How far has SharePoint come in UK Higher Education?

It’s been more than four years since I joined Microsoft taking on the role of Higher Education Business Manager and back in 2004 there was only a handful of universities using SharePoint. I used to hear about SharePoint version 1 as being unsuitable for a university, which seemed a bit harsh especially as SharePoint 2003 (version 2) was already a mature and well established platform.  Thanks to a number of early pioneers SharePoint 2007 is now widely deployed throughout UK Higher Education and is used to support a broad range of needs ranging from simple document management to business intelligence and VLEs and increasingly universities are recognising the value of SharePoint in its entirety and will deploy it as a platform connecting it to multiple content and data sources and people, like the diagram below shows.


One of those early pioneers was Kingston University and in particular Ian McNeice who did much to promote the use of SharePoint in higher education and challenge my own thinking about the possibilities for SharePoint.  Ian’s background led him to focus on the business benefits and he always looks for value and simplicity in a solution, it has to make a difference and people have to be able to use it.  Thanks to Ian and Kingston we published a number of case studies such as these:

Kingston University Offers Students Enterprise-Class Tools Through New Portal Solution

University Reinforces Excellence in Research with Innovative Blogs and Shared Research Sites

and an IM interview with Darren Strange, Microsoft’s UK product manager for Office and Ian McNeice.

Kingston University: the future's bright with 2007 Office

Ian left Kingston University a couple of years ago and has worked on some impressive SharePoint projects in both the private and public sector reaching global deployments.  I’m pleased to have maintained contact with Ian because I still find him a useful source of inspiration for the full capability of SharePoint and he has started a blog which makes interesting reading.

SharePoint continues to gather momentum and is already used as a number of customer facing web sites in the sector examples include:

Coventry University

Royal Academy of Music

University of Gloucestershire

Universities UK

and the list is growing.   Increasingly, universities have taken the concept laid out below and are using SharePoint as a platform to enhance communication and collaboration across all people in the campus.  I apologise about the quality of the wording on the SharePoint pizza wheel, what they say isimage

Portal (in the middle), Collaboration and Communication, Projects & Portfolio, Search, Enterprise Content Management, Business Process Integration, Business Intelligence

This helps to show some of the capabilities of SharePoint but it’s not stopping there.  There are a growing number of partner solutions for delivering VLE functionality into SharePoint such as:


Luminosity Content Server


Podcasting kit (yeah I know learning isn’t just about Podcasting)


From here we can go onto explore Business Intelligence and the graphic below helps , from a technology point of view, how SharePoint delivers is but the important thing to note is that it’s about getting business intelligence onto the screens of the people who need it most.  The problem in many organisations is that it’s difficult to predict who those people are, it’s not always just the execs.  I know one university in the North East that has given a SharePoint based BI solution from VC down to PL – hoping to catch as many analysts along the way to create a more agile and confident business.

Microsoft Business Intelligence Architecture

So in four years, SharePoint has certainly come a long way in and is providing a wide range of benefits to UK Higher Education.  This is, in part, thanks to those early pioneers and visionaries and also the the many partners that are committing to delivering value back to this important sector.  To learn more about what SharePoint can do for your university please get in touch or speak to one of our partners.

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