As promised, I wanted to give you all an update on how things are going with our Outlook/Exchange and SharePoint implementations at Gulf Coast Welding Corp. (a company that previously did not have email – see Arrow-Tip #42 Top 5 Things We Take for Granted About Outlook). Its taken me a while to get this post out to you because quite frankly, getting to know SharePoint a little better has forced me to think twice about some of my old tried and true practices. Intrigued? Read on to learn where we are drawing the line between managing Outlook tasks and meetings in Outlook versus SharePoint.
We decided to roll out SharePoint shortly after our Outlook/Exchange implementation as an alternative to purchasing an on-site server for file sharing. So far, other than some learning curve issues, that solution has worked well for storing shared documents such as our production schedule, time sheets, project man hour projections and various company forms.
We also find the SharePoint Team Discussion board helpful for getting feedback from multiple team members on things like our latest web site design or new business process forms. We find that it is useful for everyone to review the documents in private at their leisure and then express their opinions where everyone else can see and discuss them.
The SharePoint calendar has allowed us to capture events such as company holidays and vacation schedules that everyone needs access to. However, for meeting invitations we are still finding that Outlook/Exchange works best since it allows us to store meetings on our individual Outlook calendars where alerts and meeting reply functionality add a lot more value than a central calendar. I do believe that in a larger organization where resources such as conference rooms need to be managed, the SharePoint calendar can be a good alternative to public folders (see Arrow-Tip #20 Best Practices for Coordinating Vacation Schedules in Microsoft Outlook)
We do, however, use the Workspace area for recurring team meeting information and related documents such as meeting minutes, agendas, or other documents we may need before, during or after the meeting. I prefer posting minutes on SharePoint as opposed to sending them to everyone via email where they clog up our mailbox (see Arrow-Tip #8 How Can You Speek Up Microsoft Outlook) and may or may not be easily found later when we need to refer back to them. Maintaining these documents in a controlled area also offers the added benefit of keeping our historical document intact in their original form.
Task functionality is one of the areas that I’ve spent a little more time experimenting with and I don’t mind admitting I’ve gone back and forth a little. In fact, I’ve spend enough time on this particular issue to inspire its own post so please check back soon for Part II on this topic where I will discuss what we decided to do about tracking Tasks. And in the mean time, please share your thoughts on SharePoint vs Outlook/Exchange in the comments section – can’t wait to hear your ideas!