An underutilized approach to encourage user adoption and enhance the collaboration experience in SharePoint 2010 is by using the Microsoft Office suite for creation and distribution of content. The integrated nature of the Office suite and SharePoint 2010 offers a familiar, alternative interface to a new platform that can be leveraged in many ways.

Establishing a successful enterprise collaboration strategy involves many factors. Governance, training, business engagement, careful planning and user adoption strategies are critical to ensuring a successful result.

With many organizations choosing SharePoint 2010 as an enterprise collaboration platform, one frequently encountered issue in a successful implementation is that of user adoption. For many users, the shift from traditional file shares and email to the online capabilities that SharePoint offers poses a huge hurdle.

The majority of organizations use the Microsoft Office suite for creation and distribution of content. This article will outline some of the various integration points between SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. By using the integration features between the two toolsets, not only is the barrier of entry to collaboration lowered for many users, but many advanced users can also benefit from the productivity savings that can arise.

Word 2010

By far the most popular tool in the Office suite, Word has a number of new features that can be leveraged in a collaborative setting. The new ability to co-author content allows for multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously (a capability also available in One Note, PowerPoint and Excel Web Access).

The ability to edit metadata more easily through the new backstage view, trigger workflows and the improved capabilities in the saving of content back into SharePoint 2010 allows users to become more efficient.

From an administrative perspective, the ability to push out Office save locations into the Office client through SharePoint 2010 further enhances integration scenarios. Additionally, allowing users to consume SharePoint content types from the Word client allows users to create, edit and save predefined templates stored on the SharePoint platform without the need to open up a web browser.

Outlook 2010

Improved capabilities in the viewing of lists, libraries and calendar integration enhance the collaboration experience. The new Outlook social connector helps users fill out their social profile in SharePoint 2010 by suggesting colleagues and keywords while allowing organizations to manage users in disparate social networks.

External data can be consumed within the Outlook client through the use of the new Business Connectivity Services capabilities. Users can now use the Outlook client to interact with data stored within the platform, as well as external data defined on SharePoint, through the one interface.

Excel 2010

Improvements in the publishing of content using Excel Web Access through the Excel 2010 client provides significant time savings. Once again, the majority of integration capabilities are available, such as metadata, workflows and backstage integration.

OneNote 2010

OneNote provides a tool that allows users to collaborate within the client using SharePoint 2010 as a storage mechanism. Frequently cited by many organizations is the ease of use that OneNote provides and can be the first step in an organizational-wide knowledge management initiative where OneNote is effectively used as a wiki tool.

Simultaneous editing, voice records, tagging and search capabilities can be successfully leveraged in a collaboration scenario in place of a SharePoint wiki in many situations. Another significant advantage is the ability to work with OneNote content offline and then synchronize changes back to the server.

Visio 2010

Visio 2010 can save items to SharePoint and visualize their content using Visio Services on SharePoint 2010. In addition to the standard Office 2010 integration toolset, users can more easily create data-driven diagrams using SharePoint lists as data sources before publishing the contents to SharePoint 2010.

New in Visio 2010 is the SharePoint workflow template that can be imported into SharePoint Designer for an effective way for end users, business analysts and developers to collaborate on business process implementation.

Access 2010

Access 2010 can leverage Access Services in SharePoint by allowing users to interact with web databases stored in SharePoint. Access Services allows the customization, creation and interaction of web databases through the Access client.

This capability allows for many users to be collaborating simultaneously with an Access database that is hosted in a SharePoint 2010 environment using a familiar interface. The added benefits of versioning, compliance and governance combined with the familiar Access interface make this an engaging combination of tools.

InfoPath 2010

InfoPath 2010 provides capabilities in the creation of forms that can be either consumed through the SharePoint web interface or through the InfoPath client. Integration capabilities are targeted more at IT professionals with the ability to create and publish rich forms more easily to forms libraries residing in SharePoint 2010. Additionally, SharePoint list forms can be edited with InfoPath 2010, allowing basic lists to have significant forms capabilities improving the end user experience.

Further integration is available with SharePoint Designer 2010 through the ability to customize workflow related forms with InfoPath 2010.

SharePoint Workspace

SharePoint Workspace allows for the synchronization of content between a client computer and a SharePoint installation. Users can use SharePoint Workspace in an offline mode to interact with list and library content and they synchronize changes when the client computer is back online.

The obvious advantage that SharePoint workspace provides is the ability to continue collaborating in an offline fashion. However, many end users enjoy the familiarity that an client application provides, and SharePoint workspace can be used as an alternative to the browser access of SharePoint.

With a multitude of options available to interact and interface with SharePoint 2010, an organization should carefully consider the use of the Office client applications in their user engagement strategy. For users that hesitate to work through a browser, this can be a convincing alternative.

Editor's Note: Additional articles on collaboration include: