SharePoint Tip of the Month

Integrating SharePoint with External Platforms

December 2014

For many years now, Abel Solutions has been helping our clients achieve the Four Promises of SharePoint: Finding and Using Knowledge, Managing Business Performance, Streamlining Business Processes, and Enabling Team Collaboration. In previous Tips of the Month, we’ve focused on how the tools built into SharePoint allow companies to achieve these Four Promises. This month’s tip is about how companies can reach beyond SharePoint into other key systems to achieve these same promises.

Consider, for example, the scenario where sales pipeline activity is tracked in SalesForce or Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and projects are managed in SharePoint. Furthermore, for a real estate company, property data is housed (excuse the pun) in Yardi. How does SharePoint, and its ability to interact with your CRM system as well as Yardi, help you better deliver on the Four Promises of SharePoint?

  • Find and Use Knowledge - In this scenario, there are key documents and other pieces of information related to the customer and project – key contacts, project size, project scope, etc. – that are relevant on both the sales side and the delivery side. A lot of this information may already be captured in your CRM system as part of your sales process. Why re-enter the information in a SharePoint site, when you can instead write a SharePoint web part that queries SalesForce or Dynamics for the information that would be relevant to the project team? Or consider a real estate company using Yardi for accounting and lease and property management, and SharePoint for document management. Extending the SharePoint search engine would allow them to combine search results for relevant content in SharePoint and in Yardi.
  • Manage Business Performance - Key short-term and long-term staffing decisions need to be made based on two factors – current resource load and future sales activity. Project plans, stored in SharePoint/Project Server, would tell you what the resource load looks like for the coming months. And sales forecasts, tracked in your CRM system, will tell you what upcoming trends to expect for resource loads in the same time period for projects that are close to being sold but not yet on the radar screen of the PMO group. By pulling measurable information from both systems, a SharePoint web part could not only provide resource managers with the key information they need to make hiring decisions, but would also allow the sales team to more accurately make commitments for when a proposed project can be delivered. Furthermore, a SharePoint dashboard could be designed as the single source of the truth, displaying KPI’s and charts based on data in SharePoint, Yardi and the CRM system.
  • Streamline Business Processes - There are several handoffs that need to happen at the point in which a sale is won. The PMO needs to identify resources. A project manager needs to start formulating a project plan. A project site needs to be created. The customer needs to be added to the accounting system for invoicing. Why not have one SharePoint/Nintex workflow coordinate all of this activity? Depending on the frequency of these activities, it might be worthwhile for the workflow to automate these otherwise manual steps.
  • Enable Team Collaboration - In a complex sales scenario, in which sales representatives and sales support staff are collaborating to produce an RFP response and a proof of concept (POC), the collaboration capabilities of SharePoint could be combined with the sales tracking capabilities of a company’s CRM tool. SharePoint’s version management, check-in/check-out, document set, and co-authoring capabilities would allow the sales team to work collaboratively on the RFP response and POC, while still allowing the sales team to keep the bulk of the sales data in their CRM platform.

SharePoint’s ability to integrate with external systems strengthens its promise as a platform that can deliver business and operational efficiency to growing organizations.

This SharePoint Tip of the Month contributed by Ben Nadler, Manager of SharePoint Consulting