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What Is SharePoint, & Can You Configure It For Reporting?

Can you mold SharePoint into a reporting tool? Take a look at some noteworthy benefits and considerations before you get started.

Ted, Founder and Managing Partner at ClearPoint, has over 25 years of experience working with organizations to improve their performance management and strategy execution processes.

SharePoint is a configurable document and data management solution from Microsoft. It helps companies deal with the permissions sets that they get from using another Microsoft tool (i.e. Excel) for an enterprise-like outlook. It can be used as:

  • A cloud-based document sharing platform.
  • A collaborative website, document, calendar, or list creator.
  • A content management system (CMS).
  • A business intelligence (BI) platform.

Because SharePoint is a very flexible application, it needs to be programmed to fit the needs of the company. For example, if you wanted to create a data input site on SharePoint that would build or display data in a form unique to your company, you would have to build out that solution using the SharePoint application.

How SharePoint Differs From Other Solutions

If you are wanting to create a place to display your targets and actuals—and wanted to use SharePoint for this—you would have to create that performance management solution. This is the most important distinction between SharePoint and other performance management solutions: SharePoint is not useable as a solution for reporting right out of the box. Without programming SharePoint to have the right fields and controls, it’s going to look a lot more like a content management system than a performance management tool.

That’s not to say that you can’t mold SharePoint into a strong solution for your business. This could be done by attaching anywhere from tens to hundreds of spreadsheets for actual and target measures or by building fields for targets and actuals. You can also build out more complex permissions, create different layouts and views, build particular ways to store data and analysis in the application, and more—but again, that is something you’ll have to build out yourself.

If you’re not keen putting in the time and effort it takes to build this solution out, you could simply buy preconfigured scorecarding software. Any great reporting software solution will be able to meet all of your requirements and should require little to no custom building.

Benefits & Considerations Of Using SharePoint For Reporting

Benefits

  • The base SharePoint application is free. By free, we mean that it comes with your typical Microsoft Stack purchase that your organization has likely already made. But the reality is that it has to be configured to be useful for reporting, so the configuration is not free.
  • It is a good file storage system. If you’re tracking all of your measures in different Excel files, SharePoint can be a common place to store all of those Excel files. Some people like that and think that it’s helpful.
  • It is very flexible. As we mentioned, it can be configured in a number of different ways.

Considerations

  • Once you factor in configuring SharePoint, it isn’t really free. The catch is, SharePoint doesn’t come in a useful format. It takes a great deal of time, materials, and labor to configure it so that it will actually help your organization. Don’t forget about the cost of upkeep, as well.
  • You need to consider whether you want to build or buy a reporting tool. If you need to build something with permissions and charting, for example, you’ll have to decide whether you want to completely mold SharePoint to match your specifications (which requires handling and managing the grunt work) or whether a pre-made report generating solution would meet your requirements.
  • Additional capabilities must be added. If you begin using SharePoint as a file storage management system and then decide you want to use it for management reporting, that capability will need to be added. Or, if you later decide to a build a company wiki as well, that would also need to be designed in. So, remember that this could start off as one simple project and balloon into a really complex network of solutions.
  • SharePoint users often run into permission issues. There are many times in performance management when you don’t want someone to have permission to make changes. The issue is, permissions can get very specific, and they are not specific in SharePoint. We have seen some organizations spend hundreds of hours trying to configure SharePoint for performance management and run into major roadblocks when they try to configure permissions.
  • There may be a question of usefulness. SharePoint can be a good solution for holding documents, but may not be as useful for holding comprehensive reports for a review meeting. Why? Because you may have to spend hundreds of hours in SharePoint to finagle that functionality. So you’ll have to ask yourself: “Is SharePoint really useful for what we’re trying to do?”

The Takeaway

You’ve heard that there “ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” and SharePoint is no exception. The reality is, SharePoint only offers a basic framework for a broad number of business applications, and you are responsible for creating the building the solution itself. If you decide to go forward with SharePoint as a reporting solution, make sure you understand that it may take you a considerable amount of time to get the application configured in a way that is useful for generating management reports.

What Is SharePoint, & Can You Configure It For Reporting?