What is SharePoint and how do we use it?

what-is-sharepoint

SharePoint Online is a tool that sits in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. 

Its primary purpose is that of a document management solution, allowing for collaboration on documents from anywhere with internet access. 

A lot of clients we talk to have a hard time grasping the concept of how SharePoint works, but a very basic description of it would be to think of it as your file explorer, on your local machine, surfaced through a web browser; where different sites and libraries make up the folder structure in which files are stored. These files are stored in the cloud, making them accessible to you anywhere that you have an internet connection, whilst ensuring industry grade securityIntegrating highly with the other tools within Microsoft 356, SharePoint provides you with a sort of one-stop-shop, allowing you to complete most of your work right from one place. 

As well as a document management solution, SharePoint is often used as an internal intranet for businesses. These intranets can be branded with the company colours and used to share company news throughout the business as well as help streamline business processes through the use of SharePoint lists and automated processes such as PowerAutomate. 

Why and how do we use SharePoint?

Here at AMT, the development team uses SharePoint for the purposes described above, but also work on some things that are perhaps ‘behind the scenes’ to most users. We work on projects which utilise the infrastructure that SharePoint and Microsoft 365 provides and build on top of it with the aim of providing more value and functionality to end users. We also make use of services that sit on top of SharePoint, such as Microsoft Teams, to communicate about projects and allocate work. Some of the ways we interact with SharePoint include: 

  • Building SPFx Modules 
  • Integrating with APIs such as Microsoft Graph or the SharePoint Rest API 
  • Creating Power Automate Processes 
  • Creating Provisioning processes 

SharePoint Framework Modules, or SPFx for short, are bespoke client-side solutions which are built using the ReactJS framework, written in TypeScript, a JavaScript superset. We decided as a development team that this methodology for creating SPFx modules would be our chosen approach as we felt it was both in keeping with modern web development, and ensured we could easily adhere to best development practice.

Some SPFx modules we have developed for clients include: 

  • Simple Alert Notifications 
  • Mandatory Read for document compliance 
  • Product Lifecycle systems with approval processes 
  • Document management systems 
  • Teams Management Module 

Often when developing SPFx modules, we may wish to integrate with external or internal data. To do this, we make use of API’s such as Microsoft Graph, or the SharePoint Rest API; PowerAutomate can also be used to connect with 3rd party services, and help provide professional email templates for approval processes. PowerAutomate can integrate with SPFx modules, or be used standalone, to automate business processes to a clients need. These processes run in the cloud, and can either be triggered by events that occur within SharePoint (or other systems), or run on schedules to complete tasks.

Although not directly a way in which we use SharePoint, provisioning processes are becoming more and more popular, meaning we have been working on them more and more. Provisioning processes are a combination of PowerAutomate processes, and PowerShell scripts hosted in Azure which, when triggered, create sites and structures based off templates. These processes save time, and ensure that consistency is maintained throughout a tenancy when new places / sites / libraries are added. 

As a developer, we utilise SharePoint for internal use, but as mentioned, try to build on top of it to bring a better experience to the end user. For any consultancy on how we may be able to improve any of your business process, please contact us.