Think SharePoint!

Installing a SharePoint infrastructure is one thing. Use SharePoint is another. We often get feedback that it is hard to use SharePoint although the interface (since SP 2010) is pretty easy and looks a lot like other Office applications. So, why is it so hard to start using SharePoint? The users have to start think SharePoint! That’s the hard part in the whole implementation. This article gives you 5 best practices to start thinking SharePoint.

Don’t think folders, think columns

Most fileservers contain folders with unstructured data, many subfolders with sometimes hardly any document. You could transfer these documents to document libraries on you SharePoint server but that is not the best way to do. Often the users create a document library for each folder they have and create subfolders in those document libraries. You have to create libraries on the basis of requirements and / or functionalities. Disable the option to create folders and create columns containing metadata for each document. By creating the metadata you can use intelligent views to visualize the document for each requirement. To make the transition easier you can create some grouped views to give the users a folder like look.


Don’t think documents, think lists and wikis

While transferring documents from folders to document libraries, it becomes obvious that there is an alternative. Two alternatives: lists and wikis.

Let’s take a look at this example: In an educational institute each course generates 4 documents for each student. If there are 100 students we get 400 documents for each course! We can use a list with a few columns to replace this and you can extend the possibilities by using views on that list.

A document is an isolated silo of information. You often have to open the document and browse it to view the content or structure. By using wikis we share the information in a clear way. It is very easy to link wikis with each other or to generate a document index.


Don’t think push, think pull

If you are an employee of a large company you’ll know the company newsletter that is pushed every week/month into you mailbox. With SharePoint you can let the users choose their own news sources and the way they subscribe to it (e-mail or RSS feeds). They also can choose the frequency of the alerts they get.



Don’t think attachments, think links

Do not email documents to each other’s mailbox when you have a SharePoint environment. Start mailing each other hyperlinks to the documents. When you send a physical document to someone you lose ownership of that document and it creates storage issues with the receiving party. You can use these tips when sending document hyperlinks:

  • use a free tool like Harmonie, it integrates with outlook and let you upload documents to you SharePoint site while sending the e-mail.
  • Put the hyperlink to the document behind some text because SharePoint links can get very long
  • Shorten the long hyperlink with tools like of


Don’t think e-mail, think workflows

SharePoint (in combination with SharePoint Designer) contains an excellent workflow engine out of the box. You can even extend it by using SharePoint Designer, Visual Studio or some third party applications. So, do not e-mail someone to do something. Let SharePoint do the work by create a workflow that generates tasks for users.



Using SharePoint is start thinking SharePoint. That is the hardest thing to do. Your users need to change their mindset, this takes time and coaching is needed.


This presentation was part of the “Think SharePoint” event at University College Howest – Belgium.