A SharePoint road map. It’s a neat phrase, and one that evokes images of nicely labelled diagrams, feature discussions and documented plans for the future.

And it won’t work. Certainly not for everyone.

The road map could be a lengthy Word document or a huge drawing. It could be a set of diagrams linked together, or hundreds of bullet points. But no matter how it is recorded, it is a fixed pre-planned description of a system (in this case an Intranet or similar) that you are planning to build.

It doesn't matter.

SharePoint, especially SharePoint 2013, is a unique platform. It is huge, with thousands of features and functions. It can be melded and molded into a number of totally different, functionally diverse, Intranets or similar systems. Put simply, it is hard to write down the best implementation of it up front for your business and then follow that plan to the letter.

A road map is hard to do. Maybe even impossible. So how about not planning your new Intranet at all? How about letting employees figure out what they need as you go along?

Thinking Outside the Map

How about just installing SharePoint and seeing what happens? Maybe that feels a little radical for some, but the results could be interesting.

How about installing it, and then adding a homepage and some department sites? Ensure you have a few folks on point for regular content creation (news, company documents, etc.), and a way for people to easily request new sites. Maybe even consider a "relaxed" permissions model where people can create anything they want (within their own area or boundaries).

Then sit back and see what happens. Give it six months. You’ll need to poke people every now and then, maybe even run regular training or "SharePoint update" sessions. But something will happen. And it could be good.

Out of Chaos

I can make some predictions. Some people will create lots of sites and abandon them. Some will create a test site and work out of that. Some will create private sites so you won’t really know what is going on anyway. But out of this chaos, some kind of order will come. People will post some documents, create content, some teams will get really organized, the odd individual will turn into a SharePoint Rock Star.

Of course the IT team will need to plan ahead a little. If the thing takes off, and the whole company want to use it, you might need a little more server grunt. But this is an everyday task for these guys. Worst case scenarios can be easily predicted by looking at staff numbers and usage of other similar systems.

The most important bit of all? Whatever order does come out of the chaos, whatever useful sites you get, or active users you find, you will have the building blocks of SharePoint in your organization. You will find yourself with a band of engaged users, some kind of useful content, and lots and lots of plans for the future. Plans that have been tested in the real world.

“ Free-styling” in this way might not be to everyone's tastes. It depends on the type of organization you are, and the personalities you have. But the point is a serious one.

SharePoint is very very hard to plan and get right the first time. Companies with a lot of experience don’t always get it right at the first go. There is something to be said for taking a slower, more organic approach. If you think in terms of a "pilot" or "proof of concept" then the idea might be more palatable, less radical.

So on your next project, once you've written the heading "Road Map" on a piece of paper, why not consider a more left field approach? The results could be worth it.

Image courtesy of Ana de Sousa (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Chris is always ready to stir up some SharePoint conversations. Read his Three Hurdles SharePoint 2013 Faces this Year to get a taste.