SharePoint is a phenomenal success. Despite its market success, many organizations struggle to realize the full value from investments in SharePoint. For example:
- At a large central government agency, an IT led project to a SharePoint Collaboration platform was halted by another group working on a Document Management project who felt that SharePoint was a threat. The £150,000 investment only delivered a pilot.
- At an international insurance business, the use of SharePoint was crippled by disagreement between different factions in the IT function. In one project, over £500k was invested in developing a Portal application as an aggregated interface to several other systems and applications. Only 8 of 100 potential users regularly used the new portal; the remainder continued working as they had before. An investment of £2.5m in SharePoint over three years delivered no significant, widespread business benefits or financial return.
- The IT function within a global manufacturing organization deployed a SharePoint-based collaboration service. At first, the service was a huge success and enjoyed rapid adoption across the business and within months there were over 7,000 sites created. Users soon began to report difficulties in locating sites, multiple copies of documents began to appear, and the help desk was swamped with requests to recover deleted sites.
- A marketing organization reported that, “SharePoint exists in our business but no one uses it.”
Over the past five years through engagements with hundreds of organizations, I’ve developed a framework for ensuring that SharePoint becomes both a business and a technical success. This article provides a quick start introduction to the framework which consists of four key elements: Governance, Strategy, Transition and Architecture.
Despite what anyone tells you, SharePoint Governance has got nothing at all to do with technology!
Absolutely nothing at all.
In a nutshell, SharePoint Governance aligns the use of SharePoint technologies with objectives and strategy, and defines accountability for ensuring a return on the investment.
Most of the material produced under the heading of “SharePoint Governance” is actually related to IT Operations. Does it matter if we call IT Operations, “SharePoint Governance”? Yes, because if we call operations, “Governance," then what do we call Governance? And how do we know that we are doing it?
The most successful approaches to SharePoint Governance address the relationship between Governance, Management and Operations. One way is to create three teams or groups which relate to these three levels. Figure 1 illustrates the concept:
Figure 1: A model for SharePoint Governance
The SharePoint Strategy Team are the Executive Steering committee comprising six to eight people with representation from IT, HR, and Marketing or Internal Communications. This group is accountable for the return on the investment; they set the vision and the policy. They answer the questions, “What are we trying to do?” and “Why are we doing it?” and “How will we know when we’ve done it?”
The Business Impact Team are the people responsible for implementing the strategy set by the Strategy Team, including changes to processes and driving user adoption. There may be multiple teams at this level, each responsible for a different business solution hosted on the SharePoint platform.
The SharePoint IT Services Hosting Team are responsible for the IT platform, typically with representation from data storage, database administration, platform services and software development.
If you don’t have a strategy that you can print off, pick up and wave around, then you’re going to struggle! Your SharePoint strategy should be owned by the SharePoint Strategy team (there’s a clue in the name).
There are two broad approaches: enabling specific processes or delivering general capabilities.
For example, a major bank and a UK not-for-profit organization use SharePoint to improve Project delivery process. An asset management company has improved its client on-boarding process, and a private bank has improved its credit application process. These are all examples of process improvements. A European central bank has implemented a Collaboration service that allows any employee to create SharePoint sites for any purpose, and a number of organizations have implemented SharePoint for Enterprise search. These are examples of general capabilities. It’s worth noting that targeting business processes makes creating a business case much easier, because the business case for IT is only as predictable as the use.
Here’s a simple example of a first draft SharePoint Strategy that could be produced at the first meeting of a SharePoint Strategy Team. It may be a very simple, but have you got anything at all? Over time, a set of statements like this can be developed into a more sophisticated benefits dependency map. But one step at a time!
SharePoint strategy draft
I’ve found that one of the most successful approaches is to present SharePoint as a set of business services. Each service should be given a different brand or identity to help the users understand that it is a particular tool, intended for a particular use and delivering particular value.
The following model illustrates a set of five services: Search, Portals, Teams, Communities and MySite. Each organization will want to adapt this model, changing the names of the services, adding new services and changing the service features. But this is a great place to start. The techies amongst you should be able to see how this services model can be translated into technical architecture of web applications and site collections….
Figure 2: SharePoint as business services
There’s no such thing as a SharePoint project. There are only organizational change projects. I use the term “Transition” to describe change at two levels: the organizational level, and the level of individual behavior.
Firstly, the secret to success at the organizational levels is to take an iterative approach. Start small and grow SharePoint into your business. The business services architecture supports an iterative approach. Each service can be developed as a separate project. The following diagram illustrates an iterative approach:
Figure 3: Iterative approach to organizational change management
At the individual level, if you don’t have a Transition plan, you’re probably doomed to failure. A transition plan is a written statement of how you intend to move people from old processes and tools to new ways of working with new processes and tools. I work with clients to create transition plans with four key stages: Awareness, Availability, Usage and Adoption. Table 2 presents a simplified example of an adoption plan to illustrate the concept.
Table 2: A simplified example of a Transition Plan
|Phase ||Adoption Measures |
|Awareness ||Pens, posters, intranet bulletins, user workshops |
|Availability ||Prototypes, pilots, launch day events, floor walking |
|Usage ||Easy First Steps, sandpit, end user training |
|Adoption ||Support desk, service updates, new employee orientation |
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to SharePoint, but my experience shows that the framework presented here is a flexible approach. It addresses all the key issues and helps organizations structure their thoughts and plans. Each of the four areas is a huge topic in itself, but I hope that this quick start guide will provide you with a starting point.
Editor's Notes: You may also be interested in reading:
Interested in reading the entire series? Go to The Art of SharePoint Success