Office 365 has made SharePoint available to the masses due to its aggressive price point. But is a low monthly cost per user enough for an organization to really facilitate enterprise collaboration and ultimately justify the ROI? Will SMBs be able to successfully implement and adopt SharePoint Online without substantial investments in expert assistance?
To make some predictions on this that pass muster, we’d better establish two things from the get-go:
- What do organizations do with SharePoint?
- What qualifies as an SMB?
What do Organizations Do with SharePoint?
This has the potential to run the gamut, given the breadth of SharePoint’s feature set, the fact that it’s an app/development platform, and that different organizations need different things. To keep this from getting unwieldy, here’s a list of use cases that most people would probably agree are commonly solved with SharePoint:
- Basic primary intranet (Onboarding/orientation — HR and benefits info, Employee directory, upcoming events, etc.)
- “File server on the web” (Centralized doc templates, robust search, versioning)
- Team/departmental collaboration sites (doc libraries, lists, calendars, light project management, etc.)
- Personal web spaces/“walls” (basic My Sites)
- Simple business process management/automation (vacation requests, expense reports, purchase orders/requisitions)
- Knowledge Management (Wikis; KnowledgeBases. Advanced solutions leverage robust taxonomy models)
- Secure client/customer Portals/Extranets
- Enterprise Social (Robust MySites; ratings and rankings; internal blogs; “blessed”/recognized SMEs)
- Business Intelligence (Financial or operational reports and dashboards)
- CRM-type solutions (Shared customer contacts, case management, capturing customer interactions)
- Composite/Mash-up applications (interactions surfaced through SharePoint that allow users to read/write from multiple, disparate back ends, e.g., both a CRM and ERP)
What Qualifies as an SMB?
Try Googling “how many employees in a small business” and you’ll get a mind-numbing set of results to review, all of which lead to varying laws and opinions about what criteria determines your “size bucket.”
Since we’re talking about a solution that is largely implemented to facilitate collaboration between humans, it feels far more relevant to focus on size of staff over all other criteria (revenue, number of locations, type of business, etc.) This table I lifted from Wikipedia feels about right:
IMHO the European Union has it pegged, with 250 employees being a more realistic threshold of what constitutes the top end of a “medium sized” business. Think of it this way: how many people will actually need to adopt the technology in order to make it a success? From this perspective, anything over 250 feels like a pretty “large” group to me.
With all the demands today, SMBs are typically ahead of the game if they have enough IT resources and competent professionals, be they in-house or outsourced. SMBs often have from 1-5 internal people, wearing hats that range all the way from help desk to network infrastructure, servers and security. Even a heavily cloud-invested team is going to be lucky to have one professional that’s a true expert in a LOB application.
What Constitutes a “Valuable” or “Successful” Implementation?
Let’s keep it simple, but agree that a successful delivery would broadly mean that:
- The entire organization will adopt SharePoint as consumers/collaborators (and the majority will use it as intended!)
- “Non-Techie” subject matter experts will be capable of “rote task” administration. They won’t necessarily know the difference between a Farm and a Farm Solution - but they’ll be able to create and manage content (libraries, lists, sites), and generally control/extend/evolve some amount of functionality within the collaborative experiences after they’re initially delivered.
What Resources (People) Will We Need? Required “Tiers of Expertise”
Now that we know how big our organization is, and we know what we want to deliver, we can get down to business. Implementing each use case from our “What do organizations do with SharePoint?” list in SharePoint (2013) Online will effectively fall into one of the following required “tiers of expertise”:
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