I’ve been writing the Art of SharePoint Success for about four years (seriously). The framework is intended to be a way of structuring thinking and knowledge. It’s not a methodology or process, but knowledge that doesn’t enable action is pretty useless. Therefore, to round off the series I thought you might be interested to hear how I use the framework in consulting engagements.
This is the 20th and final article in the critically acclaimed, blockbusting series The Art of SharePoint Success. The Art of SharePoint Success is a framework which aims to ensure a long term, measurable return on your investment in SharePoint.
The four elements of the framework are:
I've run these engagements with dozens of organizations, ranging from single site medium size businesses, to global organizations with tens of thousands of people. In most cases the client had already invested a significant amount of time, effort and money in a SharePoint deployment and was unhappy with the results. Some had successful deployments, but wanted to understand how to squeeze further returns from the investment. A few had un-deployed SharePoint licenses as part of an enterprise agreement.
The Consulting Engagement
Broadly the aim of these engagements is to align SharePoint investments with strategic objectives and deliver a high-level medium term SharePoint roadmap.
Depending on the client and their particular strategic lens I call the engagement something along the lines of, “Knowledge & Information Management Roadmap,” “Collaboration Strategy,” “SharePoint Roadmap.” The name is important because it defines the focus and tone of the engagement.
Regardless of the size of the organization, the numbers of people involved, or the size of the budgets, I aim to deliver the engagement in five days of work. In some cases I have stretched this to 10 days to allow for some initial investigations into the current situation, such as auditing an existing intranet, or reading documentation.
I am often asked how I can deliver an engagement for a large organization in the same time as I can for a small organization. The point is that time is limited in this exercise. You do as much as you can in five days; then you are in a stronger position to judge to overall size of the project or program of work and can take an informed decision as to the next step.
If you are choosing a SharePoint partner or consultant to work with beware of those that suggest an initial discovery phase of more than 10 days before producing an assessment of the situation and discussing your options.
Here’s the timetable for the five day engagement:
The preparation involves agreeing the agenda, attendees, and logistics for the workshop. Ideally I like to have between 5 and 8 attendees with business, technical and executive stakeholders. If the attendees are all from IT then I already suspect that the first challenge will be to find a way to win executive support and engage the business stakeholders.
The workshop is a full one day session which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Each engagement is different and the agenda has to be tailored to the client's specific circumstances but the agenda for the day typically follows this basic pattern:
- 1. Discovery -- About the client and the current situation
- 2. Analysis -- Governance, Strategy, Architecture and Transition
- 3. Planning -- High-level roadmap and immediate next steps
For the Discovery section I summarize everything I know about the client, their current situation and any requirements or goals into a few PowerPoint slides or visuals. I use these as prompts for discussions. I use the following model to structure the conversation, and get the client to talk about their organization in these terms.
In the analysis section of the workshop, I lead a discussion using each element of the Art of SharePoint Success. During the discussion we assess current practices relating to governance, strategy, architecture and transition and envision the desired future state. For example, most clients identify their existing governance models as being either centralized or ad-hoc, and either a collaborative steering committee or three layered-model as their desired future state. If you don’t know what I am talking about then check out the article on Governance.
The planning section is where we put together the high-level roadmap or strategy. The aim is to produce a medium term roadmap which shows investments for successive SharePoint related projects and how they are aligned with business and strategic objectives. Although every situation is different, I find that there are four, useful tools.
First, I work with the client to create a SWOT analysis of their current situation. Here’s a real example taken from the executive summary of a client report. Typically strengths and weaknesses relate to the SharePoint deployment or information management practices. Opportunities and Threats relate to the organizational and market context.
Next I might use a value & risk analysis to help prioritize potential projects and areas of investment. Here’s an example from a real engagement. The assessment is very subjective, but it’s a great way to structure a discussion.
Value / Risk Assessment
I might also use a high-level strategy map to link objectives and identify opportunities for delivering value using SharePoint. Strategy Maps were developed by Kaplin and Norton as an evolution of their Balanced Scorecard methods, which was originally developed as a means of enabling organizations to measure the value of their intangible or knowledge-based assets. A strategy map is a diagram that illustrates an organization's objectives across five different perspectives and the links between them. The five perspectives are learning and growth, internal business processes, customer and financial.
Here’s a simple, generic example of a strategy map:
Once the objectives have been visualized on the map then the question is how SharePoint can be used to meet one of the objectives?
Take the Train Employees objective from the above example. In 2009 I worked with a global organization in the energy sector. A key challenge that they were facing was that due to changing demographics and an aging workforce many of their senior engineers were due to retire, and there was a shortage of incoming younger engineers. They estimated that within a decade they would lose thousands of years of engineering experience from their business.
They needed a way to accelerate the training of the junior engineers. The solution was to develop an internal YouTube-like video sharing platform using SharePoint. The senior engineers were incentivized through leaving bonuses to record short videos in which they described their professional experiences and to share them through the SharePoint portal.
The final step of the workshop is to create the roadmap which gives a high-level overview of the anticipated SharePoint projects over the next three years. Here’s an example from a real engagement. This particular client used the services based and user centric architecture we discussed in the Architecture section.
It’s the first six months of the plan that matter, and the first step is the most important. It’s vital to get a good start that has broad political support, delivers measurable value and provides a solid foundation to grow the SharePoint implementation.
In most cases each project or step on the roadmap will require its own budget and business case. Having a long term view means that you could separate out the business cases for the platform and the projects. For example, if you have identified six projects which could be implemented on the SharePoint platform you could spread the cost of the platform across them all rather than burdening the business case for the first project with the costs of software and hardware. The roadmap shows activities relating to establishing governance structures and implementing user adoption or transition plans and this ensures that operating expenditure is visible.
I spend the final three days of the engagement writing the report, presenting it back to the client, and making any necessary changes in response to their feedback. The report will usually follow this basic outline:
- Executive Summary
- SWOT analysis
- SharePoint Roadmap
- Next steps
It’s important that the report doesn’t contain any surprises for those that attended the workshop, and that the next steps are clear and easy to implement.
Well that’s it for this series, thank you for reading and thank you to everyone who has been in touch with comments and feedback. I am constantly updating the Art of SharePoint Success on the basis of new experiences and research. The current version will always be available on my website and I’ll be publishing it as an e-book on Amazon in the next few weeks.
Coming Soon …
I’ll be taking a short break to catch my breath and then I’ll be back with more SharePoint related ramblings and if you’re very lucky a new series on Enterprise Social Computing with SharePoint ...
Title image courtesy of Peter Bernik (Shutterstock).
Editor's Note: To read the article that started this epic series:
-- The Art of SharePoint Success: A Quick Start Guide