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“SharePoint is a Swear Word in Our Company”

If we had a hundred bucks for every time we’ve heard that over the past decade…. Take heart in the fact that you are not alone.  Whilst SharePoint (and now by proxy Office 365), are brilliant technologies that we believe implicitly are game changers for just about any business; they are very complex platforms that need to be managed right.  The good news is that it can be fixed if you are committed to doing so.

So what went wrong in the first place?  Many factors contribute to failed SharePoint implementations including :Lets Collaborate Will Turn Your SharePoint Experience into a Smile

  • Lack of experience
  • No overall IT strategy and/or SharePoint strategy
  • Projects run by IT instead of business (sorry IT, we know it’s not your fault either)
  • Lack of training
  • Lack of governance
  • Lack of evangelism
  • Being managed by someone on a part time basis
  • Under-estimating the size and business impact of the project
  • Silo’d way of working
  • People unwilling to share information
  • Lack of understanding of what collaboration and document management even means
  • Lack of ownership
  • Lack of funds

SharePoint is different to most technology in that it touches just about every person in the business.  This makes it tricky to roll out successfully because there are a lot of moving parts.  What works in one department may not work at all in another.  This is confounding to most people who are not well-versed in getting complex technologies adopted.  The back-end / technical side of all technologies is one thing, and I’d hazard saying that that is the easy part overall.  Getting people to love and use those solutions is a whole other ballgame.

But what can you do?  The horse has bolted, you’ve had SharePoint for years, it’s not working, everyone hates it, and hates the implementation team even more!  Everyone is frustrated and irritated because this shouldn’t be so damn hard should it!!!

For starters, it is real decision time.  The unfortunate truth is that it is going to cost a lot of money for a large business to turn that ship.  So the first decision is – do you re-invest in the platform one last time, or do you just switch it all off, sell the servers and go back to file-shares and email?  Because it really will just come down to that.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of companies because they’re invariably already spent millions on their platforms with little to no success.  The thing to remember is that behind all this endless technology is still people.  That’s where your critical success lies.

If the decision is made to try one more time, the next thing to do is go back to basics.  Yes we know you want to revolutionize the business by making everything digital and automated, but the truth of the matter is that most people just aren’t ready for so much technology all at once.  It must be done in stages.  Remember that the people at the end of the device have day jobs, they don’t really care too much about how the tech works, as long as they can get their job done.  When you have toxic gases to contain, high tension wires to erect, multi million Rand cross-border deals to broker, trying to get food out on time, you are not going to care what technology is behind it – only that it works, that it makes your job easier and you are safe!  None of those people in the scenarios mentioned are going to care that there are 15 new toys available in Office 365 when they are working to massive deadlines with seriously operational data.

So – it’s back to basics first.  You have got to get a good solid groundwork in place on the basics or you will never get people to adopt the fancy stuff later.  Revisit your document management strategy – if you don’t have one, now is the time to write one.  Revisit your intranet – what’s wrong with it that people hate it?  Too complex, too restrictive, too boring, too busy, too empty.  Identify what the top 10 most important documents are relevant to every single person in the company.  Identify what the top 3 processes are relevant to every single person in the company.  Start there.

On the intranet restructure, sometimes you can just change some navigation to get results.   Sometimes you need to scrap the whole thing and just start again in a new site collection.  Sometimes you can just restructure existing content more efficiently.  Every business is different and you have options.  You just need to dedicate the time and money to it.

In the meantime, look at your SharePoint strategy – don’t have one?  Write one!  There are so many critical success factors to take into consideration, especially if you are going the cloud route.  Your strategy becomes your blueprint to execute in  Year 1.  Then revisit it annually to see if it is still relevant for the way the business is leveraging the technology and adapt it accordingly.  There are just too many bits of functionality available in the Office 365 / SharePoint stack – start with one (we vote SharePoint naturally), and ease the rest in over time.

Find an evangelist from the business people – this is going to be your secret weapon.  Someone somewhere in your company does care, and given the right guidance can become the new voice of SharePoint!  Hire someone (like us, haha), if you can’t find someone in the short term.  Your evangelist will help change people’s minds while they work with you to sort out your intranet.

Empower your people – speak to them, get their input, put them on training; very important – explain WHY!  You can’t just tell them “here’s SharePoint, go use it”.  That’s not going to work.  Give them time to learn the new technologies.

Be gentle with yourself.  If you’ve had SharePoint flailing for a decade, it’s not going to get fixed by December.  Big businesses need to work on 3 – 5 year strategies at least.  Your platform is going to last decades more and if you get the groundwork right in those first few years, you will be sorted!

Is it worth it?  Seems like a lot of hassle doesn’t it?  Well, there is no escaping technology – and we don’t really want to.  I don’t know how any business runs without SharePoint personally.  It is a fantastic tool to get operationally organised.  We’re a huge fan of organised businesses because it just reduces admin and wasted time for all concerned, and everybody wins.  Yes, it is worth it – but you must do it right.  You can do this!  Just go back to basics and start small.

If you want to see a site that in my opinion is still the best intranet I’ve ever seen in 12 years in this industry, give Maureen Zulberg at Voltex a call and go visit her.  Tell her I sent you.  Her adoption is through the roof and her data is immaculate! Her intranet just works.  It is a true labour of love and a shining testament to what one person can achieve when you put your mind to it and care about what you do – ask their CEO, he’ll tell you the same thing.  And they’re over 1000 people rocking it for 4 years now – with on-premise SharePoint 2010 Foundation!

Maureen Zulberg

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