Globetrotting With SharePoint: The Technology That Never Sleeps

REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 3, 2011 — With employees and customers spread across the world, businesses today operate in a challenging global environment. As the sun sets on an office in Asia, employees from the same company located on the other side of the world are ready to start their day and continue working on projects where their colleagues left off.

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 connects the Colliers International workforce.

The need to coordinate, find experts and share information across multiple offices and time zones makes collaboration technologies a top priority for businesses today. To provide great customer service, employees need access to the right people and information, at all times. For many companies, Microsoft SharePoint 2010 is the technology behind the scenes that enables this deep level of collaboration.

More than 80 percent of the Fortune 500 rely on SharePoint worldwide, and the product continues to grow at double-digit speed after surpassing $1 billion in revenue three years ago. Microsoft has already sold more than 62 million licenses for SharePoint 2010 since the product launched last year. Companies such as United Airlines and Colliers International use SharePoint 2010 to connect their global workforces in new ways with a commitment to deliver first-class customer service.

“Sharing information is critical to getting work done, especially in a global environment,” says Jared Spataro, senior director of SharePoint product management for Microsoft. “From the very beginning, SharePoint has been about sharing. As the ways customers share information has evolved, so has the product.”

SharePoint changes the way people work. From social networking to creating the right look and feel for a company website to connecting with colleagues through advanced search capabilities, SharePoint makes sharing information and ideas easier. SharePoint is also available as a cloud service through Microsoft Office 365, further enabling companies of all sizes to benefit from new ways of sharing information.

United Airlines uses Microsoft SharePoint 2010 to keep up to date with flight information worldwide.

For United Airlines, sharing information is critical to the success of its recent merger with Continental Airlines. With thousands of employees working from 371 offices around the world, United is relying on its centrally managed collaboration platform, built on SharePoint 2010, to give employees access to important flight information on-demand, regardless of time zone.

“At first, we didn’t know if United would use the SharePoint platform for Continental because mergers often result in the consolidation or elimination of some technologies,” says Denise Wilson, senior manager of platform engineering for Continental and the new United Airlines.

“However, SharePoint became one of the most important tools during and after the merger because it allowed employees to share critical information and communicate with customers. Working together is our No. 1 priority, and SharePoint helps us do that.”

Wilson’s team developed an operations dashboard and an automatic alert system that’s used across all Continental and United offices and airports around the world. The dashboard and alert system lets employees immediately know about flight delays, schedule changes or cancellations — so customers can be kept up to date too.

“When Hurricane Irene threatened the East Coast in August, flight updates and alerts were automated, keeping employees in the U.S. and abroad constantly informed,” Wilson says. “SharePoint also gave us a single place to coordinate and communicate about our plans before, during and after the hurricane.”

Real Estate Around the Clock and Across the Globe

Keeping employees connected is also important to global real estate company Colliers International, which has more than 15,000 employees throughout the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America.

The real estate giant not only buys and sells properties to commercial clients — it also leases them and provides property maintenance, tenant relationship management and marketing services.

To deliver multiple services to customers, Colliers requires access to specialized real estate experts across its 480 worldwide offices — including the counsel of legal firms, financial institutions and property management providers.

How does Colliers find the right person, in the right place, with the right specialization — for a specific client need anywhere in the world?

“We didn’t have a good way for employees to quickly find these knowledge experts until we began using SharePoint,” says Veresh Sita, global chief information officer at Colliers International. “Instead, brokers had to depend on their own network of contacts to put together a team.”

To improve customer service, Colliers built a people-finding tool with SharePoint to help its professionals quickly pull together the most effective teams. Colliers already used SharePoint for project team sites when the company decided to extend the platform to build its new application, called Our People.

Today, when Colliers brokers need to put together a team for a client, they use the Our People search tool on the company intranet to quickly find colleagues based on location, specialty, market, experience, previous clients, deal details and other criteria.

Colliers also linked Our People to Microsoft Exchange, Lync and Office to help its brokers use email, videoconferencing, desktop sharing and instant messaging while connecting with their colleagues. Colliers also tied Our People to its Microsoft Dynamics CRM business software, which contains detailed property and client information.

“Our ultimate goal is to connect people, clients and properties,” Sita says. “We need the ability to search any property or client, so we can identify the right specialists and have the most current information at hand.”

SharePoint helps Colliers International brokers work with teammates, even if they are thousands of miles away. For instance, when a client in Phoenix recently looked to lease offices in Shanghai, the broker in Phoenix needed to find a real estate specialist who had a deep knowledge and understanding of the Shanghai market.

Using SharePoint, the Phoenix-based broker was able to locate, contact and collaborate with an expert real estate specialist for the client and work quickly to find the perfect office space on the other side of the world. The client was happy and appreciated the ability to work with one Colliers team to find the best business location, despite the distance.

To build a system with these capabilities from scratch would have taken years, but Colliers was able to implement the solution in a matter of weeks with SharePoint.

“There are no limits to where we can take this application on a SharePoint foundation,” Sita says.

Looking Ahead: Sharing Evolves

In the coming months, Colliers International plans to further extend SharePoint to the cloud and to its employees’ mobile devices, so people can access and share information wherever they go.

“At our core, we’re a sales organization,” Sita says. “We use the SharePoint platform as part of the fiber of everything we do.”

At United Airlines, Wilson also expects use of the SharePoint platform to evolve.

“We went from beta testing SharePoint to implementing it in a matter of weeks, and we’ll continue to create new functions that will help our worldwide employees do their jobs even faster and better,” Wilson says.

She notes that the team at United will soon integrate SharePoint with other line-of-business applications and systems.

For instance, the airline will create profiles for all of its global employees by combining SharePoint with the company’s domain services directory, ultimately giving every person a single source for rich information that can be accessed from any location.

“SharePoint has become a tier-one business application for us,” Wilson says. “Our airline now depends on it.”

For more information about Microsoft SharePoint 2010, go to

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