Every once in a while, a new technology or tool comes along that makes you wonder how you ever did your job effectively without it. For those of us at IWCO Direct, SharePoint is one of those tools. In recent years, as our teams have expanded and often include members working from different locations, some of the traditional ways we managed workflows had to evolve. Storing documents in one physical location, or inundating teams with emails about the status of projects, was inhibiting our productivity.
When we first introduced SharePoint technology at IWCO Direct, it was the most sophisticated way to share files we’d ever had. Not only could files be assigned metadata (data about the document) to drive workflow, but they could be accessed from anywhere, a crucial feature to support our growth.
For example, all Estimating documents used to be stored in file cabinets. When the Estimating team expanded to other sites, it was important to be able to access the documents from any location. Now the Estimating team uploads their documentation to a SharePoint library and organizes it much like an electronic file cabinet by document type, client, etc. In addition to storing their documents online, the Estimating team also built a Scheduling Board using a SharePoint list. This online Scheduling Board replaced a physical white board that had become obsolete as the team expanded to other locations. The Scheduling Board is easy to use and tracks workflow in the department at any given time so people who need to know the status of Estimating’s work can glance at the board online to find out—instead of sending yet another email asking for a status update!
SharePoint Alone Wasn’t Enough
At first, we approached SharePoint as many companies do. We hired outside services to set up various team sites, added some documents to it, and became genuinely confused as to why SharePoint was any better than a file-sharing folder on a network drive. It was clear we needed an intranet to store common documents such as expense forms, contact lists, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) in order to improve our workflow.
We started to use metadata to help with document search by tracking data about our common documents, such as Owner, Last Review Date, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for SOPs, document categories, and document audience. We are now at a point where all our process flows and SOPs link together in an interactive Business Process Management tool. Various teams within IWCO Direct have all their training material online with a supplemental, organized, and structured Learning Plan.
Good navigation is one key to a successful SharePoint intranet. We made sure to implement an intranet that could scale and be useful to any team, department, or business function (e.g., Order Acceptance). To do this, we made the navigation completely consistent from the home page to the sites and sub-sites.
We also started to introduce small applications with a form and SharePoint workflow built in. These small workflows help teams complete work on time according to instructions and submitted specifications. They also make the status of the team’s work visible to all stakeholders.
Perhaps my colleague, Eric James, put it best. After recently relocating from our Chanhassen, MN office to our Warminster, PA office, he said, “Having our Scheduling Board and all of our documents on SharePoint allows one-stop shopping for everything Estimating. A great tool for collaborating, regardless of location.”
At IWCO Direct, we’re always in search of ways to be more productive—whether that means using new technology, new processes, or simply looking at something with a fresh perspective. With SharePoint, we’ve been able to expand our centralized teams to all locations (like the Estimating team), genuinely making us one national team.
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