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5 Reasons Why Executive Sharepoint Ignorance is not Bliss

Matt McNeany

Matt McNeany

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

I'm re-posting a great article by Dux Raymond Sy - orgininal article here

The job of how to implement SharePoint in an organization should not be in the hands of the IT department. It belongs with the business and the backing of executive decision makers. Here's why.

Our SharePoint implementation was unsuccessful because management just doesn't get it! Our CIO decided one day that I'm the SharePoint guru because I'm the Windows system administrator in our company. I was asked to install and deploy SharePoint to our 500 users within three months. This was a year ago and today, as you can imagine, SharePoint is not being fully utilized, users still can't find what they need and management is questioning why SharePoint is not delivering its promise of improved collaboration.

…lamented a systems administrator after one of my recent talks. Does this sound familiar?

In a lot of organizations, it’s quite common to see IT getting the blame for poor SharePoint implementation and adoption. However, equally responsible are high-level decision makers who made the decision to roll out SharePoint yet don't have a clear understanding of the value it brings to the organization.

Here are five reasons why executive SharePoint ignorance is not bliss:

1. SharePoint is More Than a Glorified Network Share
Organizations today primarily utilize SharePoint as a file-sharing repository. In addition, it may have been haphazardly deployed by IT because management told them to. Strategic planning never happened and it’s just another tool that was thrown out there for the enterprise.

In my experience, there is a lack of awareness amongst executives that SharePoint is an enterprise platform. In fact, Microsoft defines SharePoint 2010 as ”the business collaboration platform for the Enterprise and the Web”.

SharePoint is much more than just a document management tool, it can be used for enterprise line of business needs such as: Intranet Portals, Reporting, Business Intelligence, Content Management, Workflow Automation, Records management, Public-facing websites, etc. For more details, read “Empowering Your Organization with SharePoint” whitepaper that showcases various examples on how SharePoint can be leveraged.

More importantly, SharePoint can empower everyone in an organization (mostly non-technical individuals) to deploy software-based solutions without IT intervention. .

2. It's All About the Benjamins
With tight budgets these days, how organizations spend their money is put under a microscope. That’s why it is critical for any decision maker to be fully aware of the benefits SharePoint can bring to an organization.

It is paramount that a strategic business case is developed to justify why investing in SharePoint can provide quantifiable organizational benefits. Better collaboration is a great benefit, but what does that mean in dollars and cents?

For example, a key area of inefficient collaboration in any organization is the practice of sending meeting invitations with document attachments. Even worse, once the meeting convenes and action items are generated, the typical method of collaboration for completing actions items is still email. Don’t you love it when you are copied on emails with a lot of attachments even if it has nothing to do with you?

If we assess this scenario, apart from IT overhead in storage, bandwidth, support and maintenance, what about business inefficiencies? How much time do people spend daily scouring through their email because they can't find relevant information? What if you have to subscribe to legal compliance like SOX? Can relevant information be easily audited?

Knowing of this business pain, you can map to how SharePoint can provide a better solution. Out of the box it comes with meeting workspaces that can serve as the repository for meeting related artifacts. Not only would the relevant information be stored in a single location, it is limited to the key individuals involved in the meeting.

This means that when meeting invitations are sent, there’s no need to send document attachments anymore. Information about the meeting can be searched. So if somebody took off and is on vacation, the information we need is not sitting on their email inbox.

The point is, decision makers have to be involved with strategically prioritizing business needs that can be addressed by SharePoint. Apart from investing in the technology (licenses, hardware, etc.), investment in planning, governance and adoption is necessary to be successful.

The last thing you want to do is squander your investment by throwing tools at your users, expect them to find a problem to fix and be able to quantify the benefits for you.

3. Sooner or later, Organizational SharePoint Readiness has to be Assessed
Servers: check. Licenses: check. SharePoint admin: check. Looks like we’re ready to rock and roll with SharePoint, right? Wrong.

Apart from making sure the technology is in place, there are four key areas in an organization that need to be assessed for SharePoint readiness:

Prioritization of business needs that SharePoint can address
For example, general needs such as leveraging SharePoint to replace existing collaboration tools such as intranet and file shares are typically on top of the list. Additionally, specific needs such as Human Resources (HR) process or workflow automation; improved financial reporting; project management information system (PMIS), etc. must be identified.

Decision makers along with IT have to take a hard look, prioritize key business needs and LIMIT the scope of how much of SharePoint will be implemented.

Setting achievable and realistic priorities leads to better buy-in and adoption.

Is IT capable of planning, implementing, supporting and maintaining SharePoint?
A typical oversight when implementing SharePoint is making sure that the organization has REALISTIC IT capacity to support it. It is important to run an inventory of the SharePoint solutions (out of the box or custom developed) to be implemented and cross reference it with IT’s capability to:

•Install, configure, maintain and support SharePoint. For example, are there resources experienced in Windows Server administration? SQL Server maintenance? Integration of Active Directory (AD) with User Profiles?
•Define key processes around custom SharePoint application development life cycle, release management, support and disaster recovery.
Identifying IT’s capability is a good exercise to go through in order to set realistic expectations of how much of SharePoint can be implemented. Also, this can serve as a good justification to acquire more resources in order to support the necessary SharePoint implementation.

Keep in mind that overtaxing IT resources to the point where breakage occurs can reduce confidence in SharePoint.

Develop a change management strategy
Whoever said “If you build it, they will come” forgot to specify the word “they” mostly pertains to frustrated SharePoint users if proper change management didn’t take place. I’ve seen a lot of organizations where users, who are supposedly the beneficiaries of SharePoint, couldn’t care less and even worse, they are frustrated.

Crafting a change management strategy involves governance definition, adoption planning, training planning and most importantly, understanding what the collaboration culture of the organization is and what gaps needs to be filled.

You can have the best SharePoint implementation out there but if the culture is authoritative and hierarchical, people might not be motivated to collaborate at all due to fear of potential repercussions.

What I’ve found effective in getting users to adopt and take advantage of SharePoint is that it should be seen as an enabler versus another tool mandated by IT. If it solves their pain point which can vary (HR vs Finance vs Operations), then they’ll see the value of leveraging SharePoint.

What does your SharePoint roadmap look like?
Hopefully by now you’ve realized that SharePoint is more like an enterprise operating system. Having a prioritized list of business needs can help define your organization’s SharePoint roadmap. Here is an example:

•Phase 1: Proof of concept or Pilot
•Phase 2: Replace intranet and file shares to improve collaboration
•Phase 3: Deploy value point solutions for HR, Operations and Finance
•Phase 4: Train users to build their own SharePoint solutions
•Phase 5: Integrate CRM and third party reporting platform
A SharePoint roadmap can help organizations quantify the budget, resources and effectiveness of SharePoint. It allows priorities to be set and specifies what solutions are going to be deployed. See how EasyJet benefited from iteratively deploying SharePoint solutions:

To gain a better understanding of what steps to take when assessing an organization's SharePoint readiness, download and review an example SharePoint Assessment project schedule.

4. There can never be a SharePoint superman
SharePoint Supermen Don't Exist
"You're the Windows Administrator? OK, starting tomorrow, you're also the SharePoint Administrator! Your job is to roll it out to the whole company by next week." What makes it even more challenging is that deploying SharePoint is on top of all the other responsibilities that you may have.

The impression that successfully rolling out SharePoint only entails installing SharePoint on a Windows Server and sending a mass e-mail telling the organization that they can start using it is pure fallacy. In fact, this is a perfect formula for disaster.

To be successful in SharePoint, there's more to just installing the software. Proper planning, engaging the business to properly identify requirements, designing and architecting the relevant SharePoint solution, defining governance strategies, creating an adoption plan, installing, configuring, customizing and maintaining SharePoint, and managing the entire SharePoint implementation are necessary to be successful.

Apart from making sure that relevant IT resources are in place (as stated in point B of reason 3), qualified business and management resources should be involved as well. Now, can a single person do this? Not even Superman can.

5. Who is accountable for the success or failure of SharePoint?
Obviously, the answer is IT. However, unlike any other piece of Microsoft product in an organization, SharePoint can have a profound business impact as it can engage every person and various systems in the enterprise.

IT cannot be solely be responsible for SharePoint. There should be a steering or governance committee-like entity that is headed by an executive level individual and represented by key business decision makers and IT.

This group should be responsible for defining the roadmap and regularly validating how SharePoint is meeting business needs. Without this, he-said-she-said and finger-pointing games will be common should issues arise. Read this article “Best Practices for Forming a Governance Committee” to see what it takes.

A wise man once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. For decision makers who intend to reap the benefits of SharePoint, they should be responsible for investing time in understanding the business value SharePoint brings, and engaging with the business and IT to properly implement SharePoint.