How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Red roses? Fancy dinner? Perhaps, a romantic movie date? I spent mine with family and SharePoint friends over dim sum (coincidentally it’s also Lunar New Year’s day too!).

As I was reminiscing how the relationship I have with my wife has blossomed through the years, it dawned on me that it mirrors how SharePoint should evolve in enterprises today.

The First Date

I remember asking my wife out for a date to get to know her better. We had lunch at Avra’s in New York City. With SharePoint, IT would typically install it initially as a Proof of Concept (POC) to see the possibilities it can bring with the full knowledge that it might just be a one time, go nowhere endeavor.

Going Steady

After going out for a few more dates, my wife (then girlfriend) and I made the conscious decision to be exclusive to each other. The level of commitment has been elevated.

Your organization feels good enough about SharePoint after the POC and now is ready to use it for a limited audience to validate the benefits it can provide. This is typically known as a pilot deployment.

During this stage, the most common SharePoint application is to improve collaboration and document management practices. Out of the box features like sites, document libraries, meeting workspaces and discussion boards supplement traditional file sharing over email or network shares.

Caught Off Guard

It wasn’t necessarily planned nor expected, but a few months after our first date our relationship moved to the next level. I was always invited to her family’s activities; she got to know and interact with my friends.  in short, we became a part of each other’s lives more ways than one. I remember thinking to myself “…this is a good thing! Our relationship is maturing.” Along with this, unspoken expectations grew in ways I never envisioned -- more responsibilities eased into the relationship without clearly defining it.

Isn’t this so true with SharePoint? The initial intent of improving traditional collaborative practices for a small group grows into so much more. Your ‘pilot deployment’ magically becomes a ‘production Intranet’; users’ enthusiasm leads to rapid adoption and, typically, proliferation of information silos.

What do you do? What happens when you leave SharePoint as it is and let it grow ‘organically’? What kind of reaction will you get if SharePoint is removed?

Settling Down

After almost a year of dating, my wife and I took the plunge and got married. This is where the rubber meets the road. We could’ve maintained our relationship in a ‘dating mode’, however, we knew that taking the next step will bring lifelong joy and happiness for the both of us. We also knew that it was not going to be a smooth ride, the adjustment to complete commitment can be challenging.

How about you?

Do you find your organization only scratching the surface of SharePoint and not sure how to get to the next level?

Managing the shift from SharePoint as a local application environment to a strategic enterprise platform requires a balance between ensuring business groups can readily leverage SharePoint and ensuring that the resulting SharePoint environment is manageable and effective for the enterprise.

The first step in making the change from SharePoint involvement to commitment is the realization that SharePoint isn’t just another tool in the IT toolbox. It transcends traditional IT tools and is an enterprise platform. It is helpful to restate Microsoft’s simple, yet far reaching definition of SharePoint 2010:

The Business Collaboration Platform for the enterprise and the web

The implications to this are significant. It means that the organization has to have a deep and committed relationship with SharePoint not only in IT, but at all levels of the business.

Realizing true benefits from the platform will require complete organizational adoption

IT has to be trained to implement and support SharePoint as a platform, not just another tool. This means most of IT needs comprehensive SharePoint training/certification as it relates to their role. Here’s the tough part -- there isn’t a direct mapping of roles. Responsibilities are now distributed in different ways and across the entire organization (this clearly resonates in marriage).

For example, a network admin that manages security of the network share will have to redefine her job since, with SharePoint, file management is more distributed. Now the actual owner of that data has some responsibility for who has access to it, how it is attributed, where it is stored, retention objectives, etc. Obviously non-IT users have to have the training and support to be effective with their new responsibilities as well.

Editor's Note: Read more of Dux's insights into SharePoint, including A Shoemaker's Advice on SharePoint Training: It's Not Just About the Tools.

Organizational Priorities

What is next will be determined by organizational priorities. You may want a particular ‘point solution’ that is compelling enough to push to the top of your priority list. Alternately, you may follow a more traditional adoption plan -- again based on priorities, organizational change capacity, budget, etc -- and might include:

  • Intranet
  • Project Management System
  • Business process automation with workflows
  • System integration
  • Custom application development

Successful long-term relationships don’t happen in a day and complete organizational integration of SharePoint will take some time as well. Planning for a good foundation is critical to future success.

However, you can’t know everything you will possibly do with the platform, so don’t try. Like growing a family, a good strategic plan -- when to buy a house, saving for children’s education, etc -- is required and should allow for growth and change.

To build this solid foundation, here are a few tips for your strategic SharePoint roadmap:

  1. Gain executive commitment to SharePoint as a platform
  2. Engage experienced professionals in implementing SharePoint as an enterprise platform
  3. Reach out to the business and identify pain points that can be addressed by SharePoint
  4. Implement SharePoint in phases -- keep phases manageable so each can be a win which promotes better buy-in and adoption
  5. Draw the line if/when SharePoint will be an enterprise platform vs a single point solution
  6. Plan for periodic changes at least annually: stop, re-assess, prioritize business needs, reality check, reinvest into SharePoint

You Had Me At Hello

Looking back, I could’ve decided not to pursue a long-term relationship with my wife -- but I didn’t. The commitment (time, money, emotions, etc) I’ve put in through the years has been well worth it in the long run. And I hope your organization treats SharePoint the same way.

Lastly, here’s a great article on why SharePoint is a woman.