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SharePoint and Digital Transformation
Is SharePoint Still Transformative Part 4 of a 5 (or 6 – who knows) Part Series

 Jun 27, 2017      Matt Bowers

Customers

Are customers important to digital transformation?  Is customer engagement key?  What comes first, digital transformation or customer engagement?  Does digital transformation drive customer engagement? Or does customer engagement drive digital transformation? What does all of this have to do with SharePoint?  Why do I as a SharePoint guy, care? What’s in it for me?

Well, before we address the SharePoint part of the question, let’s address the rest!

Most authors, researchers, and leaders in digital transformation would argue that your customers, customer interactions and how you engage with your customers are certainly key to successful digital transformation.  Just look at almost any article, blog post, book or other material published by Gartner, Forrester, McKinsey or MIT Sloan.  It is a common theme.

Even those who argue that it is not just about customers will acknowledge that your customers are a key driver and catalyst.

“Although digital transformation is not just about customer-facing functions, it’s clear that in many transformation projects, the customer experience is a key driver and catalyst. In more IT-oriented projects, the same goes for the user experience and user adoption. Actual usage and adoption, in fact, is essential to make such projects succeed.”
(
https://www.i-scoop.eu/digital-transformation/digital-transformation-customer-experience-marketing/

An essential element of a digitally transforming organization is how they differentiate themselves in the market and in a digital marketplace.  Differentiation is pointless if your customers are not engaged and interested.  So, customer interaction, engagement, and enablement is a key component of digital transformation.

So how does SharePoint fit into that picture?  How is SharePoint, as a technology relevant to the discussion?  After all, don’t most organizations use SharePoint to replace their network file shares and manage document versions?  How does that engage my customer?

I could argue persuasively that earlier versions of SharePoint could be leveraged to deliver quite robust, interactive, engaging and power web experiences as a public facing, dot come marketing website, fully capable of driving power and engaging customer experiences!

But, alas, this is no longer possible since Microsoft deprecated the web content management feature set and no longer supports SharePoint as a public facing website platform.  (I am sorry Satya, but I still think that decision was a mistake).  But I digress.

Internally, you can still use your Intranet application to drive customer behavior and manage customer experience, by how you capture, retain, integrate data about your customers in SharePoint and across other platforms or applications.

“Microsoft SharePoint provides a rich out-of-the-box infrastructure for data related to customer interactions and experiences (as well as for many any other data-related needs.) The combination of list data, full-text search, workflows, retention policies and integration with Microsoft Office can cover a wide range of customer experience use cases, empowering your organization to streamline your business data collection and processing.”
(Matthew Chestnut - https://threewill.com/top-5-reasons-to-manage-customer-experience-in-sharepoint-2/)

So, in the absence of a public facing website use case, can I still use SharePoint to drive customer engagement, enablement, and interaction, driving digital transformation?

The answer is a resounding YES!  Don’t make the mistake of limiting SharePoint to Intranets or Enterprise Content Management applications.  SharePoint can be used still as an extranet portal.  Extranets can and do come in a wide variety of flavors.  Extranet is simply a generic term that states the overarching architecture (shared access of an internal resource to authenticated external users). 

Extranets or portals can be very specific in function and address a wide variety of application needs.  Some examples are:  Merger and Acquisition Portal, Vendor Portal, Dealer Portal, Customer Care Portal, Customer Engagement Portal, and even e-Commerce portal.  Any of these portals can be designed, architected and implemented to take a very customer centric focus and drive customer interaction.

SharePoint also makes a great platform, for allowing customers to create their own accounts, change passwords, and manage other account details for an internal system.  (customer self-service).

SharePoint can be used to channel new customer inquiries and activities to an internal CRM or order processing system.  You can grab potential new customer information and pass it to a backend system, automatically creating new records, activating workflows, and driving business processes that allow you to respond to the customer in unique and interesting ways, to drive positive customer experiences.

Some other specific examples of SharePoint / CRM integration that can drive customer behavior, interaction or enablement, are things like:

·         Event Management

·         Customer Profile Management

·         Help Desk / Case Management

These are but 3 examples.  But there are probably many others.  Use your imagination!  ANY aspect of the customer relationship that could benefit from better management and a better understanding of the data you keep, is a possible point of intersection to create a specialized portal application to interact with your customers.

“The demand to manage various touchpoints and offer a rich experience at the same time is a challenge, however, it’s also the key to differentiating yourself in a competitive market. In fact, integrating CRM with SharePoint gives you a leg up on the competition and goes a long way to providing an accessible and collaborative experience for your customers.”
(Matthew Mead, https://www.catapulterp.com/integrating-crm-with-sharepoint-101-customer-scenarios/)

 

Matthew is a Partner, Senior Business Solutions Consultant, Client Engagement Manager and Senior Business Development Executive, with Covenant Technology Partners, a St. Louis, MO-based technology and business consulting firm.

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www.covenanttechnologypartners.com

 

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