It seems like everyone has SharePoint installed. But when I ask IT professionals in the logistics industry: “how is it used in your company?” The answer is often, “well, we actually don’t use it much.” I think that the reason for this answer is that few IT departments have overcome the integration challenges, leading to a lack of user acceptance. This in turn undermines business support for a proper implementation that takes integration with enterprise systems into account. In my experience, it is only with these integrated implementations that you will truly benefit your business.
When doing my own research and consulting with colleagues, I came across the following 5 very interesting scenarios where companies successfully use SharePoint and integrate it with their existing system and applications. Since almost all companies can benefit from this kind of SharePoint Integration, I consider them great reasons to use SharePoint:
Reason #1: Document Management.
The logistics industry is document driven. Customs forms, Air way bills, Invoices, Packing Lists, you name it. Logistic industry business processes generate billions of document artifacts and quite often these documents are printed on paper. SharePoint is a great tool to manage document workflow, archive those documents and then use its search capacities to find the documents. When MS_Office is used to produce those documents, it is a very simple process to load them into SharePoint. For those documents that are not generated in MS-office, you can use a middleware product (such as iBOLT) to read the metadata and push it into SharePoint.
Reason #2: HRIS requirements
Since most employees have access to SharePoint and SharePoint portals now, it has become a great system for automating human resources and related employee-facing business processes such as Employee Time and Attendance Reporting, Paid Time Off, Expense Reports and Benefits Information. Technology can only support our employees, however. They are not a substitute for the human dimension of human resources. Nevertheless, using SharePoint as a portal for HR processes, has proven to be one of the best implementations and uses of SharePoint. It is very easy to create the web-parts and all data captured can be pushed into the HR system using integration tools like Magic Software’s iBOLT. In logistics companies, employees are often located in the field while others are based at satellite offices or a headquarters. When integrated with backend systems, SharePoint can exchange information between field based and headquarters based employees regardless of their location. That’s where SharePoint mobile applications come into play.
Reason #3: SharePoint Mobile
You can use your mobile devices with close to zero effort. Just add /m at the end of the URL and your SharePoint portal is ready for mobile. But where does the data come from? Logistics applications for routing, scheduling, tracking and other requirements can be integrated with SharePoint and deliver up content to mobile users. Data from the field can also be fed back to those applications. The key is integration to backend systems.
Reason #4: eCommerce
SharePoint can be easily turned into your company’s eCommerce portal. You can develop your own or use or buy a template. With integration, you can also enhance or extend a standalone eCommerce portal using SharePoint. It is a process that is easier than most other solutions (even the free ones, or should I say especially the free ones-as my father used to tell me: there are no free gifts.)
And once you have your eCommerce solution, you will need to pull customer and product information from your ERP systems and push orders or quotes back to your applications. These automated processes save time and money and most of all, they address the growing need of our customers to “do-it-online”. Proof-of-delivery, tracking information and scheduling data can be brought into your eCommerce related SharePoint applications.
Reason #5: Wikis ,Blogs and Social Media
Logistics companies can use SharePoint to support a Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 presence that even extends into the realm of social media. Wikis and blogs may be used internally (for your employees) or externally (for your customers) and are the new way to share information, to send your message and to create a community. SharePoint does it for you; easy to post blogs and easy to maintain wikis. With an integration solution like iBOLT you can promote this content automatically using the Open Social API and other connections to social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook and even more specialized sites. For example, your Twitter direct messages (@customer) can be automatically logged into your CRM system right alongside email. Your new HR system job requisitions can be automatically posted to LinkedIn. And new entries in the ERP master product catalog can be Tweeted and posted on the Company FaceBook page.
These are just a few of the many reasons we saw for logistics companies to integrate SharePoint and their other enterprise systems. I am sure if IT and business managers will look at this list they will find more and better ways to use SharePoint and integrate it to the systems used.
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