Sharepoint is a popular online collaboration tool that allows people to work together on, and share, documents in a secure environment. The core idea of SharePoint is the workspace.
What are SharePoint Workspaces? Well, they are the tool that is used to access content and navigate through your working environment. If you have used a SharePoint site before, then you will have some idea of how a SharePoint Workspace works.
What Are SharePoint Workspaces?
There are there different types of SharePoint Workspace – they are shared folders, SharePoint workspaces, and Groove workspaces. The SharePoint workspaces that you hear a lot about these days were introduced in SharePoint 2010, and they allow you to make copies of SharePoint sites on your local machine.
This copy can be used when you need to work offline, and then can be synchronized with your server. A SharePoint Workspace that is used offline in this way can have just one member, the person who created the workspace.
Groove workspaces have been around a little longer. They were introduced with Groove 2007, and they include several extra productivity tools. Typically, there will be a group of people working on Groove workspaces. Each person needs to be invited to join the workspace.
Shared folders are a much simpler form of collaboration tool that allows you to share the contents of a document folder in your Windows installation.
Your SharePoint workspace has document libraries and lists in it, and you can look at calendars, site pages, and other content such as tasks and discussions that are a part of the Workspace by using the SharePont tool. Groove workspaces have chats, tools, and features for managing the members.
What Are SharePoint Workspaces Useful For?
SharePoint workspaces are powerful collaboration tools that make it easy for you to access content and navigate large lists of document. It is a great tool for collaboration in enterprise environments where you have to deal with a lot of people who may have different schedules or priorities.
Enterprise collaboration is not always live or simple. It can be hard to keep up with who is doing what, or when they are working, if you are in head office and your team includes salespeople who are on the road, or knowledge workers who are in a different time zone.
SharePoint’s answer to the challenge of the enterprise working environment is the WorkSpace. It was created by Ray Ozzie, who was one of the key developers of Lotus Notes, and it puts collaboration at the forefront. Instead of being a flat list of documents, it has more search, discussion and comment options, calendars, multi-user sharing, and more.
It integrates with Lync and other tools, so that people can find out when other users have synced, and you can communicate both in real time and asynchronously with the people who are working on the documents.
WorkSpaces perform best when they are used in addition to other SharePoint and office tools. There are wikis, event lists, shared calendars, surveys, and OneNote notebooks to use as well as SharePoint, and not all of those things integrate well with each other at this moment in time.
That’s not to say that those other tools lack utility, but they are separate tools and users will need to get accustomed to working with them through other interfaces, or synchronising them manually.
Driving Adoption for SharePoint
It takes time and training to help people get used to working with SharePoint, but the tools themselves are not overly complex. Anyone who is comfortable navigating websites and using the Windows file explorer should be able to use SharePoint and find their way around a Workspace after just a few minutes to familiarize themselves. The fact that it is possible to work offline with a lot of the tools is a huge boon, and makes SharePoint practical for most applications.
One of the main pitfalls is permissions management. It is important that people understand who they should be adding to a Workspace, and that they know what allowing someone to join a workspace means. It may be that it is best for the IT department to set up SharePoint and manage access control, rather than allowing users to send out invites themselves in the early days.
Collaborative tools, when properly employed, can greatly improve productivity. They are convenient, remove a lot of the issues associated with emailing documents back and forth for revision, and save time and stress with version control.
Having the chat associated with a document actually attached to the document is a huge benefit, and something that people will quickly come to appreciate. The same goes for having lists linked to the context of the job that the list is for. Most people will end up with project-focused workspaces, which remove distractions and make it much easier to focus on the job at hand.
There are many different versions of SharePoint, and each one approaches the sites and workspaces paradigm in slightly different ways but the principle remains the same. If you have a version of Office that ships with SharePoint and you aren’t already taking advantage of these tools, then you should definitely have a look at them because they will greatly increase your productivity and make working with a distributed team a lot easier. When used properly, they can even take away the need for having meetings and ‘death by power point’.
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