SharePoint recently turned 10-years-old and is now arguably among the most successful software platforms ever in terms of sales and installations. The newest version marks the latest of three major revisions. There is almost universal agreement that the SharePoint 2010 platform is vastly improved from a technology perspective when compared to its predecessors.

Yet, despite all of the successes, most organizations are using only a fraction of the product's capabilities. Frustration abounds as IT and business users grapple to extend more robust functionality throughout the enterprise.

The 5 Deadly Sins

In conjunction with the Eventful Group, Innovative-e, Inc. began collecting “boots on the ground” intelligence from enterprises and clients all across the industry. As we talked to executives and IT professionals about their challenges in achieving SharePoint success enterprise-wide, we noticed common themes, which we are now referring to as “The 5 Deadly Sins of SharePoint in the Enterprise”:

1. Treating Governance as a One-Time Event

The term “governance” is tossed around a lot these days. Many organizations have made some attempt to establish SharePoint governance, but too often this is nothing more than a half-hearted effort to write a plan and then store it in a document library. To govern is an active process, not a one-time shot.

Consider the corollary of a city government. Would anyone believe that a city could establish a static set of regulations, rules, and standard operating procedures and then consider the government’s job done? Obviously not.

As SharePoint extends further into all areas of an organization, the importance of living governance becomes greater. The challenge of ownership and where SharePoint sits within an organization is common. Is IT retaining control, in the best interest of the business? Adoption can be greatly affected by governance if controls are too tight.

2. Leadership Abdicating Responsibility for Information Architecture and Roadmapping

The inability to find information quickly and easily is one of the biggest frustrations for business users. Many organizations have been using SharePoint for years, but it remains nothing more than a glorified file share. In many cases SharePoint has made things worse as users try to find information spread over sprawling sites, web pages, wikis, discussion threads and document libraries.

How has this happened? Unfortunately, this scenario is a result of failure by management to take a proactive approach to define architecture, processes, training and procedures that enable efficient information management. Without a solid foundational information architecture and a roadmap for evolution over time, the organization as a whole will continue to struggle with the most basic information management items, and therefore cannot continue to evolve to a more collaborative and productive footing.

3. Treating User Adoption & Training as an Afterthought

This one can be one of the worst sins since it can result in losing the confidence and support of your user base. Most people embrace change and are willing to try something new if they believe it will add value to their jobs and the organization. However, give someone a tool that they can’t use and you will lose their support. This is a great danger with SharePoint since it can touch virtually everyone in an organization. Once that confidence is lost, it is much harder (and more costly) to gain their hearts and minds for another attempt.

It is common to see IT take a technology first approach and rollout SharePoint with little consideration for the user impact. This is a recipe for disaster, and it gets worse. By definition, IT is supposed to be the most proficient when it comes to applying technology to business problems. With SharePoint, departments and end-users are empowered to start creating their own solutions for their domain and constituents. If IT has set a bad example of how to gain adoption and properly train users, then the pattern of failure will continue at all levels of the organization.

4. Underestimating Human Resource Implications

SharePoint is a complex and broad reaching technology. Management often overlooks this fact and relies on existing personnel with little expertise with the various requisite SharePoint disciplines to deliver platform and business solutions. Worse, they attempt to misuse a particular person for a role that they are completely ill equipped to handle.

This sin releases a Pandora’s box of issues in IT and throughout the enterprise. Just a couple of examples cited by clients include:

  • Custom developing applications instead of SharePoint Out of the Box (OOTB) functionality that could have been leveraged. This results in greatly increased total cost of ownership of the application.
  • Not leveraging SharePoint design and development best practices resulting in expensive maintenance, patching and upgrade efforts.

5. Failing to Educate and Engage Executives

Almost all CEOs in large enterprises have objectives related to improving more productivity and collaboration in the enterprise. At the same time, a common theme among IT departments is that SharePoint doesn’t get enough executive attention and support. Executives want the benefits, but fail to make the investments that are necessary.

This sin is closely tied to the elusive goal of delivering the business value of IT. Obviously this is not unique to SharePoint. However, unlike other technologies, SharePoint has the potential to become the one cohesive collaboration platform for the business. The implications of this are far reaching. It means that at some point, virtually all knowledge workers will be interfacing with this technology and the multitude of business and collaboration solutions that will be created. Accomplishing this will require extensive organizational and cultural change. Change of this scale is not easy or inexpensive.

Begin with the Business Value

The conversation needs to begin with the business value. What are you trying to accomplish and why? What is the value? If it is quantifiable, then half the battle is won. When executives understand the Return portion of the equation, it is much easier to get them to commit to the Investment side.

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