SharePoint: A One-Stop Shop for Organizational Content

Introduction: Understanding SharePoint

In my many years of blogging about SharePoint, I’ve noticed a common query from my audience: What is SharePoint and how can it be used effectively? Some individuals are aware of SharePoint’s existence, but they lack a comprehensive understanding of its purpose and functionality. As a self-professed SharePoint enthusiast, I feel it’s my duty to rectify this situation by providing an overview of what SharePoint entails and how it’s utilized by organizations today.

Unveiling SharePoint’s Essence

SharePoint is a web-based application developed by Microsoft back in 2001. This versatile platform enables organizations to store, organize, and manage a wide range of content and information. From documents, images, and videos to news, links, lists of data, web pages, and tasks, SharePoint acts as an all-encompassing repository for virtually any type of content you possess.

SharePoint’s Evolution: From Past to Present

Before diving into SharePoint’s myriad uses, it’s crucial to highlight the platform’s evolutionary journey. Since its inception, SharePoint has undergone several major versions, including SharePoint 2003, SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2013, SharePoint 2016, and SharePoint 2019. In 2012, Microsoft introduced SharePoint Online as part of Office 365, allowing organizations to access SharePoint via a subscription service rather than investing in costly servers and infrastructure.

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Integration with Office 365: A Game-Changing Move

The advent of SharePoint Online brought about a dramatic shift in accessibility and cost-effectiveness for businesses, especially small enterprises and nonprofits. As part of Office 365, SharePoint Online receives constant updates without any version designations. This seamless integration with the cloud facilitates effortless maintenance, making SharePoint a practical choice for businesses of all sizes.

SharePoint Online vs. SharePoint On-Premises

While SharePoint Online has gained immense popularity over the years, the on-premises version, particularly SharePoint 2019, is still applicable for certain organizations. However, the transition to cloud-based solutions has surged due to the numerous advantages and productivity benefits offered. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the swift migration of many businesses from on-premises installations to the cloud.

Classic SharePoint vs. Modern SharePoint

In 2017, Microsoft revolutionized SharePoint, introducing substantial changes to both its information architecture and user interface. The platform shifted from a subsite-based structure to a more intuitive flat architecture, simplifying permissions and enhancing site association models. Additionally, SharePoint underwent a modern facelift, offering enhanced ease-of-use, editing capabilities, and maintenance for site owners and members. Consequently, the pre-revamp version is now referred to as classic SharePoint, while the modernized experience is known as modern SharePoint.

Evolving Use Cases: From General to Specialized

With SharePoint’s inclusion in the Office 365 suite of apps, certain functionalities have transitioned to separate applications within the ecosystem. This shift has allowed Microsoft to cater effectively to specific use cases. Over time, several capabilities formerly associated with SharePoint have found new homes in standalone applications:

Task Management

Previously reliant on the Tasks Web part and synchronization with MS Project, task management now thrives in dedicated applications like Planner and Project for the Web.

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Efforts to augment SharePoint’s social capabilities with features such as the Discussion Board and Newsfeed web parts proved inadequate against superior social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. Consequently, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Teams, a comprehensive collaboration application, along with the Yammer social network for a period.


Classic SharePoint enabled workflow creation within the platform, with advanced customization options facilitated by SharePoint Designer. However, modern SharePoint has relinquished this function to Power Automate, a robust Office 365 application that integrates with SharePoint and various other Microsoft and third-party tools.

SharePoint’s Core Strengths

Despite these transitions, SharePoint retains its robust core functionalities, cementing its position in the Office 365 ecosystem. Here are a few key areas where SharePoint excels:

Document Management

Since its inception, SharePoint has offered powerful document management capabilities beyond mere file storage. Features such as version history, check-in/check-out, co-authoring, and secure external sharing make SharePoint a comprehensive document management system. Notably, its ability to define custom metadata enhances document sorting, grouping, and search functionalities.

Custom Lists

SharePoint allows the creation of custom lists to store any type of information that would typically be housed in spreadsheets, such as project lists, contact lists, issue trackers, and more. While a separate Lists application exists, all underlying lists still reside within SharePoint, inheriting the security and access settings of their respective sites.

SharePoint Intranet

SharePoint’s website-like nature lends itself well to building visually appealing and user-friendly intranet portals. These portals serve as repositories for static, long-lasting information that goes beyond the transient nature of applications like Teams and Yammer. Intranet portals offer features such as news and announcements, event calendars, page content, videos, dashboards, and more.

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Wiki Knowledge Base

Though not inherently a dedicated wiki tool, SharePoint can be configured and customized to function as one. Its modern page editing capabilities, coupled with metadata tagging and page templates, allow users to create comprehensive wikis to store and share knowledge effectively.

The Backbone of Microsoft Teams

SharePoint is an integral backend component of Microsoft Teams, driving its document storage and collaboration capabilities. Every Teams creation, be it a team, private channel, or shared channel, results in the corresponding creation of a SharePoint site. These sites host all Teams files, recordings, OneNote notebooks, and various lists. SharePoint’s role ensures seamless coordination within the Teams environment.

SharePoint: A Versatile Content Management System

Despite certain capabilities migrating to separate applications over time, SharePoint persists as an exceptional content management system. It seamlessly integrates with the entire Office (Microsoft) 365 ecosystem, uniting various functionalities under one comprehensive platform. Whether used for document management, custom lists, intranet creation, wiki knowledge bases, or as the backend for Microsoft Teams, SharePoint continues to provide unparalleled support for communication and collaboration.

In conclusion, SharePoint’s versatility and ever-evolving nature guarantee its relevance within organizations, making it an indispensable tool for modern businesses.

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