When I discuss SharePoint's value with various decision makers one thing always comes up: the value of using it as a single platform to fill multiple needs within an organization. Companies may have initially implemented SharePoint as a way to collaborate and share data, but then find they also have the tools needed for a corporate intranet or public website. An initial investment provides a path for multiple solutions. This, for many reasons, can be a very appealing approach.
A compelling business case for implementing SharePoint isn't hard when you look at these capabilities. But a good business case isn’t enough to make for a solid and powerful SharePoint implementation. To realize the value, it will be important for your organization to embrace the changes required for success. I'd like to highlight some of the potential areas of concern I've seen in my work on SharePoint implementations with various organizations and show some ways to get past roadblocks or find detours to help you get to your final destination.
Look at Things Differently
Most organizations have gotten things down to a science when it comes to deploying and implementing software. Typically there's an operations team that keeps the servers up and running; a team of developers building solutions; and a team that serves as a help desk for users. Some companies have groups that are dedicated to monitoring the network and others that look just at security.
All of these roles are wonderful to have within an organization and can provide great value. But what happens when a single platform touches every area of the organization? Who will own it and how will decisions get made?
Trying to get SharePoint to fit into any one bucket won’t work. Depending on how you use it and what solutions you want to use, it could fall into many different categories. This is why governance is very important to any SharePoint implementation. It isn’t simply about installing it, configuring and building solutions, but instead should be about an ongoing relationship between all areas of the organization, making decisions for the good of the business. There are multiple ways to do things when it comes to SharePoint and many paths can be considered the “right” path based on your goals. Because SharePoint spans across so many different components it is essential for teams to work together to find the best solutions.
The best way to ensure that you are making the right decisions is to consider the impact each choice will have on the business. By doing this, you tie each decision to a business goal or objective and not to the technology alone. I have seen a few organizations that appoint a single business owner of SharePoint who works with the different technical teams to set the direction for the organization. Each decision is going to have a set of pros/cons and tradeoffs to get to the ultimate goal, so having a centralized business owner of SharePoint can help keep the balance between organizational needs and technical solutions.
Understand the Strategic Value
Solutions can look clear and easy looking from outside the problem, but that isn’t always the case once you step inside. In many organizations aligning to a structure that best supports SharePoint is a journey and not a single change. Change is hard for any organization and is usually made only when there is value attached to the change. This can sometimes create a circle effect when working with SharePoint because you need to do things differently, but until you can show the value in the change it is often hard to get buy-in.
An organization may need to think outside the box when looking at the best way to structure their team. By taking things slowly and capturing some small wins you will be able to build a business case for the future structure of the team that manages SharePoint. If you understand that SharePoint's value comes from what it can bring to users, then your focus around decisions and planning will be about the strategic value SharePoint can bring to the organization. If the focus shifts from the strategic to the management of the environment, there is the potential for good decisions to have a negative impact. By keeping the focus on the users and the business value of SharePoint, you will be able to manage the environment in a way that provides the most value and return on your SharePoint investment.
Always be a Champion
No matter what your role is in the organization, you can be a champion for the business case. If everyone on the team thinks of the business case and the impact of the decisions being made at all times, the team will naturally meld together. Decisions are based on the mindset of the people making the decisions and the information available to them at the time. Imagine the impact you could have if every time you approached a decision you tied it back to the ultimate business case? By doing this over and over again your mindset will transition to always having the business case at the core of your thinking and decision making.
Think Big, Start Small, Keep Growing
The most important thing in all of this is to remember to just get started! I have worked with many organizations that feel that “we just don’t know what we don’t know” and because of that they are unsure of how to start and where to focus their attention. This is a common feeling in the SharePoint community, but the only way to get to where you want to be is to get started. No organization is ever going to start using all of the features available in SharePoint all at once, but they can start small and continue to add features over time.
If the focus remains on the business and successfully changing the way the business uses technology to work together, then the end results will be for the better of the business. There will be bumps along the way and change will likely be required in how things are approached, how decisions are made and how technology is implemented, but the end results will be worth it -- the trick is to know where you want to be, to start small and keep growing. You may be using SharePoint as a way to centrally store documents today, but as long as you keep the forward momentum, who knows where you'll be three months from now?
Editors Note: Read more of Jennifer's SharePoint insights in 'Have it Your Way' SharePoint: Two Paths, Many Options