E-mail Integration Lets You Have SharePoint and Your Boneheads, Too

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SharePoint Brings a Wide Range of Benefits

Our partners at Info~Tech Research Group did an extensive survey of businesses to determine the value they are finding in SharePoint, Microsoft's enterprise collaboration, portal and content management platform.

I volunteer with my daughter's school and recently had the "joyful" experience of collaborating on a series of e-mails and other documents about an upcoming event. Writers just live for those moments when accountants can "correct" our grammar and edit out all pertinent facts that might inspire people to actually participate or contribute. They didn't disappoint me.


What I didn't expect, however, was their boneheaded refusal to use Google Documents to collaborate on the editing. They just couldn't handle the fact that they had to-heaven forbid-register for a Google account. They already had a Hotmail account, for Pete's sake. (If you've ever registered with Google, you know it's pretty darn painless.)


"Surely," I said, "you can't be serious."


"I am serious. And don't call me 'Shirley,'" they responded.


So, I had to e-mail them the document and then try to reconcile the changes e-mailed back to me. Not that I'm bitter about it.


According to a recent survey, there are quite a few of you who also feel the pain caused by boneheaded irrational e-mail devotion. A recent uSamp survey revealed that 83 percent of e-mail users would rather e-mail documents back and forth than load them onto a shared workspace.


The survey also had bad news for those of you who invested in SharePoint for just this purpose: Eighty-percent of e-mail users with SharePoint access are still using e-mail to collaborate on documents, cluttering up your servers with multiple copies of documents.


IT Business Edge blogger Ann All, who writes about the business of technology, took a look at why the boneheads users won't embrace SharePoint and what companies can do to change user behavior. There are some good ideas there. She quotes people who recommend a much more "educate the user," soft-and-fuzzy approach.


But for my money, the time for talk is over. I think technology enforcement - in particular, via integration-can actually create more change than "selling" the idea to the business.


Recently, I spoke with David Lavenda, who is the VP of marketing for Mainsoft, which sponsored the uSamp survey. I think they've developed a much smarter, quicker and probably more efficient way to tap into SharePoint's collaboration capabilities without forcing the boneheads-err, e-mail devotees-to give up e-mail.


Mainsoft's solution actually integrates SharePoint with your e-mail. In brief, here's how it works: Your users can blissfully e-mail documents, but once they've loaded the documents into their e-mail, Mainsoft's integration tool takes over and places the document on SharePoint, replacing the e-mailed document with a link to SharePoint's version. Then, users go straight to the SharePoint document, where they have to follow its collaboration-and, more importantly, security-rules. No more worries about documents e-mailed off premise and wiki-leaked; anyone who receives the link has to log onto SharePoint to access it.


The enterprise version includes more interactive, social network-type features.


Until recently, Mainsoft's integration tool was only available to Lotus Notes users, but last month, the company released an Outlook version called Harmon.ie. Mainsoft also provides integration between e-mail and Google documents (so maybe next year, things will be a bit different for me on the old editing front).


There are other ways to achieve similar effects, though Mainsoft claims there's no one solution that encompasses all that Harmon.ie does. Whatever-I think the concept is great, regardless of how you achieve it. E-mail/SharePoint integration helps achieve an ROI for your collaboration tools, while still allowing users to be as thick-headed bird-brained faithful to e-mail as they want.