In my last post, I hazarded my best guess at what 2011 will bring for SharePoint. In this post, I want to sketch out the SharePoint New Year’s resolutions I think every organization should adopt.

By addressing these six resolutions, you’ll be on your way to better understanding the context for SharePoint at your organization and setting the stage for SharePoint success in 2011.

  1. Take the time to understand your true needs around core SharePoint capabilities, especially document management and collaboration
  2. Evaluate your current application landscape before thinking about making SharePoint 2010 your core ECM system
  3. Avoid thinking of coexistence between SharePoint and other applications as either/or
  4. Get everyone involved in charting your organization’s approach to SharePoint and its role in the larger content management ecosystem
  5. Use a pilot to refine your approach to SharePoint
  6. Create a Center of Excellence to act as an ongoing governance body as SharePoint and your other content management applications continue to evolve

Let’s dive in and look at each one in more detail.

1. Take the time to understand your true needs around core SharePoint capabilities, especially document management and collaboration

Although there’s a lot SharePoint can do, document management and collaboration are the capabilities organizations leverage most often. But what most organizations don’t do is determine precisely what their true needs are around document management and collaboration before jumping into SharePoint.

What results is either a vanilla, out-of-the-box implementation that meets no one’s needs or a fully-featured, all-the-bells-and-whistles one that does more than anyone could ever want. In both cases, adoption is low because users’ true needs aren’t being met. And if there are already ECM applications or social business software in place, you run the risk of duplicating functionality across platforms and spending more than you need to.

Instead, organizations should develop a solid understanding of the business activities they are looking to enable with document management and collaboration capabilities to determine whether it’s best to pursue SharePoint 2010’s “good enough” approach or the more robust, specialized capabilities of best-of-breed ECM or social business software platforms.

The matrix below is an example of how you could begin to determine the division of labor between SharePoint, ECM and social business software for some broad categories of document management and collaboration capabilities.

NOTE: The scoring for ECM and social business software are for these platforms in general in order to illustrate the exercise, not for any specific vendor in these domains.

Shepley - SharePoint Resolutions - Functionality Matrix - 600 wide.jpg


 Figure 1: Functionality Matrix

2. Evaluate your current application landscape before thinking about making SharePoint 2010 your core ECM system or collaboration platform

SharePoint 2010’s value proposition as a core ECM system or collaboration platform depends in large part on what your application landscape looks like today. You need to know what applications are in place and what capabilities they provide so you can ensure that end-user needs are met with as little redundancy as possible. The difference in project costs, level of effort and return on investment for SharePoint 2010 will vary greatly depending on what’s already in place at an organization.

The best way to do this is to perform an application rationalization exercise to determine what applications provide which document management and collaboration capabilities. The matrix below illustrates what the results of such an exercise might look like.

Shepley - SharePoint Resolutions - System Rationalization - 600 wide.jpg

Figure 2: System Rationalization

3. Avoid thinking of coexistence between SharePoint and other applications as either/or

At the typical organization, there are different categories of users with different requirements for any given capability. The folks who use a capability on a daily basis have different requirements around system usability than those who do so infrequently. Those who require the capability for a core business process have different functionality requirements than those who use it for peripheral business needs and so on.

Add to this the very different approaches to delivering functionality you find in SharePoint as opposed to best-of-breed ECM/social business software platforms and LOB systems, and it’s unlikely that any one of these applications on their own could meet the needs of all users.

Instead, what’s needed at most organizations is a coexistence strategy to divide up the labor between SharePoint and other systems. Doing so allows each to do what it does best: SharePoint can provide “good enough” capabilities, leaving the more robust, specialized ones, to other applications.

But what you don’t want to do is to paint yourself into a corner by making an either/or decision -- doing so will make it much more difficult (and expensive) to meet the needs of different groups of users across the enterprise.

4. Get everyone involved in charting your organization’s approach to SharePoint and its role in the larger content management ecosystem

Introducing SharePoint into an organization has significant impact on IT, end users and compliance functions (such as Records Management and Legal). Yet more often than not, SharePoint is viewed as an “IT thing”, like rolling out a new version of Microsoft Office.

What results is an IT-centric implementation that meets IT needs around storage management, provisioning and technical support but not critical business and compliance needs. Records retention, legal holds and e-discovery, as well as LOB-specific requirements all fall by the wayside when SharePoint stakeholders don’t include representatives from these other groups.

When this happens, your implementation runs the risk not only of being far less successful than it could be with business users, but also of getting on the wrong side of your organization’s compliance requirements -- not something you want to take lightly.

5. Use a pilot to refine your approach to SharePoint

You’d be surprised how infrequently I see organizations using pilots to structure their SharePoint implementation. More often than not, they roll out SharePoint to large sections of the organization in quick waves, with no time built in to improve the roll out from phase to phase.

This kind of big bang (or nearly big bang) approach isn’t necessary in most cases, and it needlessly increases project risk. Piloting your approach to SharePoint with manageable subclasses of users enables the organization not only to better understand the long-range implications of the implementation before rolling it out to the enterprise, but also to remediate any problems early, before every employee has been brought online.

6. Create a Center of Excellence to act as an ongoing governance body as SharePoint continues to evolve

Whether you call it a center of excellence, program, steering committee, working group or some other name, it’s critical to establish a group of stakeholders that can own SharePoint going forward at your organization.

As we saw in resolution 4, you need to have more than just IT involved in the deployment of SharePoint. The same is true for its ongoing management, because SharePoint usage has critical day-to-day implications for compliance and business functions in addition to IT.

Establishing a more formal structure to manage SharePoint helps ensure that SharePoint continues to meet your organization’s evolving needs, even as it continues to evolve as a product.

Without a formalized structure in place, it’s challenging to bring these stakeholders to the table and keep them there over time. And so what happens is that, despite the best intentions, SharePoint reverts to being an “IT thing” again post-implementation -- with all the negative consequences for the organization that entails.

The Final Word

So that’s my take on what organizations should be doing to improve their chances of success with SharePoint in 2011. I’d love to hear from you all out there if you think there’s something I’ve missed, if you’d strike anything from the list or if you just have thoughts or comments -- I’m always eager to get a conversation going!