Invariably, SharePoint is deployed in enterprises to provide a collaboration platform, yet users find it complicated, confusing and are slow to adopt it. This is where solutions such as Huddle come in — providing a best of breed collaboration solution that users love.

However, why throw away through investment in SharePoint? Utilize SharePoint’s strengths, while deploying best of breed solutions to replace it’s failings. One particular strength of SharePoint lies in its portal ability. Here we’ll outline 3 possible scenarios to ensure you have happy users, all the while leveraging your investment in SharePoint.

SharePoint and Portals

SharePoint, as we have discussed previously, is much more than just a document sharing platform. It is billed as a place where employees and contractors can go to access purportedly any information they need that exists within an enterprise. Whether it is a slide deck that the marketing department has generated, the key third quarter profit and loss statement right out of your corporate finance system, or that one statistic you know is buried somewhere in a PDF, SharePoint portals provide a single system users can access the information they need.

Let us take a look at three different types of SharePoint portals and some things to be aware of as you consider their fit in your organization.

Business Intelligence Portals with Business Connectivity Services or the Business Data Catalog

One way to get critical business and performance information into SharePoint portals is to use Business Connectivity Services, or BCS. With BCS properly configured and accessing your line of business applications and production databases, you can build a SharePoint portal that delivers real time or near real time insights into your business. In fact, SharePoint has become Microsoft’s preferred platform for delivering business intelligence results that are generated by its Excel spreadsheet and SQL Server database software. BCS essentially acts as a conduit between SharePoint views and lists and your business data and translates the latter into information that can easily be displayed within the confines of the former.

Older versions of SharePoint portals, such as SharePoint 2003 and SharePoint 2007, called this particular area of functionality the Business Data Catalog, or BDC—not to be confused with a Windows NT-style backup domain controller. In SharePoint 2010, this functionality was renamed into Business Connectivity Services and the same name was carried forward into SharePoint 2013.

This type of data is not just for viewing, either. Once you have correctly set up the system to get the data that resides in your line of business applications, you can then run operations that fall under the CRUD umbrella that data scientists are most familiar with: create, read, update, and delete functions. Depending on how you have Business Connectivity Services configured and the particular line of business application from which you are receiving the data into SharePoint, you can transmit changes and synchronize modifications to and from that data source right from within SharePoint, and it can also be indexed by the SharePoint search service (more on that in the next section).

Enterprise Search Portals

Another type of SharePoint portal that some organizations envision is a search portal. For content stored within its walls, SharePoint provides a single place to search for documents, images, text within files, and other types of information.

What was before a complex job of sorting through multiple sites to find the information you need becomes easier when SharePoint is configured to index sites and site collections across your company. It can be set up so that content stored on cloud hosted instances of SharePoint can be displayed within a single search query that also finds content that lives within your corporate datacenter, through a technology called federated search. As we mentioned previously, you can also index data received into the SharePoint system through the Business Connectivity Services feature, which is great for scenarios in which you are looking for, say, information on a specific customer: you can look at quotes and proposals stored in Word documents on the SharePoint share, and then see a customer’s order history from the CRM system you have feeding information into SharePoint. SharePoint search can truly be an innovation for an organization if it is implemented both correctly and comprehensively.

Custom Application Portals

As you may know, SharePoint also supports developing custom applications that could serve as portals for customer service and support tracking, help desk queues, or employees training. These portals can reside more easily in either on premises or cloud SharePoint deployment because they often live entirely within SharePoint and store their data within SharePoint databases rather than relying on integration with other databases and systems. These types of portals are often used for specific purposes, rather than disseminating knowledge and making that accessible on demand.

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