two rockets launching at the same time
PHOTO: SpaceX

SharePoint is more valuable when everyone uses the platform as intended and to the fullest. With wide and deep usage, organizations will not only access all of SharePoint’s business benefits, but also achieve healthy returns on their investments.

It all starts with understanding that change management for user adoption is as important as project management for deployment, the human side is as essential as the technical side.

Not only that, but organizations will maximize favorable outcomes when they initiate deployment and adoption activities at the same time and execute them concurrently.

Don’t Put Off Change Management

Waiting to adopt SharePoint after it is deployed is not ideal.

When deploying SharePoint to end users, companies tend to focus all of their efforts on the project management for deployment and put off — or sometimes simply neglect — the change management for user adoption.

The IT team often just makes sure that everything works, and then someone sends end users a link to tutorials — the expectation being that everyone will just watch the tutorials and start using the platform. That approach ensures adoption of the platform will fail.

Employees don’t break old working habits and form new ones on their own. It is crucial to plan both the technical side and the human side of a SharePoint rollout at the same time, and to pursue both with the same diligence.

Related Article: Change Managers: The Key to SharePoint and Office 365 Adoption

A Parallel Timelines Approach Works Better

The typical adoption process begins with an effort to identify the tools and processes that employees currently use. It is preferable to carry out those activities while the new platform is being configured. That way, every decision the tech team makes will be informed by input from end users.

That approach is more conducive to ensuring that the deployment yields the intended results, because it enables the organization to do the following:

Such an approach also minimizes the number of changes and adjustments needed after launch, ensures that everyone looks forward to the launch and maximizes participation in user adoption activities.

Related Article: Updating Your Office 365 Governance Plan: Administration

Creating Optimal Governance Policies

When laying out governance policies, IT teams tend to focus on the administrator’s need for central control and convenience, neglecting the needs of end users. That is unlikely to happen if inputs from end users are taken into account.

To come up with governance policies that don’t include arbitrary limitations, you should first talk to end users — they might, for example, suggest that you to enable a valuable feature that you had planned to disable. However, things like that will happen only if you configure SharePoint and consult with end users at the same time, not sequentially.

Related Article: Digital Governance vs. Office 365 Governance: Which Do You Need? 

Building User-Inspired Systems

Too often, IT teams build systems based on assumptions, resulting in complex solutions with options that end users don’t understand. For example, common tools like a site request form or a site creation workflow can be made to include items and steps that have no utility to the actual work processes in your digital workplace. Also, IT may build systems with an abundance of custom code when simple low-to-no-code tools would work just as well.

Only by talking to multiple teams in multiple departments and by understanding their existing tools and processes will the IT team be able to build SharePoint solutions that are better alternatives to what employees are already using.

If you want to build user-inspired systems, engage in the exercise of discovery while systems are being built, not afterward.

Related Article: The Employee Digital Experience – The Need for a User-Centric Workplace

Minimizing the Tendency to Use Adoption Program Templates

It is common to take a user adoption program that delivered great results in one company and employ it in another company — with significantly inferior results. That happens because different companies have different dynamics and different cultures.

When you talk to end users, you gain insights that you can draw upon to configure SharePoint accordingly. Beginning with that configuration, you can then customize the rest of the steps in your user adoption plan and change the template to fit your company’s specific needs.

Related Article: Digital Workplaces Shouldn't Be One Size Fits All

Sustainable SharePoint Adoption Is the Goal

Taking care of deployment first and adoption later is a suboptimal approach that can make it harder to solve unforeseen problems.

When rolling out SharePoint, your deployment project will generally be more effective if it is informed by insights obtained from some already-completed user adoption activities. In other cases, the opposite may be true.

To make things more manageable and maximize the likelihood that your organization will use SharePoint to the fullest, look for ways to carry out both deployment and adoption in parallel, step by step. You will find that the long-term benefits make it worth the effort.