During the planning stages of many SharePoint Intranet projects, the topic of profile pages will invariably come up. SharePoint offers a feature called MySites and every organization seems to want to implement it from the get go. But it's not that simple, or that smart.

Making the Intranet Personal

MySites, much improved in SharePoint 2010, give users their own ‘corner of the Intranet’. They can use it to store files, track colleagues, display profile information and post status updates. Users will often refer to the feature as ‘a bit like Facebook’. This is a dangerous analogy but that is for another article.

MySites do need setting up and configuring, but are available pretty much out of the box when you install SharePoint. As a result a lot of clients will request them when defining the feature scope of their projects, as they are basically ‘free’. And herein lies the problem.

Free Doesn't Mean Easy to Implement

You see just because the technology is there, and relatively easy to implement, clients think MySites is a no brainer. They think it is just a case of enabling the feature, telling users and then sitting back and toasting your new found socially networked workforce. But it just isn’t that simple.

Though it is true that they are relatively easy to implement, MySites is very difficult to make a success of. It is nothing however to do with the technology, and everything to do with the launch, adoption plan and change management.

Even though many users  -- though generally a youngish demographic-- are comfortable with social networking, people still struggle with applying these same principles in the work place. What content do you store in your profile area? What status updates are appropriate? Are holiday photos ok? Even once these rules and regulations are sorted out there is still a job to be done making sure users continue to use and populate their MySites after the initial launch hype has died down.

3 Considerations for Implementing MySites

To make a success of MySites you need to consider the following:

  1. Rules of Engagement: What content is or isn’t appropriate? What constitutes acceptable use? You need some guidelines for your company and your users.
  2. A launch plan: How will MySites be communicated to users? Will they be trained in how to use it fully? What content, if any, will be prepopulated? Maybe you want to have events, ‘drop-in’ clinics or an email campaign to drum up support for your new feature before it is released?
  3. Long term adoption: Thought needs to be given to managing these new sites in the long term. Users will require support and help well after launch. The sites themselves may require additional work or features to keep them loved and relevant to the business.

MySites, a Project on Its Own

All of these things take time and effort to put in place correctly. So much in fact that they deserve a project of their own to ensure they are done properly. What is clear, and what happens time and time again, is that the implementation of good MySites cannot simply be tacked onto the end of an Intranet build project.

Avoid the temptation to just let them be rolled out, and see them fail. Take the proactive decision to make them a project in their own right -- and give the functionality the chance of success it deserves.