, it still exists. Another significant protection that Microsoft released last year is Rollback which helps protect you if someone breaks into your system, encrypts your data and tries to sell it back to you. Rollback is applied across SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams and allows you to roll your data back to before someone has encrypted your drive.
Q. What are the best SharePoint functions and features that SMB’s would benefit from?
Matt: The ability to have up-to-date, state of the art systems available on any device from any location. The later feature came into its own during the first Covid lockdown and I believe it has changed the way people work, for ever.
Another feature that SMB’s will really benefit from is the full version control. In the past, most companies would have a file with multiple versions saved. When you’re working with SharePoint, all the version history is in the back-end, which means that you don’t need to rename your file, you would just have one file name. SharePoint also fully integrates into your One Drive environment, your Teams and is fully compatible with Windows 10, Microsoft Office stack, so you get really good buy-in from all your staff who already know how to use all of these tools.
Q. What are the best practices and considerations when moving to a SharePoint model for SMB’s in New Zealand?
Matt: My biggest recommendation is to never do a lift and shift. That is the absolute worst thing you can do, and you would have a bad experience moving to SharePoint doing that. I’d suggest planning out where you are and where you want to be, mapping out your folder structure and organising tagging if you’re going down a metadata path. Taking the time to map this out will give you a better outcome. CodeBlue has multiple consultants around the country that sit down with you to plan out where your company wants to be in 12, 24 or 36 months’ time.
The other recommendation I would make is to involve all your departments when you’re going through this process. This ensures buy-in and staff will feel like they’ve contributed so that go-live day is smoother because they’ve been part of the process. Overall, if you’re going to go down this journey, you can have the option to break it down in two parts – Intranet and file structure. There is flexibility around the implementation and that’s something I would highly recommend discussing with your IT partner. It’s okay to not put everything in SharePoint and customise it to suit your business. That’s why our team understands your environment and business needs first and then builds the best solution to fit your unique business needs.