people laughing while working
PHOTO: Brooke Cagle

Even after a successful deployment and a thorough training program, there will always be some employees who struggle to embrace SharePoint for their daily document management tasks. Breaking old habits is a challenge, especially when it comes to making a transition to new technology. But with the right approach, you can make the change an effortless one.

To ensure success in a move to SharePoint, you first must understand your users’ current document-handling habits. Only with clear insights into how they do their jobs will you be able to develop an effective transition strategy. Skipping that step can cause a SharePoint initiative to stall as some users have trouble adopting the new system. But many IT leaders skip that step, because they assume they know how users work with documents. That is a common mistake.

Related Article: The Problem With Microsoft SharePoint? People

SharePoint Adoption Success Depends on Understanding Your Users

There are many approaches to gathering information about current document management processes. Two popular options are to conduct surveys or ask people to explain their processes via email. But if you want to get real insight into how people do their jobs — and collect the information you need to devise an effective SharePoint migration plan — you need to engage in face-to-face conversations with users and ask them to show you (not just tell you) how they handle certain tasks.

This approach is helpful for two reasons: First, if you talk to people in person, they may reveal more information than they could via email or a survey. Second, meeting with employees at their desks and asking them to walk you through their daily document management tasks gives you a detailed understanding of their processes and makes you aware of all the tools they use.

It’s essential you understand exactly how users work with documents on a daily basis. Simply sitting at your desk and sending emails or conducting surveys won’t be helpful. You have to get up and go talk to people.

Of course, it may not be feasible to talk to every single user in person. If you work for a large organization or simply don’t have the time to talk to everyone, you should at least set aside one or two weeks for the task and try to meet with a cross-section of users large enough to provide reliable data.

Related Article: Driving Adoption: 3 SharePoint Concepts End Users Need to Understand

Know - and Solve - User Pain Points

Meeting with people in person will help you understand the day-to-day realities that both early adopters and stragglers experience. You can use that information to develop an exhaustive long-term approach to SharePoint adoption.

You should expect some resistance as you migrate to SharePoint or any new technology; users will not easily give up familiar processes that work well for them.

As you meet with employees, expect to find that some of them are using third-party tools that are not authorized by the IT team. This is common, especially at large organizations. Many people find it hard to give up tools they know well. Understanding why some users prefer certain tools for certain tasks will give you insight into why they may be having trouble with SharePoint.

Related Article: Where User Experience Should Fit in SharePoint's Roadmap

Design a Tailored SharePoint Adoption Plan

Once you collect information about how people do their jobs, you will be able to design a tailored SharePoint adoption plan. An effective plan usually includes, at the minimum, an always-accessible contextual help system, an outreach campaign that includes daily tips about using SharePoint, and a personalized rewards program.

Following those simple steps can pave the way for a smooth SharePoint migration and help you find ways to encourage reluctant users to embrace SharePoint.