The impetus behind implementing SharePoint for many companies is empowering users to solve their own communication problems. With SharePoint, end users, who see the problems first hand, can address them immediately without moving up the chain.
Educating users on both what SharePoint can do and how it does it is obviously very important, but this training shouldn’t be a onetime event when the site is launched. Users need continuous support as they delve deeper and deeper into the software.
SharePoint User Groups
User groups are a great way to encourage inspired innovation with the site. An internal user group meets periodically to compare projects, successes, and struggles. Someone in accounting might be interested in building a project management sub-site like what the sales team built. A HR executive assistant might need more clarification on major and minor revisions that an operations person can provide. A user group facilitates this interaction.
Keep the technical people out of the conversation to give end users an opportunity to solve their problems on their own, and they’ll take more ownership of the solutions.
SharePoint Product Advisory Boards
A good SharePoint Product Advisory Board meets regularly to discuss the way SharePoint is being used and the problems to which it could be applied. Of course, IT and the executive sponsor need to be included on the board, but leaders in the SharePoint User Groups should be invited too. A myriad of perspectives on the issues facing the business, the issues facing the employees, and the perception of SharePoint in the company will give good information when selecting the next path for development.
Some companies go without this support and feedback system as budget, time, and culture may not allow that much involvement. The risk of pursuing further SharePoint development without a formal system for feedback from the users is that the eventual solution may address the wrong priorities or may solve the problem in the wrong way.
A product advisory board can save the company from a misplaced large investment. As an example, to IT and Management communication with external partners through an extranet may be the most pressing issue. The boots-on-the-ground end users, however, might know that the partner companies communicate very well to their account managers, but the account managers need more support in passing the requests on.
Small solutions have big consequences
Sponsoring the conversation about SharePoint through Product Advisory Boards and User Groups will also surface problems that are too small for the Executives’ radar. Noble platitudes about extending the value chain and building collaborative solutions are grounds for developing a SharePoint site, but those high minded goals are made up of many small successes. The end users see the small successes where the rubber meets the road.