Last time I resorted to sensationalist headlines and claimed that you don’t want users to adopt SharePoint. You want them to adopt the business solutions that you build on the platform, and the secret to successful adoption is to make your solution useful and useable. This week we are going to see how to bring it all together and to create an adoption plan for your useful and useable SharePoint solutions.
This is article 19 in the series the Art of SharePoint Success describing my four part framework for ensuring long term, measurable returns on your SharePoint investment. The four elements of the framework are:
Your Adoption Approach
Table 1 presents a very simplified overview of my usual approach to adoption in SharePoint based projects. This is very similar to the approach that Microsoft Consulting Services use with their top 100 global clients.
Table 1: Simplified adoption strategy
|Phase||Example adoption measures|
|Awareness||Pens, posters, intranet bulletins, user workshops, creating a ‘brand’ for your solution|
|Availability||Easy first steps, sandpit environments, launch day events|
|Usage||Training, support desk, Stop Doing and Start Doing, Success Stories|
|Adoption||Service updates, new employee orientation, staff incentives|
As you can see, the approach consists of four distinct phases with a number of techniques associated with each phase.
In the Awareness phase the aim is to first raise awareness that the current situation, tools or working practices are undesirable and that change is required.
Once the need for change has been established, then the focus shifts to an emphasis on the solution that is coming, and on the corporate and personal return on investment which it will deliver. Use your existing corporate communication channels to get the message out.
Creating a "brand" for your solution might sound a bit clichéd but it’s one of the most powerful adoption techniques. Creating a brand enables you to position your solution in the mind of the users as being a specific business tool, with a specific business purpose and value proposition. It helps them determine when it’s appropriate to use your solution and when it’s appropriate to use another business system.
For example, your team collaboration service might be called “Collaborate” and your communities service might be called “Knowledge Net.” Run competitions with users to name them, and create logos to visually differentiate them. The marketing team will love it! I shudder when I hear comments like, “I put the document in SharePoint.”
The Availability phase is focused on making sure that people's first experience of the new solution is a positive one. There’s plenty of research to show that first impressions count when it comes to the adoption of new technologies. Easy First Steps is one great technique.
Create a simple one page set of instructions so that someone using your service or solution for the first time can quickly and easily achieve something useful. Creating a team site is a good example. There’s a big difference between someone sitting down to use a solution for the first time with a user guide thick enough to choke a donkey with, thrashing about for a few minutes and going away not sure what they have done, and someone who sits down goes through a simple to follow ten step process and does something cool. All you software developers out there will remember your first “Hello World” moment, this is the same principle.
Another useful technique is the Sandpit environment. This involves creating a complete copy of your service or solution in a non-live environment so that people can experiment without fear of doing anything wrong or breaking anything. Be careful that the purpose of the Sandpit environment is clear! You don’t want people using it for real work by mistake.
The Usage phase is the first few weeks and months of the solution being live in the organization. The aim is to encourage people to use the solution. The availability of materials such as FAQs, How To guides and a support desk are crucial at this stage.