SharePoint Extranet: Can you Have Your Cake, Eat it too and get praised for that by End Users?
For sure, the SharePoint platform has become a central component of the information system for a growing number of companies. Beyond the set of features Microsoft’s platform supports out of the box, there are some new opportunities to improve the productivity of collaboration in business with next-generation technologies brought by third-party vendors.
These trends include the emergence of the “Simplified SharePoint Extranet” as a way to better collaborate with the outside world. This new concept consists in allowing internal users to share documents or send messages to external people from any SharePoint site, and to track replies and updates in real time in SharePoint.
In many cases, the deployment of a classic SharePoint Extranet is a very resource-consuming process. Because of that, organizations hesitate or sometimes just give up, drop the project and don’t set up an Extranet, leaving to end users the responsibility of managing their communication with people outside of SharePoint by their own means.
As a result, one-to-one and many-to-many e-mail exchanges proliferate and have a strong negative impact on efficiency and productivity. First, end users must spend time to download documents from SharePoint and attach them to e-mails, to add recipients (taking care of not forgetting anyone), to manage situations where attachments are too large and must be sent again, to sort out the replies they receive and to replicate new versions of documents in SharePoint to keep it up-to-date. Second, the group bears the additional costs of managing several communication channels for each project: researching the latest version of a document that can be in SharePoint or in mailboxes, losing reactivity when the person handling the exchanges is out of the office or leaves the company, or misunderstandings due to a list of recipients that changes from message to message.
Therefore, it is most important to set a bridge between SharePoint and external users, while avoiding to fall back in a long and costly project. Users should be able to share and collaborate with external partners from the internal SharePoint platform, but without exposing the network, creating user accounts for the partners and training them. It should be made easy to click on a SharePoint document to send it to external users, and to track in SharePoint all interactions that follow, including all version updates of the document, while external participants only use their e-mail application or a simplified interface.
Requirement for such a solution may be:
– Allow internal users to invite external participants from SharePoint with just an e-mail address, with no Active Directory operation and no need for additional licenses.
– Let internal users send those documents from SharePoint to their external partners, who will receive them by email.
– Automatically replace large files by links to a secured sharing area where they can download them.
– Provide a full traceability of the exchange: view in real time from SharePoint if the external partner read the message, opened the attachment, replied to the e-mail, and sent a modified version or other documents.
– Remove the need to reconfigure the network and the firewalls, while complying with the security policies in place.
– Be installed in minutes on the SharePoint environment.
The emergence of this type of innovations will allow SharePoint users to benefit from practical collaboration platforms enabling work with external partners. Users will be able to exchange at no risk documents with external people, to improve the traceability of communications and to work in a user-friendly SharePoint interface. Overall, these initiatives will vastly contribute to making SharePoint more attractive and to give users the benefits of features that make sense for their daily business and that improve their productivity.
This is why we created BusinessGuest, the Instant SharePoint Extranet solution that enables these scenarios quickly and for very reasonable costs.[nggallery id=4]
How is the SharePoint Extranet with BusinessGuest? Take the Tour!