Microsoft SharePoint is now so well-established that it has become synonymous with business collaboration. For many years now, large enterprises have been using SharePoint software – primarily for document management and setting up intranet sites.

In recent years, an increasing number of small and medium-sized companies have started to tap into this enterprise-class platform for its more advanced capabilities. Regardless of the size of the business, many organisations are still not using SharePoint to its full potential. More than just a handy collaboration tool, SharePoint can serve as an organisation-wide platform for workflow-centric businesses processes.

There is a lot more to this product than meets the eye and a number of its ‘hidden gems’ could make it a very useful business tool for start-ups and SMEs. Here are five aspects of SharePoint that you may not be aware of:

  1.  You can start using SharePoint for free

Not only does this come without costs, but it can also be set up and ready in just a few hours. Businesses without enormous IT budgets are therefore able to create intranet sites where employees can share documents, calendars, tasks and participate in online discussions. Of course, you won’t be getting all the bells and whistles of more advanced versions, but there is no better way to explore what SharePoint can do for your company if you haven’t tried it.

  1.  SharePoint makes it easy to control your data

In addition to providing a central repository for information, it’s easy to set up customised controls and user profiles with SharePoint. Different employees can see and do different things, depending on what permissions they’ve been given. Also, because SharePoint has version control built in, a number of different people can be working on the same document at the same time, without the risk of overwriting each other’s changes by mistake. This ‘controlled collaboration’ can even be extended beyond the organisation itself, as SharePoint makes it easy to build secure online portals (for example , for partners or customers) that allow businesses to share information both internally and externally.

  1.  SharePoint is very easy to use …

… as it is formatted with the familiar Microsoft interface and is tightly integrated with Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and many other Microsoft products. Employees can therefore start using it straight away, with little or no training. This is an important fact to keep in mind, because if software isn’t easy to use, no one will ever use it – no matter how great it is.

  1.  SharePoint can support your business critical functions

It does this by integrating disparate lines of business applications ranging from HR, ERP, and finance and be developed to support specific business processes. Crucially, the software has been designed to enhance existing systems without the risks and costs associated with redeveloping new applications from scratch.

  1.  Visualising data is a lot easier

This means that it can deliver important business intelligence based on a wide variety of data. When coupled with Microsoft’s SQL server, SharePoint’s interactive graphs and charts can help raw data to come alive in a way that’s simply not possible with spreadsheets or other standard documents. As a result, management can make decisions based on up-to-the minute business intelligence that is easy to collate and understand.

Whether you are new user looking to try it for the first time, or an experienced user looking to add more advanced functionality, SharePoint’s hidden gems are more than just document sharing or creating a basic intranet. This useful software can offer an easy way for SMEs to maximise any existing investment in IT, whilst also making the company much more agile and efficient at the same time.