This week in the Art of SharePoint Success it's time to talk Strategic Lenses (aka "what do I do with SharePoint?") -- specifically Value and Knowledge Management. Let's take a closer look.

This is article number eight in the series discussing the Art of SharePoint Success, a framework for ensuring that organizations generate a long term, measurable return on their investment in SharePoint. There are four elements to the framework:

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

We are currently discussing the strategy element and have spent the past few articles answering the question, “What is SharePoint?” Over the next two articles we are moving on to consider a number of different strategic lenses that I use to help clients form their strategy, or answer the question, “What should I do with SharePoint?” We’re going to use the following strategic lenses:

  1. Value
  2. Knowledge Management
  3. Intranet
  4. Enterprise Content Management
  5. Collaboration


How is value defined in your organization? Where is value created in your organization? Answering these two questions is a great start in developing your SharePoint strategy.

For example, in 2009 I worked with a UK public sector agency that was investigating how they could use SharePoint. We soon identified cost reduction as a strategic driver. But which costs? Case handling turned out to be the core business process within the organization, and the teams of highly paid lawyers and economists that handled the cases were a significant cost center. Investigation into the working practices of the lawyers revealed familiar problems relating to the use of email and file shares for collaboration and document management. The decision was made to develop a prototype to demonstrate how a SharePoint based solution could improve the core case handling process and improve the productivity of the lawyers.

SharePoint is about information and knowledge management, so begin by understanding value and how and where it is created in your organization and then examine the role of information and knowledge in creating value. This is one of the many reasons why I implore clients not to start by piloting SharePoint in the IT function -- typically the IT department is not perceived by the rest of the organization as a high value center. Targeting value centers helps to ensure early returns on your investment and provides high visibility of success which helps drive demand and adoption. Careful though! You don’t want a highly visible failed project.

Knowledge Management

If your organization has a strategic focus on knowledge management, then SharePoint provides you with the set of tools that you can use to implement your strategy, plus knowledge management gives us food for thought in developing a SharePoint strategy.

There are two types of knowledge: explicit knowledge which can be codified, perhaps as documents, process maps or calculations; and implicit or tacit knowledge, which is experienced-based and can’t easily be codified. Understanding which of these two types of knowledge are associated with the value creation in your organization can help to shape your SharePoint strategy. SharePoint facilitates the management of explicit knowledge through search and content management. Strategies for the management of tacit knowledge are likely to include SharePoint’s social features including MySite, blogs and people search.

Knowledge management is a mature discipline, with over twenty years of experience and empirical research. There are a number of well-established practices and techniques and SharePoint can be used as the tool set to implement them with. Amongst the knowledge management practices that can be implemented using SharePoint are:

  1. best practices
  2. communities of practice
  3. lessons learnt
  4. expertise location

These are KM strategies that can be implemented using SharePoint, but implementing SharePoint is not the same as implementing the strategy. You need to buy into the strategy first, the technology is a secondary concern.


Many organizations select SharePoint as the technical platform for their intranet, and intranet projects are often driven by IT, HR or Internal Communications or Marketing departments.

Intranet business solutions have been around for about 15 years and almost every organization has one. But how many are successful business tools? In my experience, not that many. Why? Because an intranet is an information management tool and typically IT, HR and Internal Communication teams have limited expertise in information management.

Let’s start with the basics. What is an intranet? Usually people use the term to describe an organization's internal website. But in the purest sense an intranet is,

....a private computer network that uses internet protocols and network connectivity to securely share any part of an organization’s information or operational systems with its employees”

In other words, an intranet is a private internet, and the internet isn’t a single web site with a top level landing page and a tree-like structure that users navigate through. It’s a vast network made up of many different web sites, applications and services. It has no center, top or starting point. It is the world’s largest information management system and most people find it pretty easy to use and are able to find what they need using search engines. Perhaps we can learn some lessons from this when designing our corporate intranets?

Razorfish have produced an intranet maturity model which I find useful in talking to clients that approach SharePoint from an intranet perspective. It gets them thinking about what they mean by “intranet,” and how their intranet will create value for them.

Figure 1: Intranet Maturity Model

At stage 1, the intranet is a corporate communications mechanism. It is centrally managed, benefits accrue from savings in printing and distribution costs and adoption is not an issue.

At stage 2, the intranet becomes a vehicle for employee self-service. FAQ’s, HR policies and procedures and template documents are classic examples. Benefits come from standardization and increased productivity through self-service. Adoption is not an issue as the value proposition is easily understood by all.

In stage 3, the addition of document management and collaboration tools such as team calendars, discussion boards and task lists address the needs of project teams. Adoption at this stage can be more difficult.

At stage 4, the intranet becomes an enterprise portal. The key characteristics of a portal are the integration with other systems and applications to provide a single point of entry, and personalization and customization. Personalization describes the system’s ability to present the right information for the individual user and customization describes the ability of the user to determine which information they see.

Stage 5 takes the enterprise portal further, by integrating real-time information from data warehouses or business intelligence systems to create pervasive dash boards and decision support systems.

Finally, at Stage 6, the intranet becomes the single interface into all corporate systems and information stores. The research notes that there aren’t many intranets which have reached this stage yet. This stage 6 intranet bears a striking resemblance to the vision of the Information Workplace described by Forrester Research which we looked at during our definition of SharePoint.

SharePoint provides a platform which enables organizations to move all the way along this maturity model.

For Next Time

In the next article we will wrap up our review of strategic lenses by looking at Collaboration and Enterprise Content Management. Have a great holiday season and don’t think about SharePoint for a few days!

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