Social Business, Don't Overlook the Importance of Effective SharePoint User Training

While most of the recent stories about SharePoint revolve around the latest buzzwords and hot topics -- gamification, cloud, mobile, social, Yammer, etc. -- one component of a successful SharePoint rollout that is often overlooked is an effective user training program.

Although talking about training seems to be out of fashion at the moment, it' still very important. Leanne Bateman (@LBatemanPMP), SharePoint Project Manager and Trainer for Beacon Strategy Group, reminded me of this when I attended her session titled Best Practices for SharePoint User Training at SPTechCon Boston last month.

Throughout her session she outlined how effective training helps address some of the challenges that organizations face while implementing SharePoint. She also evaluated the various training methods and shared best practices for successful SharePoint training.

The SharePoint Challenge

At a high level the typical SharePoint implementation contains three components: planning, implementation and ongoing management. There are many common issues that can arise both during and after rollout; from lack of a clear vision, to inadequate support from senior management, to insufficient resources, to lack of training support for end users.

To ensure a successful implementation, training needs to be planned for early in the process; resources need to be committed to assembling the training materials as well as performing the actual training. If an organization doesn’t have a dedicated training department or person on staff, the project manager can be a good resource for this, as they can create the training program while the rest of the team is implementing the project.

While it makes sense that training should take place during and shortly after the implementation, what often gets overlooked is that training needs to be an ongoing effort after rollout. There will be new employees that need to be trained, as well as users that will want refresher courses periodically.

The unfortunate reality is that very few people get formal training in SharePoint when it's rolled out in their organization. I followed up with Bateman after the conference, and she shared with me a couple key reasons why. 

The most common reason an organization may not include training in their SharePoint rollout is budget. They don’t want to spend the money on training and they also often believe that training will cost far more than it actually does.”

Another reason that organizations don't offer training is that they simply don’t think it is necessary. They mistakenly believe that their employees will be able to learn SharePoint without any training. Adds Bateman,

Unfortunately, SharePoint isn’t very intuitive to most users and once a user gets stuck, they get frustrated; when they get frustrated, they begin to think that SharePoint is a bad system and they dislike (and often resist) using it from that point forward.”

User Adoption is the Key

One of the most critical factors for software success and return on investment is effective user adoption. Whether a training program is provided or not, users are expected to understand what SharePoint is and what it can do, and they are expected to learn it quickly. Oftentimes, half of the IT team is not even up to speed on SharePoint.

Furthermore, lack of training can cause numerous negative effects on the successful adoption of SharePoint. According to Bateman,

Besides the potential for users to accidentally delete information or do other damage (depending on their access), frustration is the #1 negative effect of poor or no training. And the repercussions that user frustration can have should not be discounted: it can actually become quite disruptive even though it could so easily have been prevented.”

User frustration obviously can lead to undesired outcomes. Bateman further explains,