Businesses today all want SharePoint from IT departments. Different business units and their many departments and teams all have, at some point, been given the sales pitch on the value of using the technology, and inevitably the IT department is challenged to drive down costs. But just how many implementations does an organization really need? SharePoint was made to be shared. So instead of providing technology to the business, provide them with a service.

No matter what size the organization is, building a Shared Service does not have to be difficult. IT departments ought to relish the opportunity to provide SharePoint as a Service to its businesses. Yet we find multiple implementations of the product resulting in higher IT costs. So where do you start? It’s simple. Start with what you hope for! Get executive buy-in and have a clear objective: share to drive down costs. There are of course other benefits when sharing SharePoint such as collaboration, document management, etc.

Providing a shared service requires that the IT department thinks differently. How much of what is required? How will it be configured? Who is going to pay for what? These and many more questions often scare IT departments. So how can it be achieved?

1. Infrastructure and Licensing

IT owns the infrastructure, its licensing and other required software such as tools for management, vendor agreements, etc. The business owns the user licensing. An Enterprise Licensing Agreement certainly helps. The days of a business owning a server are over.

2. Billing Model

Find the right method to bill for the service. A per-user subscription often leads to cost recovery issues as the number of subscriptions may vary from month to month. Another way is to allocate each business a percentage of the total operational costs based on their total amount of SharePoint user licenses, and then charge-out storage usage monthly on a pay-as-you-use basis using a per- gig tariff.

The total operational costs can include: infrastructure and licensing costs, software costs, people costs and third-party partner/vendor costs. Custom Line-of-Business Application development and integration with other systems are normally run as projects and also for the business’ account. This way, the businesses have control over their SharePoint costs.

3. System Design

Don’t try to be a hero. If you do not have the skills in-house, enlist the assistance of a partner. They’ve done it before. However, ensure that they clearly understand your objective and assist you in delivering just that. Remember that although it’s a shared service, the design must cater for data segregation as well. This is where the beauty of SharePoint comes to the fore. Each business can have its own web applications with its own data stores, yet still share information, search capabilities and the various application services of SharePoint.

Then there’s high-availability, another inherent feature of SharePoint. And database mirroring provides a cost effective method for making the data layer high available too. Network Load Balancing can easily take care of the scalability. Naturally, you’ll virtualize the system as well for cost reduction, further flexibility and for disaster recovery site purposes.

4. Administration and Service Management

By design, SharePoint allows for a de-centralized administration model and thus empowers the business. You may think that suddenly there will be fewer calls for help, but ensure your service desk staff and SharePoint second and third-line support teams are well equipped. Develop the service management processes early and include them in governance. Be prepared for different processes from different business units. Negotiate realistic Service and Operating Level Agreements with your vendors, partners and the business.

5. Governance

A comprehensive governance policy is imperative in a Shared Service, so get the business to be party to its development. And again, don’t re-invent the wheel. Others have done it before, and learn from what they’ve already documented. There are a good few items to consider when documenting the governance policy, too many to document here, but be aware of the importance of governance.

6. Service Adoption

Assist the business in the adoption of the service. Not every business unit will come onboard from day one, so embrace the early adopters, for it will be them who will be assisting you in ironing out the creases. Some ways of gaining adoption is by providing team sites and coaching those site administrators, provide online help via the entire Productivity Hub SharePoint Solution at no charge. Help them to get formal training with training providers if business users require it, and last but not least, be part of their information architecture development for their SharePoint solutions.

Final Thoughts

So in conclusion, SharePoint is suited to be delivered as a Shared Service from IT to business, and shared costs means more bottom-line for the business. In the process, the business is empowered as well, and IT departments start moving from providing technology to providing services.

So plan, build and run a SharePoint Service, not a server!

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