It doesn’t take much to make SharePoint an obvious success. The tool is so powerful and capable of solving such a wide variety of problems that a few zealous users can drive adoption for an entire enterprise.
Unfortunately, a few high level strategic mistakes can also make failure. We are often brought in to resurrect SharePoint sites that fell to one of these beasts:
To design a SharePoint deployment that will be well received, the portal needs to be designed to solve important problems well. For this to work, IT needs to understand the business case, and business needs to know what SharePoint can do. Make sure the deployment team is educated before designing a site that misses the mark.
When deploying the site, your site owners need to be comfortable using the site and be empowered to take full advantage of all of the features. Thorough training is critical.
SharePoint is essentially an internet site, but users still need support. Limit your help desk calls by training end users on common tasks and creating simple reference guides they can use to feel independent.
The Wrong Goal Posts
Some SharePoint developments splendidly solve the problems for which they were designed, but those problems are the wrong problems.
Educating the technical team on the business problems and the business team on SharePoint will help set valuable goals. It is also important to find a consensus on the prioritization of these goals. Firmly establish what success looks like and the value of that success before you begin by ranking projects in terms of impact to the company and feasibility for success.
If SharePoint is deployed as a solution in search of a problem, it will almost always miss the mark. The business needs aren’t the excuse to deploy SharePoint; they are the point. Identify what the business needs. Confirm that SharePoint can help, and develop with that end in mind.
A healthy queue of new projects is the sign of a healthy SharePoint site. Users inevitably want more out the program as they become more familiar and comfortable, and these requests create a backlog.
Scope creep is different. When new user requests co-opt the momentum and focus of the development group then project completion becomes less important than project commencement. Fight scope creep by,
1) Establishing firm goals and priorities before deploying and at intervals after the deployment.
2) Find a good executive sponsor who has the authority to limit distractions and help reprioritize work if necessary.
3) Outline what SharePoint will NOT do for the company in the governance plan.
4) Finishing current projects before starting new ones.
5) Prioritize new projects. Work on what is important, not what is urgent.
6) Limit new requests to open planning periods held each quarter. A little red tape can slow the flow of requests and cut through the fleeting, reactionary changes.
Marketing and on-going support
SharePoint sites are not launched the way skyscrapers are built. They aren’t designed by architects, erected by builders, and then used with minimal maintenance by users who simply accept the decisions made by the builders and architects.
SharePoint sites grow organically and evolve to address new business challenges and priorities. As the company changes, SharePoint must adapt.
When governance policies are too strict, or development too constrained, the site cannot grow and will not be accepted. Empower users by training them to properly develop the site, and then give them the freedom to do so.
Keep SharePoint current by looking for and solving new problems. Continually reintroduce SharePoint to the company to inspire users to get the most from the investment.
The SharePoint Life Preserver
There are really three stages to fixing a SharePoint site.
1) Fix what’s broken – If the site is unstable, slow, cluttered, confusing, or ugly, then fix that first.
2) Create new tools – Find a few killer apps for SharePoint. Solve a couple of really big problems really well and in a way that shows off the program.
3) Re-launch – Reintroduce the site to the company through a round of training and meetings. Get feedback and respond.
SharePoint is a powerful tool that real businesses use to solve important problems. If a site is failing then a little thought and patience will right the course.