I usually respond to that question with one of my own. Do you want the two hour answer or then ten hour answer? I’m not entirely joking when I say that. SharePoint is huge. It can do a wide range of different things and be used in an enormous number of scenarios for companies of any size in any industry.
SharePoint can be used as a web content management system for highly structured and branded corporate intranets or rich internet sites. And it can be used as a flexible solution for quick, ad hoc site creation based on out of the box templates.
SharePoint can be used as a records management system with rigid policies that have to comply with regulations. And it can be used for informal document sharing spaces to put content to be collaborated on in an unstructured manner.
SharePoint can be a business intelligence front-end with rich dashboards, charting and graphical capabilities. You can create an interface layer to a data warehouse that stores a wealth of information, surfacing it in a visual way that allows you to interpret and draw insight from your data without being overwhelmed.
SharePoint can be used as a search solution for sites in an intranet, documents within an organisation and business data stored in a range of different systems. You can use SharePoint to search multiple systems, surfacing the results in a single interface that will be familiar and easy to use for anyone who’s used internet search engines. On top of that, SharePoint’s people search capabilities can be used to connect to subject matter experts.
SharePoint can be social networking product. If the thought of social networking inside a business scares you, it can be a business networking solution. It allows people to follow the work their colleagues are doing and keep up to speed with activities of shared interest.
SharePoint can be used as a project management foundation, providing task list and organisation elements so that people can keep up to speed. It can also be used as a portal for a full-blown project management solution using Microsoft Project. It can be used for formal projects or to allow people to collaborate and interact in a fun and informal manner.
SharePoint can be a framework for building line-of-business applications or for surfacing other applications. It can be used for business process automation and simplifying data entry through the workflow and electronic forms capabilities.
SharePoint can be a portal for surfacing existing applications or allowing employees to access information in a range of sources. It can be a portal for new, highly-interactive Silverlight applications. It can be a portal into the organisation for partners and customers.
SharePoint can be a developer platform, supported by Microsoft developer tools and its inbuilt extensibility features. Or it can be used to support no-code solutions built in SharePoint Designer, Visio or third-party applications.
SharePoint can be used to play rich media over the web. It can be used to store, manage and share rich media content. And it can be used to broadcast PowerPoint presentations over the intranet.
SharePoint content can be available online in document centres, records centres, repositories and sites. Or it can be stored offline in SharePoint Workspace to be worked out without any network connection.
SharePoint is available on premise or in the cloud. It can be hosted by Microsoft via SharePoint Online and BPOS or it can be hosted by a range of Microsoft partners with their own expertise.
SharePoint is supported by hundreds of partners who may have their own niche specialities in industry, geography or feature set.
It can be used out of the box or built on to turn it into a unique solution to a specific business need.
That’s the short answer…