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Unifying the Campus with SharePoint?

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by Lauren Hart Piper , Vice President, Product Management and Marketing,

Here at Enterprise Hive we are always in discussions with higher education Presidents, Chancellors, Provosts, and CIO’s about the challenges they face when it comes to institutional effectiveness and the importance of how their institution interacts and engages with today’s student, faculty, staff and alumni.   These institutional leaders understand that today’s constituent expects communication and engagement to be similar to that of popular social sites like Facebook or Twitter.  In addition, these leaders are cognizant of the importance for institutional branding, privacy, and delivering a personalized unified experience with other campus technologies and systems of record such as the Student Information System or Learning Management System.  University of New Hampshire’s CIO, Joanna Young put it best when asked her opinion about the biggest technical challenge for her school in the next decade,  “People expect to be able to interact with an organization in a personalized, swift manner. IT has to be able to deliver the platforms, with the supporting infrastructure, to deliver that affordably and at scale.”

Given this challenge, many institutions are looking at various technologies such as SharePoint to deliver personalized engagement. SharePoint certainly has benefits for IT.  For many institutions, SharePoint is already a key departmental application. Today, the question for many institutions becomes how to leverage existing SharePoint implementations and move forward to meet expanding enterprise requirements given limited budgets and over extended staff.  For institutions considering new SharePoint sites for enterprise engagement and collaboration one should remember that SharePoint is a platform and not a solution.  Possibly the best fit to quickly transform the communication and engagement of the whole institution is with social business software delivered as a SaaS solution.

 

Here are some important points to keep in mind:

  1. SharePoint requires an on-site administrator for effective use.    To use SharePoint, the institution will need folders, classes and other taxonomies defined to optimize use. This isn’t really an out-of-the-box networking solution for students and faculty; although it might serve as such for specialized projects and IT specialists.
  1. Additional programming is often required in order to use SharePoint effectively. In order to support a large number of authors and websites, other products are needed to supplement SharePoint’s base attributes. This is why there are so many more specialized tools in this product space for this popular, all-purpose tool.
  1. Software development skills are a necessity for the full benefit of SharePoint’s services. In fact, even IT specialists who haven’t kept up-to-date with some of the program requirements will quickly fall behind as new uses for SharePoint are required. Some knowledge – if not outright expertise – is required in ASP.net, .NET, C# and wide-ranging web development skills. These just aren’t the kind of skills that the average student or teacher interested in higher education gravitate towards. These kinds of users need something more to the point that has built-in expert help.
  2. SharePoint’s emphasis is not on bringing people together, as much as it is for acting as a document management system with high-level permissions. An administrator capable of handling the different situations that may arise occupies the top rung, with everyone else having minimal control. It can be difficult to be collaborative when the balance of power is so decidedly shifted; higher education institutions require a platform that is more socially-orientated.
  3. Lastly, SharePoint may be too specialized to be user-friendly in the higher education sphere. It relies on technologies as varied as SQL database knowledge, enterprise servers and the inner workings of the Domain Name System. This makes troubleshooting a headache, as a glitch in any of the above – and more – will cause problems in the overall system until it’s identified and fixed. For students, faculty, staff and other collaborators, the need to hire an IT specialist for every little problem is simply inefficient – SharePoint needs a dedicated team from its inception.

Social Business Software a Solution for Unifying the Campus?

Instead of SharePoint as the framework for the enterprise engagement system, institutions may wish to consider a SaaS, social enterprise software solution. The social enterprise software should provide a full suite of communication and collaboration tools and “out- of-the-box” configuration to meet the expectations of today’s student, faculty, staff and alumni.

A cloud-based, social enterprise software solution for higher education maybe even a better fit for institutions who need to quickly and affordably, deliver an innovative enterprise engagement solution to their constituents. A SaaS solution saves an institution time and money as there is no need to purchase hardware or allocate IT resources for support and maintenance. However,  the social enterprise software must be highly configurable as each institution is unique in their requirements.  To meet the requirements of higher education,  there needs to be a complete suite of social communication and collaboration tools and an embedded gamification engine.  This will enable the institution to have the tools and functionality to immediatley engage, incent collaboration and knowledge sharing as well as track and reward contributions and outcomes.  To provide a unified experience, the social enterprise solution for higher education must have API’s in order to connect systems of record such as SIS and LMS as well as SharePoint sites and other campus systems.

Social enterprise software can be the answer to higher education’s need for an enterprise engagement platform.  A SaaS solution designed for higher education can quickly and easily be implemented and deliver a unified, personalized experience to all campus constituents differentiating the institution from the competition and  increase institutional effectiveness.

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