As a consultant I get to work with clients to help them roll out new installations of SharePoint or create new projects on top of existing implementations. I also get called in to help with existing SharePoint implementations that aren't being used. Either people didn't adopt it, the company did not get all their content and business processes created, or they just never rolled out the platform to the end users.
One of the first things I do is ask why employees aren't using their current SharePoint implementation. You need to understand all the reasons why to take steps to mitigate that from happening again.
I usually get a range of responses. This definitely isn't an exhaustive list, but rather some of the most common explanations that I hear. Some clients are even guilty of two or more of these infractions:
1. Lack of Vision or Clear Plan
Failing to plan is a recipe for disaster. Many companies think of SharePoint as simply a product that you install on the server and then everyone will just start using it. That couldn't be further from the truth. SharePoint is not a single product, it's a platform that can do a number of different things. And while every company probably has a few similar processes and use cases, they also all have their own unique needs. If an organization thinks they can just install SharePoint without a plan, or they don't attempt to tailor it at all for their needs, it's not going to bring very much business value. And any system that doesn’t provide business value probably isn’t going to get used.
2. Lack of Time and Resources
Oftentimes organizations will designate one or two people from each team as the site owner of their team's site and expect them to set up and maintain the content. What they don't realize is the amount of time that this takes away from the person's regular day job. They simply don't have or aren't given sufficient time to do it, and it gets placed on the back burner since it isn't essential to their job function. Then content gets stale (if any was ever entered in the first place) and perhaps even worse, there is no oversight to make sure standards are being followed or to provide guidance to the users.
3. Lack of User Buy In or Change Management Plan
Using SharePoint to handle document management and business processes, for example, can be extremely beneficial in streamlining processes and increasing productivity in the long run. However, it does require a substantial change in the way people process information and perform their day-to-day tasks. Users need to be included in the project from the beginning, even as early as the planning stages, and kept abreast of what's going on throughout the process. And there should be a clear understanding of why these changes are happening, and how it will ultimately benefit them.
The transition still might be a little bumpy, but it will be much smoother than if employees are just told they are to start using SharePoint without any explanation at all.
4. Inadequate User Training
I think we're starting to see a common theme here. You can't just install SharePoint, walk away and expect that people will start using it. Even if you do have a plan, and have gotten your users on board with it, they still need to know how to use the new system. Building an effective user training program is essential to the successful rollout of SharePoint. Many of our engagements with clients that find themselves in this situation include evaluating their current system and tailoring a training program to help employees get on board and start using SharePoint. Typically we find it's best to provide live classroom training along with some kind of supplemental materials — such as written materials or videos — that users can refer back to later to reinforce what they learned in the live training.
By avoiding these issues you can ensure that your SharePoint project has a better chance of being successful, without having to bring in a consultant later to fix the problems. What other reasons have you seen that have led to failed implementations of SharePoint? Please share below in the comments.
About the Author
Wendy Neal is a senior SharePoint consultant for McGladrey and a founding partner and community representative for . A regular speaker at industry and user group events, she also maintains a popular SharePoint blog at sharepointwendy.com and discusses all things SharePoint (and sometimes bacon) on Twitter at @SharePointWendy.
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