aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

What About Sharepoint?

Posted by Ellen on June 23, 2010

If you’ve been reading the posts here at aLearning about LMSes, you might have notived that one of the systems I haven’t discussed yet is Sharepoint. It’s very popular among many associations, and it’s actually one of my favorites.

So why haven’t I mentioned it before?

Let me tell you a story that will help explain….

As you well know, keeping several committees and groups of volunteers on track to deliver dozens of educational programs requires devoted organization. Whether you actively lead your volunteers or mostly sit by the sidelines, you still have to be on top of what’s happening, what’s about to happen, and what isn’t that should be.

E-mails, phone calls, conference calls, Web meetings… sending around agendas and documents… making sure everyone has the same version of the latest edits… You can easily spend more time chasing paper than accomplishing other necessary tasks.

I’d come into the association from an elearning development company where we tackled those issues in a number of ways, including implementing an inhouse system and then Sharepoint to keep project teams and clients organized. I loved it. I could post reminders of meetings, client calls, and because of the document version control feature, we could tell when we had the latest version of storyboards, project plans, and other documents. And where there were unexpected changes, we could see who’d made them and follow up.

I missed that. At the association, I was amazed to discover that my meeting planner (who had also come out of the corporate environment) and I were the only two using Outlook Calendar to set meetings for our conference calls. How were the others managing?!?

So when I discovered that our server upgrade included use of Sharepoint “for free” I was thrilled. I took a look at the functionality and saw that it was even better than I’d used it last a few years before. I touted the advantages to everyone in the office.

You know what they say: Free is never really free.

The Sharepoint re-seller we worked with wanted a bit of money for the branding. They recommended ten hours of training (! I’d learned the system on my own… what’s with training?!?), which would cost us $X. They said they’d set up the framework for our committees and groups for us, and that would only run us $X more.

We did our calculations. I went around — was membership in? Was the conference manager in? Was marketing in? We could divide up those costs across everyone’s budget, making it more affordable for each group to cover the expense in other ways.

Excellent!

Then I found out that access to Sharepoint was “free” to our internal staff only. Access for members was going to cost us.

I got the calculator back out. Let’s see… at $X per 5 people… for about 200 people…

Cha-ching!

Cha-ching!! Cha–ching!!

IKES!!

That was a cost we couldn’t justify.

Our small staff of twelve (including part-timers, and when we were fully staffed) was starting to use Outlook Calendar more frequently for staff meetings and reminders, and our kitchen served as an effective central communication hub already. There was no added value in using Sharepoint for the staff.

So we let it go.

Many associations are using Sharepoint it makes me wonder if we made the right decision. I can see its value in large organizations, those with staff sizes that warrant a system that can allow everyone to see what’s going on across various functions and committees and groups.

But what about small associations?

What about your association? Are you using Sharepoint? How are you covering the cost of the per-person access for those outside the staff members? Are you finding the system is actively being used?

Is it worth it for a small organization? What do you think?

2 Responses to “What About Sharepoint?”

  1. Josh Goldman said

    Ellen,

    We’ve implemented google sites as a pseudo-sharepoint system and are using it very effectively for our elearning design/development projects and for our executive board portal. Doesn’t have all the nicely integrated features but the price is right! 🙂

    • Ellen said

      Josh — Great to hear from you! And to hear about Google Sites as an alternative that’s working. Are you concerned at all about security on this open system? Or are the controls adequate? Or do you curtail the discussions and sharing on Google to avoid leaking anything that shouldn’t be in the general public’s eye?

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