Every business wants to streamline and better manage their processes—from contracts to document collaboration and through to ways to keep in contact.
A trio of Manitoba Hydro IT professionals spoke to a Tech Mash Up crowd on June 14 about how they’ve put Microsoft’s SharePoint to work to help with those exact issues. They are managing contracts for projects all over the world and explained how any business can put the same process to good use.
The Tech Mash Up, Keep Control of Your Business: 5 Ways SharePoint Can Help Manage Your Contracts, was hosted by the Information and Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba (ICTAM) at the NRC Building building in downtown Winnipeg. The event also featured a presentation by staff members Stephen Dueck, Florencia Castillo and Jordan Bissonnette from the Business Support Technical Services Section (BSTS), a sub-unit of the Major Capital Projects Business Unit at Manitoba Hydro.
Microsoft’s SharePoint web application platform functions with the Microsoft Office suite, bringing together many tasks normally handled by separate applications, whether it’s document and workflow management, organizing and sharing files, or managing email and scheduling. SharePoint allows access to information from almost any device with a web browser, which means it can become a very powerful tool in a company's digital toolkit. When it comes to legal contracts, Dueck says SharePoint provides a secure, efficient and adaptable framework.
“How do you give people the freedom, authority and responsibility to manage these contracts on their own, but still maintain a picture of what’s going on inside your organization?” Dueck asked.
“If I was a CEO and I didn’t have an electronic contract management system, I would be hyperventilating in the parking lot every coffee break.”
That’s where SharePoint can help reduce the stress.
“It’s a true central repository,” Bissonnette said. “Instead of having contracts stored in one place, emails stored in another, you’ll really have everything in one place.”
That means all the related documents, including emails, photos, Word or Excel documents, are easily found and tracked.
“You’re always sure you’re working on the latest version of the document,” Bissonnette said. “You’re not sending different versions of a file back and forth.”
Using SharePoint is about playing the long game, Dueck says.
“You set up your contract management system as your opening move to something more,” he said. “There’s a whole pipeline you can create with SharePoint, and I don’t know of any other tool that can handle that.”
Where to start with SharePoint
The first step is creating a repository on a network.
“You want an intelligent system that can represent data in a variety of different ways,” Dueck said.
Dueck says SharePoint can be tailored to your business’ needs by setting up metadata categories using the policies and terminology of your organization.
SharePoint can also be set up to send email notifications about project deadlines.
“You can get rid of some of the routine administrative stuff with a basic form of automation by creating templates,” Dueck said. He goes on, “You get rid of the administrative burden, so people can spend more of their time applying their judgment, rather than juggling Excel lists or paper piles.”
A secure system for file sharing and collaboration
It’s also about security—as SharePoint helps manage access to files, with documents accessible via checkout that eliminates the risk of separate editing of the same document. And users are also not in possession of the actual files.
“When you’re distributing a contract through SharePoint, you’re distributing a link. So if that employee leaves the organization, they don’t have their entire inbox full of your intellectual property,” Dueck said.
SharePoint takes advantage of all the features in Microsoft Office and runs in virtually any web browser, Dueck said.
“[With SharePoint], Word is deployed in the browser so you can have access to all its features just by having a browser. You don’t have to install any software,” Dueck said. “Everything is living in the cloud.
“It can integrate with Skype for Business as well, so you can put conversations about the document you’re working on into the document. It also integrates well with existing IT and it integrates well with client-side software—because it is Microsoft.”
Apps and add-ons are readily available from major vendors, so there are great possibilities for an IT department to tailor the software to their organization.
“It saves a ton of development time,” Dueck said.