For a successful SharePoint implementation, you can’t forget the most important ingredient -- getting the platform used.

If you are reading this article, it is likely because you’ve heard whining in your office or you’re tired of repeating the same message over and over to improve user adoption of your SharePoint implementation.

You may be a frustrated project manager or business champion who spent countless hours on budgeting, planning, governance, information architecture, training and timelines, only to find that the last task in your SharePoint project plan that has no due date is USER ADOPTION. And to your horror, no one is taking your words seriously and people don’t care. The bottom line is this: for you to get people to take advantage of your hard work, you have to add one more task assigned to yourself -- don’t give up.

I’ll assume that you have a good SharePoint project to begin with and that you really don’t have any valid reason for someone to throw darts at your new processes, and that you aren’t adding 34 more steps to an already efficient way that people work. With that in mind, here’s a process to help break the dead zone across your user community.

Phase 1: Establish an Inarguable Vision/Benefit for Your SharePoint Implementation

When you were growing up, who could argue with your mom when she said brush your teeth so they don’t fall out? The same goes with a vision/benefit, such as “If we all do this the same way, then when you are on vacation, we won’t have to call you, otherwise, we will bug you to death and you might as well be in the office.” Or how about “It costs $3 per person for every 5 minutes of fruitless searching. If we all follow the new rules, we can help our company be more competitive and successful.” Imagine that -- working to make sure your company doesn’t get into financial trouble, and you improve your chances of not being laid off. Who can argue that?

Phase 2: Break Down the Resistance

Of course you will have resisters. Resisters don’t care, want job security, or can’t be told what to do because they have more experience in the job than you. They are who you need to get on the bandwagon. And the most effective way for you to do that is to get to the core value of the change. Repetitive messaging of your VISION is critical here. “Remember, if you follow the new processes (aka the new document file naming conventions), then we won’t call you while you are on vacation!!!!!” Or “If you do this, we will all save more time so you CAN go on vacation.” For extreme cases, you even have to sometimes establish consequences. “If you don’t shape up, then this will be written up in your next performance review.”

As soon as you smell resistance, you need to pull your inarguable vision out of your pocket and remind, remind, remind. Ideally, after a while, the resisters will be able to finish your sentences.

Phase 3: Stop the Whining

We all have a different threshold of whining tolerance. Some of us are more polite than others. Some of us ignore it. But the key is to identify whining on the spot. Be prepared with immediate responses when someone even starts to whine “I forgot the SharePoint link,” “I have too much to do,” or “I need more training.” Ignoring whining just means that you are implicitly accepting the excuses. Your mission is to nip this whining in the bud, call it out, and make sure every time you hear it, you publicly ask the whiner if it is truly a valid excuse and identify how they can rectify the inaction, or you smile and classify it as whining, loud and clear.

Repeated awareness of the offense spotlights the offender, which isn’t a good thing assuming no one takes pride in being called a whiner. Work it out with your HR department to classify “whining” as politically correct as “insubordination,” or as a totally undesirable job characteristic. Take the 3 minutes that someone uses to whine and take 3 more minutes to redirect them specifically to their desk to resave that document or update that SharePoint task.

Phase 4: Babysit, aka Enforce

This is one of the most critical steps in the SharePoint user adoption cycle. For any new processes, babysitting is a prerequisite. It doesn’t mean you have to treat your users like children. It just means that you have to make sure your users know each and every time right from wrong.

Without follow-up, and without specific, anal retentive attention every time you see something that is off the track, you are again implicitly accepting defeat. This is the most time intensive part of this cycle. Remember, if you are asking your users to make change, you better be willing to do what I call User Adoption Quality Control. User adoption is a habit forming action. Habits are not formed without action and consistency, and it starts with you. You don’t have to be the only enforcer; you can delegate that job to someone who has the authority to cc: you every time they catch something so everyone knows you are watching.

Phase 5: Count your Successes & Start the Cycle Over

This cycle doesn’t stop. You can’t just walk away and think everyone will live happily ever after. Top-down SharePoint user adoption doesn’t end at the bottom. It recycles back to the top and starts all over. It’s just like your mom asking you to make your bed. It’s your bed and you have to sleep in it at the end of the day anyway, so why bother? She doesn’t sleep in it, so what does she care? The moms that are successful in getting their kids to make their bed don’t give up. And sometimes they have to say “Just do it because I said so.”

Call me mother.

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