SharePoint for the (very) small business (Part 2)

[This post was originally published (by me) on the SharePoint365 blog (

In Part 1 of this post, I gave a little background on why SharePoint can be beneficial to a very small business. In this post, I’ll give some examples of how we used SharePoint in our daily work.

Project flow

Tracking custom manufacturing jobs

In connection with the Jobs list (our central custom list), I developed over time a series of workflows to notify the appropriate people in custom emails when events occurred, such as a new bid starting, a bid becoming a job, purchase orders being received, and so on. Jobs cycled through a series of views depending upon the status of different fields in the list. And after a year or so of use, the historical job data became an invaluable (and again, easily accessible) resource for learning more about our customers and markets. Our sales folks knew that if they were on the phone with a potential customer, they could instantly find out what projects we had done in their city, for them to see our work. Our Quality Control manager knew that he could instantly see how many current or upcoming jobs required a particular concrete mix. We also displayed some Key Performance Indicators and an Excel chart of our production projections on the main page of our Jobs site, so everyone could always see where we stood as to backlog level and production gaps that needed to be addressed.

Using the Customer and Architect lists, our salespeople could track contacts and schedule presentations (i.e. a rudimentary CRM system). Over time, these lists, in conjunction with the Jobs list which contained lookup fields to them, became quite a valuable database of contacts for our sales and marketing efforts.

A later project, but one which became absolutely critical to operations, was converting our material purchase ordering system to SharePoint from a module within our accounting software. We created a system where anyone could requisition an item, which would kick off a workflow that followed the order through the issuance of a purchase order (using a custom SharePoint page) and the eventual receipt of the item. As only a few people had been able to access the accounting software previously, it was a huge help for everyone from project manager to plant manager to have access to the status of items required for a given project. Accounting folks could also get a list of everything that had been received during a given timeframe or for a specific job, to verify pricing and aid in their reporting. In addition, the related Inventory list was eventually used to automatically update our estimating spreadsheet with current material prices, which represented a huge step forward from the manual (hit-or-miss) updates that had been done before.

Other SharePoint projects

A more recent project was the addition of a custom list to enter customer invoicing. While this required some double entry (still needing to enter items in the accounting software), it allowed more of us to easily obtain invoice reports by customer or job, and also via workflow to notify the appropriate salesperson of commission status on each invoice. Each salesperson then had their own SharePoint page to go to which showed them invoicing and payment status on each of their jobs.

We also used SharePoint fairly extensively for human resource functions, including basic employee information, attendance and discipline tracking, and self-serve benefit documents and forms. Scheduled vacations, formerly tracked on a whiteboard, could easily be seen and updated by managers in various calendar views. Call-offs were entered in SharePoint and generated an email to the employee’s manager and other appropriate parties. We could easily pull up an employee’s attendance record for various reports, or see an overview of the past week’s attendance prior to running payroll. We could track which employees had which training, and via workflows we could make sure all the proper items were taken care of upon an employee’s hire or termination.


With a small company’s limited resources, there’s no time to worry about getting something completely perfect before letting the users have at it, or how things look, but only whether the project helps team members do their jobs better than they could before. In addition, projects must be implemented in an organic manner, as there is no time to fully develop something, do pilot studies, and so on. For a small business, this method works very well, as items and processes can be prioritized by business need, and user feedback is immediate. I think the measure of success of our small business implementation was the number of times users thought of new things they could do with SharePoint; everyone could see it as a tool to help them do their job.

If you are interested in learning more details about how we implemented any of the above examples, I’d love to have that feedback and address it in a later post. Beyond that, I plan to share a number of little tips and tricks I learned as I worked on these projects, which I hope will be of benefit to others.


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