SharePoint Online: Best practices, tips, and tricks

Introduction

When a workforce is diligently working from remote locations in the middle of a global pandemic like COVID-19, one cannot help but wonder how they are functioning smoothly. A regular day at work includes tons of emails, attachments, files, lists, agendas, memos and notes being transferred from one desk to another.

File Management With SharePoint

For a distributed workforce, there is very little on-premise work and most of these files are shared online. Emailing them can be a time-consuming task that also does not allow file management. We all have been there, where we had to sort and organize the files in different folders and send the documents when needed. 

File Management With SharePoint – Document Library On premise
File Management With SharePoint – Document Library On premise

SharePoint Reduces Efforts

Embracing SharePoint, a cloud-based productivity tool has put an end to the cumbersome task of multiple forwards with no space to organize the files. If you are an Office 365 subscriber, you can enjoy the benefits of the SharePoint file manager within your business.

Managing SharePoint documents can become a complex job if you are not abreast with the tips and tricks. Here is how you can maximize your yield from SharePoint:

File Management With SharePoint – Office 365 – 1
File Management With SharePoint – Office 365 – 1
File Management With SharePoint – Office 365 – 2
File Management With SharePoint – Office 365 – 2

Know What Is Searchable And What Is Not

Before you explore the SharePoint for a particular file type, you must know how this application searches for the file. Often users complain that they could not search their required file from the search bar. 

But first things first, what can you search and what not?

Things You Can Search

SharePoint allows users to employ securities to certain documents. 

  • If a user lacks the permissions and roles to access a particular document, it will not be available in the search results. 
  • On the contrary, someone with sufficient roles and permission lists will be able to discover the files with a simple search.
  • The search in a SharePoint system considers the input keyword and matches it with the file name, the headline of the document, and any related tags and metadata. 
  • Even the content inside a document will be scanned with the input search keyword.

Example:

If a business wanted to search a file by typing a keyword from the file text, SharePoint would not be able to produce results of the file. The same user will be glad to find the desired file if it is searched by the file name.

Exceptions In File Search

However, there is a small catch that O365 subscribers must know about SharePoint. The exhaustive search of the keyword as outlined previously is valid in the case of a Word document. If you have a PDF scan of an image – then search won’t pick up any of the words inside this scan.

Searchable things Apps, Files, Users, Sites
Searchable things Apps, Files, Users, Sites

Name Files Consistently (file naming in SharePoint)

You would agree that it is a pain in the neck to organize countless files that we deal with in regular corporate life. And we also feel burdened when our colleagues do not follow proper conventions while naming the files. Here are a few tips to follow with File naming in SharePoint.

  • Whenever an associate is using a SharePoint folder within a team, they should avoid obscure filenames. 
  • At times it is difficult to maintain a version track when we have several files of the same name. 
  • SharePoint does its bit by appending the filename with a suffix but if a user follows the best practice while using SharePoint, files appear correctly with search results.

Benefits:

  • This certainly helps to address a lot of confusion associated with odd file names. 
  • It also saves the user much time by avoiding multiple clicks and verifying each file after opening it.
  • Even a simple naming convention can prevent you from creating multiple duplicates of the same file.

Remember, when you create more duplicates, you increase the chances of accidental loss of data.

Impact On Business Relationship

  • If you are in a long-standing business relationship with your client, it is not surprising to expect that there is a common SharePoint folder. 
  • For long-running, loyal clients, it is a matter of reputation to upload files in SharePoint space that follows a consistent file naming, to reduce guessing significantly.

Example:

An associate can face a tough time with data recovery in SharePoint when there is a lack of proper naming practice. Let us look at an instance.

  • When the associates upload multiple files on SharePoint without changing the naming convention, often the older files are replaced by newer ones. 
  • The client who is unaware of the latest uploads might open a file one day only to get a shocker when he sees that the file has been replaced. 
  • In the absence of a back up, this can result in loss of data, reputation, and goodwill of the company.

Perks:

SharePoint users are very jammy as the app allows users to recover files later.

  

Identify Documents Faster With Tags

Tagging your documents to specific categories prevents SharePoint from picking up similar documents across all categories. Otherwise, Microsoft Search would pick up randomly from your sites and you will not get specific results. 

File Naming Conventions
File Naming Conventions

A common scenario to understand this?

When you go to a bookstore or a library you find the books classified into different categories based on their genre. The same with your music library on your smartphone. Even shows on Netflix are easier to find as they are tagged to different genres. 

For instance, if you were to search for something as “invoices FY2021” what output would SharePoint give you.

The trick to get the results easily and quickly and limit it only to FY 2021 is to do something as follows:

  • Navigate to the document library containing your documents and add a new field with a category called “financial year”.
  • Next, assign each document a specific fiscal year.
  • You can now filter documents based on the financial year category when you search in SharePoint.

Isn’t it a great way to narrow down your search results to FY2021?

Approvals And Workflow In SharePoint

In MNCs, there is always a dense network of document approval on documents. Approval has a definite workflow and often a longer turnaround time delays an approval or rejection. 

For example, organizations can use a template-based form to initiate and approve PTO requests. SharePoint provides a simple approval workflow to track those requests and act on them.

Here is how you can initiate a leave request workflow in SharePoint:

  • Start by creating a pretty basic approval workflow from your library.
  • Select the left template you’d like to approve and clicking [Automate] -> [Request sign-off]
  • The sign-off will commence, and the signing authority will be notified.

For a custom made workflow involving more signing authorities one can do the following:

  • Click on [Automate]
Click on Power Automate
Click on Power Automate
  • Select [Power Automate] 
Click on Power Automate
Click on Power Automate
  • Finally, click on[Create a Flow] right from your library
Create automated FLOW
Create automated FLOW

In most cases, we send approval emails to our line manager. SharePoint made it a straight line option with [Request manager approval for a selected file].

Approval Steps
Approval Steps

Challenges:

Some advanced customizations in the workflow are challenging to users where a developer can assist them.

Locking Documents

What if your SharePoint folder is shared across a large team with members of the different hierarchy. From a security perspective, the accessibility of some documents should be limited to the leads and managers. 

Why Would You Need To Lock Your Documents?

You can lock a document in SharePoint and prevent others from adding, updating, or deleting it. Documents containing potentially sensitive data should be locked.

Here is a trick to make that possible.

  • Open your document library where you have your desired document and navigate to [Site Settings].
Site Setting
Site Setting
  • Select [Site collection features] and turn on the feature called [In Place Records Management]
Site Collection features
Site Collection features
  • Head back to the library where you have placed the document which needs to be locked from editing. 
  • Click on the [library settings]
Library Setting
Library Setting
  • Select [Record declaration settings] and finally select the option called [Always allow the manual declaration of records]

If you follow the above steps, you are all set for the first-time document lock set-up.

Additionally, a user can have access to declare and undeclare a record in the document library. This will help them to lock and unlock the file quickly.

Steps to do that:

  • Navigate to the library and select a file.
  • Head straight to the compliance details.
  • Select  [Declare as an in-place record] to declare a record 

It will effectively lock the file from unauthorized updates. A status symbol close to the file will indicate the status of it next to its name.

Best Features:

There are some fascinating features associated with the file-locking feature in SharePoint.

  • SharePoint allows users to automate the file locking feature right at the end of a workflow, or when a document is approved.
  • It minimizes turnaround time between multiple users.
  • Another brilliant feature with SharePoint is that it can automatically lock documents upon migration from their financial system into SharePoint for archival.



Securing Documents With SharePoint

Securing documents for customers is of primetime importance. When large teams collaborate and work with SharePoint it is necessary to restrict access to some documents.

For example, the employee payroll data should only be visible to the HR of the organization and not shared with others. The SharePoint documents can be securely protected to prevent unapproved access.

Key Feature:

A document that is secured, will not show up on the search results of an associate with inadequate roles and permissions.

How To View Protected Data

A person with authorized access can share permissions to protected documents to intended users. The steps to do that are mentioned below:

  • Authorized personnel can share permissions to existing groups which include Site owners, Site members, and Site visitors.
  • When a group has new employees or groups to either Site owners, members, or visitors, SharePoint automatically assigns the necessary roles and permissions to access the document.
Permissions
Permissions

Exceptions:

There are some exceptions in granting permissions just by adding to a group.

  • New group members won’t have access to libraries that have unique permissions. 

But why? Here are the answers

  • It prevents unique library permissions from getting created without the owner’s knowledge.
  • On hitting the [Share] button of a file, SharePoint recreates a unique permissions list for the library containing this document. 
  • Microsoft prevents inheriting access from the site when you share files to groups at random. This will prevent sharing files with custom security groups.
  • Separate sites with external sharing enabled
  • It can prevent external sharing and access to external agencies like auditors or contractors working with the team.

A Safeguard From Security Breach

As a project manager or owner, you don’t have to be on your toes to prevent security breaches. Follow these SharePoint tricks to prevent a security incident. 

  • Start by creating a site with lower security clearance. This will be a space where most employees can share files. 
  • Use the automatic link expiration feature in SharePoint while sharing a file.

Example:

A business user can share a link with an associate that expires in 7 days. After 7 days the recipient will no longer have access to the link.

How does It help?

It will prevent any unapproved user from accessing the link. The user will not be able to view or access the document with the expired link saving it from malpractices of all sorts.

Wrapping Up

The tips and tricks that you can perform with SharePoint are quite vast. With each new update, SharePoint replenishes itself with superior features making it increasingly useful for remote and online working. 

There can be a lot of other ideas and tricks that you can share with us regarding SharePoint. These will benefit everyone who reads this article.

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