SharePoint Gadgets are No Replacement for Strategy

calculator-watch-150x150It’s very tempting to focus on small, easy problems for quick wins using the various tools and gadgets SharePoint provides. String a few of these victories together, and it may even look like SharePoint has been fully embraced within the company.

Full adoption, however, comes from strategic needs and a strategic approach. Gadgetry is fine at the department or team level, but for an organization to get the most value from their investment, a broader perspective and effort is needed.

What types of strategic problems can SharePoint solve?

I like to start with business problems. Like any IT system, deploying SharePoint for the sake of SharePoint provides little value, so we first ask, “What problems does the company have?” Then, we ask, “Is SharePoint the right tool to address those problems, and how would that look?”

Strategic problems tend to be intangible, but their effects are widely felt. Here are a couple of examples:

Poor Employee Engagement

Intangible definition

Are employees interested in the work they are doing and the success of the business? Do they have strong relationships with coworkers? Are they excited to come to work every morning?

Concrete impact

Employee engagement is often the defining characteristic of a successful business. Engaged employees are far more productive, far less likely to turnover, and far more valuable than unengaged employees. Investments in building employee engagement may feel intangible, but the results can be staggering.

Chaotic Knowledge Management

Intangible definition

How accessible are corporate intellectual assets like customer history, industry knowledge, process, best practices, and project status? Do a few key employees control the keys to the company?

Concrete impact

Companies without knowledge and content management systems duplicate work, struggle to scale, and miscommunicate more often than businesses that have addressed this challenge. Encouraging collaboration to spread around the company’s intellectual capital empowers more employees to develop into superstars.

How SharePoint Gets Strategic

SharePoint tools works together to address these and other strategic challenges. A number of factors in how SharePoint is deployed control whether it will remain a set of tactical gadgets or a strategic platform.

  • Executive Sponsorship- SharePoint is most successful in addressing strategic needs when the executive level drives its adoption. As an example, social features (MySites, Yammer, Blogging, Wikis) can have a big impact on employee engagement and internal communication, but without vocal executive support, employees may feel like those tools are a forbidden fruit.
  • Governance Policy – Strict governance policies that discourage end user innovation also limit the impact of SharePoint to only the specific, often tactical, issues identified by IT. Giving users full access supports strategic initiatives like employee engagement, sharing of knowledge capital, leveling the organizational structure, and many more.
  • Training- Indisputably, full training improves adoption. Regardless of what strategic gap a SharePoint site is designed to fulfill, training is critical.

By first identifying strategic needs and then developing SharePoint in a way that supports those challenges, the system can impact the company in more than just tactical ways. SharePoint gadgets are nice, but strategy leads to a bigger business value.

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