As a trusted SharePoint adviser, IT often becomes the go-to department for troubleshooting this enterprise technology. However, IT has the potential to do much more than that with SharePoint. These five strategies will transform your IT department from a second class, “I-have-a-tech-problem-you-will-fix-it-for-me” citizen in the enterprise into a winning SharePoint rockstar.
There's a lot of great buzz and excitement about the growth of SharePoint in the enterprise. In spite of the rich business solution ideas produced by the vibrant SharePoint community, functional adoption remains focused on file sharing (see AIIM State of the Market: SharePoint report).
Why is this the case, you may wonder? Well, having worked with various enterprise organizations, the reality is that most users rely on IT for SharePoint help. Because SharePoint is an enterprise technology, that means it's IT's job to help/support the user. Unfortunately, I see a lot of IT organizations provide only break/fix-type of SharePoint assistance (i.e., I can't access the site; my permissions are messed up). I don't think this was intentional; IT is busy with a lot of other stuff, so treating SharePoint differently is hard to justify.
Hence, the mindset of SharePoint being a glorified network share is the impression that most users have today. There are only a handful of users who are resourceful, motivated and passionate about SharePoint who do their own research and exploration on maximizing SharePoint to support their business needs.
As IT is the trusted SharePoint advisers within the enterprise (whether users like it or not), it's a great opportunity for IT to elevate their role from being a second class, "I-have-a-tech-problem-you-will-fix-it-for-me" citizen in the enterprise, to becoming the hotshot, thought leader that can help empower the business to solve business challenges.
Here are five ways IT organizations can transform themselves to become winning SharePoint rockstars:
1. Make Sure Your Organization Has a SharePoint Godfather
I was asked one time by a system administrator (the lone SharePoint ranger in their organization) on how to promote better adoption and convince people to use document libraries on SharePoint sites for document collaboration instead of network shares.
I suggested that he get rid of the network share or make it read only. He said he can't do that since he neither has the authority to do that, nor anyone higher up would allow for that to happen.
There is the problem right there: Unless there is an executive-level sponsor committed to using SharePoint as a business platform, it will be difficult for IT to effectively help the business better itself with the technology.
It is NECESSARY for IT to have a SharePoint Godfather -- someone who has their back, who can cut through the organizational red tape and more important, have spending power to invest in making SharePoint happen in the organization.
As IT, your job is to identify that person or group of people and educate them on how SharePoint can help transform their business. (Check out this article: 5 Reasons Why SharePoint Ignorance Is Not Bliss.)
2. Don't Be The Soup Nazi, Be Doctor Phil
If you don't know who the Soup Nazi is, read this first.
The problem with SharePoint platform deployment in most enterprises today is that IT still takes the typical enterprise application release strategy -- a strategy that is too focused on making sure the technology is all set without engaging the business up front. SharePoint is made available with a fast-food approach of "Here's your SharePoint site with surveys, wikis, libraries."
Certain users might be confused and question IT's wisdom by saying, "I don't need another tool. I'm not sure what value SharePoint provides ..." Then IT's knee-jerk response will be, "What? You don't like SharePoint? No soup for you! Next!"
At the end of the day, most users don't get excited or care about SharePoint -- it's like dial tone, as Ruven Gotz pointed out. What gets users excited in most cases is if a solution helps them get their job done better, easier and faster (as long as they don't have to learn anything overly complex and new, that is).
Knowing this, IT should behave more like Dr. Phil -- IT should engage the business up front and discuss business challenges and map how SharePoint can support them. You want to help develop business solutions and not showcase SharePoint features. I love Dan Antion's advice on why it's important for IT to be a part of the business.
I'm sure you're thinking, "Well, you talk a good game here Dux, but c'mon, the reality is IT is short-staffed, we have other things to do. How do you expect us to handhold the business and make sure we are meeting their needs?" That's why having a SharePoint Godfather is important -- once she/he sees the strategic value SharePoint can provide to the organization, you can make the case for the necessary investment, which includes technology and human resources.
3. Be a Leader and Not a Passenger
Since IT is the SharePoint trusted adviser (it's rare people will ask help from Marketing, but you never know) within an organization, IT should draw the line on what can be done and cannot be done on the constraints given.
You don't want to set yourselves up for failure.
If the business comes to you with "I want you to convert our public-facing site using SharePoint and make it look like Ferrari.com or NothingButSharePoint.com within two weeks on top of your day job" -- you have to ask and have them rank the priorities of their business needs. Is it the two-week time frame? Is it the custom-branded look and feel? Is it only using IT internal resource?
Realize that you can't have anything that's good if you want it fast and cheap. You can't have anything that's fast if you want it cheap and good. You can't have anything cheap if you want it fast and good.
If all you do is take marching orders from the business even if you know it's not realistic, you are being a passenger and not a leader.
To learn more how to prioritize business needs when implementing SharePoint, read this.
4. Teach Them How to Fish
In the recent article "Why Businesses Move to the Cloud: They Hate IT," it was stated that:
Their top reasons for going around IT? The need to respond quickly to changes in the market, self-sufficiency of their IT-savvy workforce, and the easy availability of top-quality IT services that can be bought without long implementation or testing (cloud and SAAs apps, primarily)."
Business is moving so fast these days that relying on IT to do everything is impossible. And that's where SharePoint can shine in the enterprise -- it can empower the business to build solutions without IT doing it for them all the time.
As IT, we should be more like Mr. Miyagi (the Karate Kid sensei) teaching the business how to make the most out of SharePoint. After all, technologies like SharePoint helps drive innovation (check out this recent Forrester report: How Consumerization Drives Innovation).
As SharePoint adoption matures, I predict IT's role will be more consultative. If the assumption is that SharePoint will enable/empower the business, the old model of relying on IT to build all solutions for the business should be history. I can see IT still building complex solutions, but for basic business solutions (i.e., conference room scheduling system, expense reimbursement system, etc.), ideally the business should be able to do it themselves with OOB tools available in SharePoint.
An issue with this scenario is that the business is not “trained” to build solutions. They may know the technical capabilities of SharePoint but won't have any insights into best practices, process, techniques, etc. So I suspect what's going to happen is that the business will “request” support from IT but not necessarily ask IT to build it. They would seek guidance/advice into what's the best way to go about doing it and have the business go at it. This is where the consultative role of IT comes in.
5. Be Proactive, Not Reactive
A key component of being able to help the organization reap the business benefits of SharePoint is being proactive and having a strategic enterprise SharePoint roadmap. As IT, you don't want to sit and wait to see what the next SharePoint marching order is (which most likely in some cases is some random "I-think-it's-a-great-idea" request).
This means that a plan has to be in place to determine what tangible outcomes an organization would like to see with SharePoint within a specific time frame. In his recent blog post "Getting to the Second Value Tier of SharePoint," Craig Roth from Gartner nailed it:
Clients that have had SharePoint for a few years are beginning to wonder what more they can do with it to get more value. And I think they see that getting a larger megaphone to evangelize its benefits will just perpetuate the random application of the technology. That’s why I’m starting to find organizations that are creating business-focused services out of SharePoint. In those organizations, SharePoint is seen as a valuable, mature business contributor rather than a precocious, energetic kid who notices problems old-timers haven’t noticed and rushes in to be useful."
Here's to being a SharePoint rockstar! Who doesn't want to be like Joel?
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