If your company has invested in SharePoint, they have likely put a lot of time, money and resources into its acquisition and deployment. Yet many companies are not realizing the return that they could be on their sizable investment.
Most companies do not understand the plethora of features that are available to them, nor how to best leverage the platform to maximize their investment. Most are guilty of one or more of the following:
- Underutilization of features
- Lack of clear requirements or vision
- Not using metrics to gauge feature usage and adoption
- Understaffing to properly support the platform
Underutilization of Features
One of the main pitfalls with SharePoint is that many organizations use very few of the features. SharePoint is such a vast platform, offering a huge array of rich features and functionality; however, few companies are taking advantage of all that SharePoint has to offer.
Many companies use SharePoint as a glorified file share and don’t take advantage of metadata or content types to classify and better organize their information. Other advanced features, such as personalization, workflow, reporting services, InfoPath (although in retrospect, that may not be a bad thing since there will be no more future releases of InfoPath), and mobile and social features aren’t being used as much as they could be.
Joe Herres, executive vice president, products and services of H3 Solutions, says there are a few reasons why some organizations are reluctant to deploy mobile features.
The biggest hesitation is security and figuring out how to lock it down. The second is budget -- everyone wants mobile, but nobody's putting budget to mobile. Or they have directives to investigate then mobile falls in priority.”
Social features are another area of concern for many companies. Vlad Catrinescu, SharePoint consultant and co-founder of SP24: The 24-hour virtual SharePoint conference, regularly deals with these worries with his clients.
From my experience, I think that companies are still afraid of the whole enterprise social idea and not all of them encourage it. I had companies that welcomed the idea and found it awesome, while others requested custom permissions on the SharePoint social features so users could do nothing.”
As far as some of the other underutilized features, companies simply just don’t know about them.
Lack of Clear Requirements or Vision
As with any software implementation, not having a clear vision or specific requirements defined can lead to a launch failure. And if people aren’t using what little you have deployed in SharePoint because there was no real plan in the first place, then it will be hard to justify adding more features or functionality.
There also needs to be a good reason to implement a particular feature. When planning to implement SharePoint mobile features, for example, the main drivers seems to be behind culture, not behind the need. According to Herres:
A lot of the need for mobility comes from mandate. The CIO says we want to be mobile. But you need to ask questions. Why do you need mobile? What does mobile need to do?”
People won't adopt SharePoint unless it solves their problems, so figuring out exactly what those problems are and taking time to define use cases is key.
Not Using Metrics to Gauge Feature Use and Adoption
If you don’t know which features your users are (or aren’t) using, then how can you suggest improvements or changes? And how can you measure the successful adoption of SharePoint if you aren’t defining goals and measuring them?
Admittedly measuring ROI can be a challenging endeavor. But a lot of companies just aren’t making any real effort to do so.
Understaffing to Properly Support the Platform
A huge issue in my opinion is that companies are not staffing well enough to properly support the platform. SharePoint is not a product like Word or Excel that only performs limited function; it is an Intranet, a content management system, a collaboration hub, a search center, a knowledge base, a blogging platform, a reports and KPI center, a workflow engine, and much more.
Granted that many of these features wouldn’t be considered best of breed, but that’s the beauty of SharePoint; the platform allows you to customize it to meet your unique needs. In other words it is a huge platform that takes a lot of care and feeding in order to run at an optimal state.
I’ve talked to so many people who have told me that their company doesn’t really have a person dedicated solely to SharePoint support. Either their Windows or network administrator or a developer at their firm is in charge of SharePoint on a part-time basis.
Catrinescu has seen this very scenario time and time again throughout his consulting career. He says:
In general, I believe that most companies are understaffing SharePoint and that means they won’t use it at its 100 percent. Every company should have at least an Administrator and a Developer in my opinion, but I have been at far too many businesses where one person does it all.”
Clearly if there are not enough resources to maintain the system, serious problems could arise. Not only that, if you barely have enough staff to support the system from a maintenance perspective, then you likely don’t have anyone who is dedicated to the other areas that are lacking, such as measuring usage and looking ahead to plan new features and functionality that can foster adoption.
How to Remedy the Situation
Some of the most important things to ensure that you are utilizing SharePoint to its fullest potential surely aren’t rocket science, but seems they need to be mentioned again -- education, planning, governance and measurement.
Organizations don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to SharePoint’s capabilities. Catrinescu likes to guide and educate his clients; on the same token he doesn’t lead them down a path that doesn’t make sense to their specific needs.
I try to influence clients into using as many SharePoint features as possible as long as it fits their needs. If a company doesn’t need to do record management, I won’t tell them to use it in SharePoint."
A Steering Committee should be put together as soon as possible during your implementation. This committee should contain members from the business and from IT -- preferably an architect or someone with a deep technical knowledge of SharePoint should be included.
The duty of this committee is to oversee the strategic direction of SharePoint, define goals and initiatives, and provide policy guidance throughout the implementation.
The Steering Committee that was put together during the planning phase can also be utilized post-launch to make sure things continue to run smoothly.
One of the goals of the Steering Committee at this stage is to define the specific duties that need to be performed and all the roles that are needed in order to support SharePoint, both from an IT perspective and the business side. Once you get this out on paper, it should become evident that just one person cannot handle everything, and that staffing needs may need to be reconsidered.
It is very important to define goals and then measure them to gauge user adoption. First you must identify and understand the problem you are trying to solve. Once you’ve done that you can define specific goals, and of course it is imperative that you monitor and measure those goals regularly.
You should also be paying attention to user analytics. Which features are being used? Which ones aren’t? Who is using the system? Who isn’t? Are users leaving the site prematurely? Where are they going?
Getting answers to these questions can arm you with the information you need to make the necessary changes to positively affect user adoption.
But We've Already Deployed SharePoint
If you've already deployed SharePoint and find yourself with a less than stellar return on investment, it’s not too late. You can formulate a Steering Committee and begin defining your governance policies, feature utilization and adoption strategy after the fact; it just may take longer to achieve the desired outcome.
Title image by JIANG HONGYAN (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: To read more from Wendy, see 7 Ways that SharePoint 2013's New Mobile Features Fall Short