This winter has been playing havoc with New England. In CT, January was the snowiest month ever, and February began with a two-day storm. We have opened late, closed early and simply given up and remained closed all day more in one month than we have during the past three years. Still, most of us managed to get our work done. Laptops, VPN, OCS and other technology kept us connected, but for me, SharePoint has been the star performer.
January is a busy month for our company and a very busy month for me, so losing a day, or even a significant part of a day tends to put things into a state of confusion. In addition to trying to support some development work, I have been involved with writing reports, developing presentations and assembling material for our Annual Meeting. Fortunately, everything I needed to complete those tasks was on SharePoint. Of course, we are not newcomers to technology, we have had some form of remote access working since the early 1990’s, but SharePoint is just flat out better.
Search – I can’t think of a single difference between the old way of doing business (remote access to shared files) and SharePoint that is more important than Search! Searching a shared folder for files containing specific text meant transferring tons of data across my Internet connection, because my computer was performing the search. SharePoint search is running on the server , streaming data across that wide, fast backplane. SharePoint search is fast, the results are useful and I love how we have a Search Center that crawls multiple Site Collections. So, when I needed to find the old Engineering presentations with the pictures of the earthquake in Japan, I had the link in a matter of seconds.
Versions – Working remotely is different than working while the office is closed due to inclement weather. If am telecommuting for a day, I can still bounce ideas off my coworkers, have them review stuff with me in real time and move toward a consensus opinion almost as easily as if I were in the office. If the office is closed, I can still talk to my coworkers, share my screen with them, review documents with them – I can even do face-to-face (although no one wants to do that). Of course, I can do that if they are connected and working when I am. If they are out running their snow blower, or if their town’s plow just blew three feet of snow onto their sidewalk, or even if they somehow managed to run out of bottled water, bread and milk, they may not be there for me. Versioning lets me not care. If I need to drop back to recover what we had before, I can, and so can they.
Metadata – Even the simplest bits of metadata become amazingly beneficial when you are “alone” looking through a pile of documents. “When was this updated?” “Who updated this last?” “What is the current status of this?” Whatever the possible question, libraries can be designed to have, or when necessary, require that the answer be clear and visible. As we start using managed metadata, it’s even more likely that those answers are consistent across all our sites.
I can’t wait until the snow piled up all around me melts away to allow spring to bust out in New England, but until that happens, I’m glad I moved my project documents onto SharePoint.