OK, let’s recap:
Mahogany Row has passed down the word: Thou Shalt Use SharePoint. In part one we talked about the things that can and typically do happen when SharePoint is implemented without a lot of communication with the business users. We all know we don’t want that but… what do we do to prevent SharePoint from becoming a tangled knot of confusion or withering on the vine? How do we make the edict a win?
There can be an overwhelming need to burst into action. To Google, YouTube then build; but wait. Many times the first best thing to do is to stop. Stop and assess. Believe it or not, it’s actually sound military advice. The British military advises its soldiers, when lost, to stop, sit and have a cup of tea. This keeps soldiers from acting blindly. If forces them to reassess the situation and recharge a bit so they can think clearly and not simply react to the situation.
Resist the urge to revamp, reorganize or redo without assessing the current environment.
What systems is The Company currently using?
How can it be better?
You’ve stopped, evaluated; now it’s time to collaborate and listen. (Terrible, I know.) Meet with the people that will be using SharePoint. The feedback of business users is critical. These are the people using SharePoint day in and day out. Successful SharePoint means designing a system that meets the needs of those using it.
So now it’s time to PREACH.
I’m not talking about hellfire and brimstone, though sometimes that may be necessary. I’m talking about assessing the following points surrounding SharePoint and the role it will play in your organization.
The Definition of Preach:
Verb: preach; 3rd person present: preaches; past tense: preached; past participle: preached; gerund or present participle: preaching
- publicly proclaim or teach
- earnestly advocate
The areas of SharePoint we need to “earnestly advocate” are the following:
If we don’t understand the importance of the Purpose of SharePoint, Roles of users, how we’re going to Educate people (training), ways SharePoint will be Accessed, Content intended for SharePoint and how we will Help people once they’re using it… How will SharePoint ever be more than just one more IT system that people “have” to use? Let’s take a few minutes and identify some key aspects of each principle of PREACH.
What will SharePoint be used for?
- Enterprise Search Engine
- Social Platform
- Document Management
- Web Content Management
- Project Management
Most of the time SharePoint is a combination of several of these. Where would a corporate intranet be without search and a way to manage company policies? Web content management is the heart and soul of a thriving intranet and extranet. The great thing about SharePoint is that it can do all of these things without breaking a sweat. We just have to know how to set it up.
- Data owners
- Individual business units
- Security managers
- Site Collection Administrators
- Will SCAs be IT personnel?
- Traditional SharePoint roles?
- Customized Roles?
Who “owns” SharePoint? Sometimes we tend to avoid talking or even thinking about this because of all the political strings attached to it. Let’s break it down though.
IT maintains the servers and integrity of the software on them but is it feasible for IT to be able to “own” the data that business users upload into SharePoint? Can IT know the intricacies of who should and should not have access to every list, library and document for every department? Can they know how sites, lists and libraries should be secured? Which features should or should not be activated? What about site and list content types? Can/should IT manage those for an entire organization?
It is critical that we create a culture of ownership within our business units. Let business users, who are the data creators, be the data owners. We can THEN delegate Site Collection Administrators, Site Owners, Contributors and so forth.
Many companies chose to create their own roles and titles within their SharePoint community. Mayors, Constables and Coaches are not uncommon. Make sure, when using this approach that there is documentation available for users should they need help or have questions. Custom roles can foster the sense of community but it also renders Google searches for help with SharePoint permissions ineffective.
One other point on Roles: Consider the Balance of Power when identifying Roles. Too little restriction can lead to sprawl as well as security breaches. Too much restriction and users will avoid SharePoint. It only takes a few Access Denied messages before people are ready to be done. They will go back to e-mail, file shares and other legacy means of document management and only use SharePoint when there is no other option. Folks must have access in order to do their jobs. In many cases security is too restrictive and broken in various areas because, “I don’t want them to have access to that library,” and users become frustrated. The question isn’t about wanting or not wanting users to have access to data; the question is, “Should certain users have access to certain areas? Is it a security breach if they do?” Business need must outweigh business want in many areas, especially security.
How will people learn to use SharePoint?
- Who will be trained?
- IT & support folk
- Business users
- Anyone? … Bueller?
How will people be trained?
- Trial and Error
- “Here’s your site. Use it. Good luck!”
- Classroom training
- Demos and tutorials
Training and education is near and dear to my heart. I’ve been teaching people how to use SharePoint for years and it’s a passion! Students walk into class and are not prepared to get anything out of it but let’s face it; most of us go to SharePoint, do what we need to do and get out of there! Few of us have the time or courage to explore, click around and see what the possibilities are. Or, we don’t have the access to be able to implement even the smallest changes that would make SharePoint work for our teams. This is where training can add amazing value.
Organizations must decide who will be trained. In a perfect world everyone would receive some sort of specialized training but this just isn’t feasible. Typically the owners and admins, once identified, will be the first to be trained then sent back to their departments as mentors and leaders.
Classroom training can give users the chance to become familiar with SharePoint. They can click, delete, modify and activate without fear of blowing up the whole world. They can really see the options to make SharePoint theirs. Demos and tutorials showcase possibilities and present concepts a lot of folks were previously unfamiliar with. Typically these are in a video format and can be consumed at the users’ convenience. And, of course there, always on-line searching for answers to questions.
How will people get to SharePoint? How will the network be configured for internal and external access?
SharePoint requires thorough planning, not just for its own pieces and parts but for those used to support it. This includes networks, firewalls and authentication methods.
- Access from inside the internal network
- Access from outside the internal network
- Will external users have access?
- How will they get in?
- Domain account
- Same domain as employees or different?
What will go in SharePoint?
Sometimes the powers that be get a little overeager and dictate that “Everything” be moved into SharePoint. Trust me, you do not want to do that. Ask anyone who has been down that path- it’s not pretty. We already have “everything” in our file shares and they’re a pain, right? Why duplicate that in SharePoint.
It’s best to keep our living/breathing documents in SharePoint. Maybe make it a goal to only bring in content that’s only a couple of years old. One of the beautiful things about SharePoint is we can point Search to go crawl file shares, drives and other external data sources and bring that content to us as needed. It can stay where it is and not use up our expensive SharePoint storage; legacy data doesn’t have to be deleted and SharePoint doesn’t get cluttered with no relevant data. Everyone is a winner.
What we put in SharePoint greatly affects how SharePoint needs to be configured. Will we use it to house streaming content? If so, we need to take a look at the network bandwidth and storage architecture. Will we use it to manage proposals? The proper security and roles will be critical as will content organization, metadata and search. Is Search going to be an important function to your users? Managed metadata and tags will help leverage out of the box SharePoint Search functionality.
- Let’s dump the entire file share into SharePoint.
- Let’s NOT!
- Living/breathing documents
- New(ish) content
- 1 year
- Less than 5 years
- Current project documentation
- Streaming content
- Organized content
- Managed Metadata
How will people get help with SharePoint? Training aside, once SharePoint is in place how will people find help when they need it? If they have a problem, if no one else can help… who is your company’s SharePoint A-team? Is it their Site Collection Administrator? The Help Desk?
Help should be easy to find and readily accessible. A place on the intranet directing folks to the proper contacts or an “I need help with…” search box can point people to the right resources. If the Help Desk hasn’t received SharePoint training they need to at least know where to direct SharePoint related issues and question. Lack of knowledge on the Help Desk will negatively impact the perception of SharePoint throughout the organization.
- Help Desk
- Has the Help Desk been trained on using SharePoint?
- FAQ Pages
- Help Portal
- Links to Microsoft training
- Resource Library
Examining each of the principles of PREACH, which encompasses the primary functionality of SharePoint, will help you and your team identify how SharePoint will be used in your organization and what will need to be done to set it up in a way that will work for your user base. It takes time and a lot of planning but planning up front reduces re-doing later. Communicating with users will help transition them into the new way of doing things and instead of people asking “Why are we using SharePoint?” they’ll be involved with making SharePoint a win.