When I first started researching and writing about SharePoint in 2004, I never imagined I'd still be involved with the technology 16 years later. At that time, I had already helped build out intranets and project management solutions for several companies, and had initiated a research project to examine the various communication, collaboration and social technologies on the market. SharePoint was a relatively new player at the time in a space that was, in some sectors, dominated by more complex and expensive solutions in the product lifecycle / product data management space.

As technologists and evangelists, most of us are passionate about the technologies we use … which can, at times, get in the way of making the right decisions about that technology to better enable our teams and organizations to get work done. 

When you think about it, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams are just tools for helping your organization improve communication and collaboration. The question is: do you have the rights tools (and strategy) in place to ensure success? Because at the end of the day, even the most perfectly deployed and architecturally sound deployment will be viewed as a failure if people don't log in and use it. A few things can help deliver the benefits of SharePoint and Teams across the enterprise while boosting end-user adoption.

5 Tips to Increase SharePoint and Teams Adoption

1. Have a Plan

We need to learn from our own histories. Quite a few SharePoint environments failed to grow because they suffered from a lackluster start. You need to plan for a new system deployment from end-to-end, with the end user experience at the top of your list of concerns. Get your end users involved early and often, and include both a proof of concept (pilot) phase and a testing phase (to ensure the solution functions as proposed). Starting with a proof of concept allows a small team (preferably "power user" influencers selected from across the organization) to kick the tires before rolling it out to the masses.

This target team should know they're there to help iron out the solution and streamline features and functionality, but there will most likely be glitches. They should also be aware of (and, hopefully, participate in) some of the prioritization decisions made about what features and solutions to include in the initial rollout, as they'll be your best advocates to help the broader organization understand (and accept) those decisions. The end result of these phases will be a much stronger environment that will better meet expectations.

The solution should also match the organizational culture. A great way to ensure this is to take the time to develop a thorough governance plan. A lot of thought should go into the policies and procedures of how the new solution will perform in operations. Will everyone get to create sites? What will the permission structure look like for users? What is the escalation process for issues? If permissions are limited, how will users be able to request what they need? These are just a few topics to discuss and plan for before roll out. And keep in mind: it is much easier to add permissions down the road than take anything away. Psychologically, people do not like to have things taken away from them, even if they don’t use whatever is being limited.

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2. Start With the End in Mind

Typically, SharePoint and Teams alike are being implemented to gain efficiencies in departmental/functional work, to streamline processes, and to reduce error through automation of tasks. These tools are ultimately meant to be in the hands of the end users for operational use, but all too often the end user is not properly involved when planning your implementation.

Above and beyond the out-of-the-box experiences, taking into account how your users will actually leverage these tools day-to-day can shed a lot of light on how to configure, test and roll out a new technology. Adoption is jeopardized if the way in which the platform or specific features are deployed do not match or fit in with the way your users work. In other words, features need to align with the collaboration and communication culture. This doesn't mean new technologies should just seamlessly meld into current operations. The introduction of any new tool or system brings change — but allowing teams enough time to modify any pertinent processes and procedures to adapt to the new tools will go a long way in their final adoption.

Change is difficult. People and organizations need time to acclimate. Offer users a peek into the overall vision of the platform, give them a voice in how SharePoint and Teams are implemented, and adoption rates will increase. A phrase I often use is, "The more you involve people in the process, the more likely people will accept that process."

Related Article: The Role of Influencers in Change Management

3. Make Appropriate Training Available

All too often, organizations get excited about implementing a new tool but fail to consider what it takes to get everyone productive. They take great care to make sure their admins are trained, but by the time configuration, testing and the pilot are wrapping up, enthusiasm has dwindled and the end user is left out of the training the test and pilot teams received — forced to weave their way through online documentation or the occasional brown bag lunch presentation. The end user is just as deserving of training as anyone else. Also remember there are many end users, not just the power user and admins who participate in the initial launch. If people feel as if they are not receiving adequate training, the group sentiment can fatally harm user adoption.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: Jumpstart Office 365 User Adoption with Microsoft's Learning Pathways Training Site

4. Prove the Value

Don't treat SharePoint and Microsoft Teams as the latest shiny objects. Doing so will make people feel as if they are being forced on them. The business value must be clear to users from the get-go — demonstrate how the tools will assist them in their jobs. If you choose to ignore this alignment with business value, there's a high risk users will see it as yet another burden they will need to learn on top of their already full workload.

Setting the tone for roll out can go a long, long way in improving adoption. Establishing excitement among users and highlighting how the platform will help teams work more efficiently is a foundational concept. Illustrate through clear examples and use cases, and where possible, use real people and roles to walk through those examples to help people make the connection between training and implementation.

Related Article: What's Next for SharePoint Intranets?

5. Have Support in Place, Ready to Go

Adopting any new tool can have a steep learning curve, no matter how intuitive you might think it is. Beyond the basic actions, such as adding a list item or uploading content to a channel, users may run into issues applying the new technology to their work. Frustrations can run high if they cannot get rapid assistance in resolving their issues, so have trained support staff at the ready.

Support staff must be skilled to quickly resolve issues in a knowledgeable manner. If your support staff are equally ill-equipped for troubleshooting, users will grow weary of calling for support only to see them testing out multiple resolutions to see what might work. People can see when support staff are simply doing what they would have done in troubleshooting. This does not mean that all support staff must have deep knowledge of the tool, but a tiered support structure can be implemented. Develop a defined escalation policy to ensure users are getting the quick assistance they need, and management can identify training opportunities if the support team is not exhibiting the necessary knowledge level for their tier.

Another option is to train a point person within each department — an on-site champion among the teams — that people can turn to for more immediate assistance. These champions will also understand how people use the tool for their particular job function. This layer of support staff will often prove efficient in resolving issues, especially basic issues that may be training related.

Adding tools to a your toolbox, no matter how small the tool, brings change to your current environment. Everyone in your organization, to some degree, will be resistant to change. Adoption rates of SharePoint and Teams will be directly affected by how well the tools are introduced, and how prepared you are to support your future end user needs. However, following these simple real-world suggestion can dramatically increase user adoption.