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In the digital workplace, having access to a tool doesn't always translate into taking full advantage of its power. This is often the case with SharePoint.

A quick observation of companies with SharePoint implementations will show teams still relying on emails to share documents. Imagine how much time employees waste trying to find an attachment buried among hundreds of emails in their inbox, or determining which version of that attachment is final. This doesn't even take into consideration the data security implications of a document being spread across several inboxes.

Calling this inefficient and often risky practice suboptimal would be an understatement. Dealing with documents in inbox folders is simply not conducive to productivity. 

Tools especially built for document management offer benefits that are unavailable in email, including governance mastery, collaboration opportunities, integration capabilities, data security and more. 

To help your team break the habit of email attachments, pick the right add-on tool and initiate behavior change gradually.

Related Article: Outlook Remains a Viable Collaboration Tool

Picking the Right Add-On Tool to Break the Email Habit

A number of very effective add-on tools seamlessly connect Outlook to SharePoint.

Look into your email environment and pick a tool that best responds to your needs and budget. Colligo, harmon.ie and AvePoint Office Connect are some of the highly rated choices in this area. 

These add-on tools integrate SharePoint with Outlook, giving you the ability to complete SharePoint document tasks without having to leave the email application. This allows you to host documents in SharePoint and share the links in Outlook. Every time you send an email, just add a link instead of attaching the document itself. The option to share documents externally as email attachments remains available.

Many of these tools have a variety of other indispensable functionalities, including the ability to:

  • Prompt users to send a link instead of an attachment when an attachment is included in an email (this feature helps change behavior over time),
  • Automatically add any document attached in an email to a document library in SharePoint whenever an email is sent or received,
  • Save email conversations to SharePoint with all applicable metadata,
  • And many more.

With the right set up, your team can move attached documents out of emails and into SharePoint with just a few clicks.

Related Article: Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Email Attachments Have Got to Go

Initiate Behavior Change Gradually

Managing documents in your inbox is a habit like any other. As it goes with breaking any habit, it requires a gradual approach. Abrupt change may cause disruptions, especially if your team is sizable.

Email has been around for a long time (as business software goes) and everyone is comfortable with it. But that comfort comes at a cost: your team's productivity. To help them escape the email document management habit and learn to leverage the communication capabilities native in SharePoint, proper change management is needed.

Start by helping them automatically save attachments as documents in SharePoint without having to leave their Outlook environment. Later, once they get used to that step, expose them to SharePoint document management features they can use to organize those documents.

Moving email attachments to SharePoint gives your team access to handy features, including: enabling versioning, creating change alerts, configuring workflows, creating libraries, improving search and managing permissions.

The behavior change gives your company even more benefits:

  • Decreased Microsoft Exchange storage cost,
  • Reduced data compliance risks,
  • Improved security of critical documents shared with external recipients,
  • Extended integration possibilities between Outlook and other Office 365 applications,
  • Broadened access to documents and libraries,
  • And more.

Depending on how heavily your organization uses email, within a few weeks of introducing this change, productivity will improve, data security will be maximized and collaboration opportunities will abound. It's an effort that will make your digital workplace a little more efficient.