Hopefully you’ve recovered from the excitement of our last installment in the Art Of SharePoint Success? It’s time to think about how we deploy SharePoint into the organization, and don’t worry, we’re not suddenly talking technology.

With the last article, we've completed the second of the four elements that make up the Art of SharePoint Success framework. The four elements are:

  1. Governance
  2. Strategy
  3. Architecture
  4. Transition

This is article number 13 in the scintillating series, if you’re just joining us then where have you been?

The Services Concept

Imagine that you run the facilities service for a large office block.

On the ground floor are meeting rooms that can be used by people in your company when working with 3rd party visitors such as customers, suppliers and partners. Anyone in your company can book one of these rooms by completing a short request form. It takes one working day to process the requests, set up the room and add your visitors to the guest list.

On the first floor there are rooms that have been designed for teams. Anyone in your company can go to the first floor and book out a room for a period of time from an hour up to a month. The rooms are equipped with whiteboards, projectors, screens, flipcharts and telephones. If your team needs to keep the room for longer than a month you can renew your booking for another month, but if you forget to renew, after a month all your materials will be cleaned out of the room, kept in a cupboard for six months and then destroyed unless you ask for them to be returned.

On the second floor every employee can have their own personal office. The offices are quite small, just enough room to store your files and books, and equipped with a table and chairs in case you want to invite a colleague in for a quick chat, and telephone and computer that enables you to communicate with other people. There’s also a note board on the wall where people leave short messages if they come to see you when you’re away.

On the third floor are the departmental offices. To be allocated a departmental office a head of department has to fill in a form and the request has to be approved by the central facilities team. The office has to be paid for from the departmental budget.

Each department office has a front of house area where visitors to the department can find the documentation and resources created by that department, and a back house area only accessible by members of that department where departmental meetings are held and departmental resources and content are stored. Since these offices are paid for from departmental budgets they can be decorated and equipped to order.

On the fourth floor is the project management office. Here project managers are allocated a project room for their teams to work in for the duration of their projects. Once a project has been completed all the draft documents and notes that have been created are cleaned up and destroyed. Final project documents are moved to the corporate library.

Finally, on the top floor is a series of large meeting rooms that are used by special interest groups, or communities, for regular meetings and seminars. These rooms are owned and operated by the learning and development team and their purpose is to facilitate social learning by bringing people with common interests together.

As the facilities manager you don’t need to know the detail of exactly what people are doing in the rooms, you don’t need to understand the projects or what the meetings are about. You don’t need to sit down with the people in your company and ask them what their requirements are, you are able to provide a set of basic, generic services or capabilities and let people use them as they see fit, but within the framework of the service levels that you offer.

Intranet and Collaboration Services with SharePoint

I hope that the metaphor is obvious? In this scenario we have taken a building (SharePoint) which consists of rooms (collaboration areas, or SharePoint site collections) and divided it up into floors (web applications). Each floor (web application) delivers a different business service, is designed to support a particular way in which people work, and has its own value proposition or business case. Figure 1 illustrates the concept of delivering SharePoint as a set of services.

Figure 1: Example Intranet and collaboration services

Every organization I work with adapts this model, renaming the services and refining their descriptions and purpose, but I’ve yet to find the organization for which this model wouldn’t work!

Why the Services Architecture Works

To understand why the services model works so well, let’s examine the approach using the strategic lenses we discussed in the Strategy element of our framework.

The first lens was Value: understanding how value is defined and measured in your organization and focusing SharePoint in those areas. The services model allows us to do this at two levels: in the selection of the services we choose to deploy, and then the area in which we pilot and introduce the use of the service. For example, in an event management business where value is related to revenues and profits an extranet service which created an extranet site for each event booked at a venue enabled the business to cross sell products and services such as merchandising and security.

From a content management perspective different services can be used to facilitate the different stages of the content lifecycle. A Teams service for the dynamic creation of content, a Portals service to create areas for the storage and management of published content, a Search service for the retrieval of content, a Records service for the archiving and disposal of content.

From a Knowledge Management perspective Team, Community, Mysite and people search services facilitate a KM strategy based on the management of tacit knowledge. Portals, Records and content search services facilitate a KM strategy based on explicit knowledge.

From a collaboration perspective the services support the different ways that people work together. The Teams service supports project teams; the Portals service supports workgroups or departments; the Mysites service enables networks; the Communities service support communities of practice or special interest groups; and the Extranet service supports working with partners, suppliers or customers.

The services model enables an organization to progress along the intranet maturity model from a publishing intranet using just portals to a consolidated workplace interface using a user centric intranet (more on that next time).

Next time…

In the next episode we will explore the individual services in more detail, see Microsoft’s variation on this theme in the way they have deployed SharePoint themselves, and look beyond the services concept to the user centric intranet. Could it get any more exciting?

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