Colligo News7 Ways to Get More from SharePoint – Introduction

As Barry mentioned, I’m doing to do a series of posts over the next few weeks based on the material presented in the webinar I did with Colligo back in February titled “7 Ways to Get More From Your SharePoint Deployment. Now!”. I’m really pleased to have the opportunity to post here on the offlinesharepoint blog. Hope you find them interesting. If you have any comments or questions, please post them here or contact me directly at the coordinates on my contact page.

So, here we go. This first post is an introduction to set up the series.

The implementation of the technology of SharePoint signals the start of the race. Beyond the starting blocks is a set of twists and turns over the course of the race as you speed towards the finishing tape. How you handle the twists and turns determine whether you win the race or don’t. As with most races, there’s a supporting cast gunning for you to win, and a group of sponsors who have their reputation on the line.

Winning the race with SharePoint involves shifting a significant degree of focus and attention onto what happens after the technology is implemented.

What are the business problems that the capabilities of SharePoint are harnessed to solve?
How do you get employees to change their current ways of working and embrace SharePoint?
How do you make it easy for people to work with SharePoint, streamlining their work each day rather than adding unnecessary complexity?

In this series of posts, I talk about what happens after all of the geek stuff is done and the race begins. My intent is to lay out some very specific and very doable activities that you can follow in the current difficult economic environment that will propel your SharePoint deployment beyond mere great technology to outstanding business results.

Framework for Productivity with SharePoint

There’s a lot that we could say about improving business productivity with SharePoint, and that could (and maybe should) be a white paper or book in its own right. But for the purposes of this series of posts, what we’ll say is this: one way to get a productivity jump is to eliminate the low-value and time-wasting activities that your information workers find themselves engaged on during the day. For example:

  • Dealing with document hell, where Sally has sent out a document for review to 10 people, everyone has commented using Track Changes, and now Sally has 10 different positions to reconcile.
  • Handling unclear commitments, where Bruce, Joe and Andrea are all working on the same task from last weeks meeting, because each thought they were tasked to do it. But actually, only Andrea was, so Bruce and Joe are wasting time they should be investing in other areas.
  • Eliminating the uneven distribution of information across a project team, division or the entire organization, whereby one manager or team thinks that “Strategy Kappa” is driving activity in 1Q2009, but actually senior management has moved on to Strategy Lambda.

There are many others … but in all cases, if SharePoint is used well and put to the right purposes, all of these issues can be eliminated.

There is a second way in which SharePoint can dramatically assist with productivity gains, but first let’s address where it won’t. If you are looking to improve business performance through IT, and you take the work process that has been supported by a legacy IT system and introduce a new IT system but don’t change the process, you won’t get any performance benefit. You might get an IT benefit … lower storage costs or less network traffic … but that’s fairly thin ice. Your Board of Directors isn’t going to sign off on something like that. What you actually need to do is to help your business users re-conceptualize how work processes could be done based on new capabilities in new technologies like SharePoint. And once work process has been re-conceptualized, then you need to help them shift from where they are today with the old system to where they want to be with the new one.

Let’s Talk about SharePoint

SharePoint has taken the world by storm. It has re-defined most enterprise collaboration discussions, and has forced major changes in how document management and records management vendors talk about their offerings. You could say that the vendor community either has a strategy to integrate with SharePoint, or fight against it. And for enterprises, it has been elevated to a place of centrality in decision making about information management, intranets and collaboration.

Why is this? For one, it’s from Microsoft, and so the stability of the vendor is guaranteed. They aren’t going anywhere, so a SharePoint play is a long-term bet. For two, Microsoft Office rules the desktop in organizations across the world, and being that products are from Microsoft, there is tight integration between Office on the desktop and SharePoint in the back room. And three, SharePoint is a broad-based platform to support many different information worker-related processes. If you buy into the full MOSS edition, you have capabilities available to support collaboration, search, portals, content management, business processes and forms, and business intelligence, not to mention the application development capabilities of SharePoint so that organizations can build custom-tailored solutions to their own requirements. And to top it all off, there is a growing base of knowledgeable business partners available to support organizations in realizing the capabilities that SharePoint offers.

While this sounds nice, the market figures are there to back up what Microsoft is doing with SharePoint. In March 2008 (almost a year ago), Microsoft said that it had sold 100 million licenses to use SharePoint, and that its annual revenue from license sales was over US$1 billion. We’ll just point out, however, that 100 million “sold licenses” doesn’t equate to “100 million active users”, but whatever the real figure of active users is, it’s a big number.

The Challenges With Platform Technologies

Platform technologies that offer a broad-brushed set of capabilities—such as SharePoint—across a range of information management disciplines can be summed up in one phrase: “they offer tremendous flexibility”. Unfortunately, that is both a huge opportunity and a huge drawback. It’s a huge opportunity because it means that any and every firm can make SharePoint whatever they want it to be. And it’s a huge drawback because if they do it wrong, a huge set of unintended consequences can occur, and pretty soon you find that it’s not a tiger you have by the tail, but a fire-breathing dragon.

Problems like:

  • Chaotic viral adoption, where people are recklessly creating short-term SharePoint sites to deal with a perceived business challenge, but then the site is abandoned and the corporate information they contain is hidden from authorized systems.
  • Too much experimentation, where business users start configuring a whole set of different sites to do similar things but in the aggregate, in very different ways. One firm claimed to have 325 projects on the go using SharePoint, and each project site was based on a different design. So someone involved in 4 different projects—not an uncommon number today—had to remember 4 different ways of tracking tasks, for example.
  • Unauthorized adoption by business teams, outside of the purview of the IT department. One US firm had its corporate deployment of SharePoint all ready to go, but before they pushed “go”, did an audit and found 15,000 undocumented sites that they didn’t know about. Business managers were buying SharePoint on their credit cards and installing Windows Server 2003 boxes under their desks, and IT had no knowledge that business information was being stored and shared through commodity systems with no backup and security procedures in place.
  • Top managers hearing that SharePoint is the “way of the future” and telling IT to “have at it”, but with no clear picture beyond the words of what that actually means and the requisite changes involved in getting a business return from an investment in SharePoint.

We could go on. If any of these are happening at your place of work, you know the pain associated with this.

In my next post I’ll start to look at some of the things you can do to maximize the opportunities (and deal with the challenges) posed by the deployment of SharePoint in your organization.

Tagged as: Colligo Contributor, SharePoint

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