Building SharePoint Adoption

Users adopt SharePoint at the same rate and to the same degree that they perceive the tool as something that is easier, better, or faster than whatever they were using before. SharePoint as an enterprise content management system faces a particularly high hurdle in creating this perception because the alternative, file shares and attachments, is familiar and easy to use. Many users don’t see a reason for change.

In making the case for adoption of SharePoint for ECM, the SharePoint team must make users aware of the shortcomings of these common tools and show that SharePoint reduces redundant work, streamlines collaboration, and stores otherwise lost corporate knowledge- simply, that SharePoint is a better system.

This is the essence of how an organization should address SharePoint change management, especially when it comes to ECM.

  • Show the shortcomings of the existing system
  • Show how SharePoint is better
  • Thoroughly train users to get them through any snags along the way.

What’s the problem with file shares and email?

Organizations without SharePoint or a similar system usually store documents in nested folders in a file share. The folder structure can be many levels deep, and the file’s name is extremely important. Collaboration on those documents is depends on email and printed copies.

There are many problems with this approach, some of which are illustrated in this example:

The new budget is due, so John emails budgetfinal.xlsx to 5 senior managers for final review. Immediately after sending the email, he realizes that he made a mistake, so he quickly makes a change and emails (again) a copy titled budgetfinalv2.xlsx.

Meanwhile 3 managers have already started editing the first copy. The other 2 managers make edits to the second copy, and everyone emails their changes back to John. Now John has to combine the changes on 2 different versions of the same document into a final amalgamated copy.

After 3-4 cycles of this, 30 emails, and lots of confusion, the group approves budgetfinalv6c.xlsx. It’s saved in 7 different locations, and each copy is very slightly different from the others. Six months later no one remembers which copy was official.

How does SharePoint help?

SharePoint could make the collaboration around John’s budget much easier. Using the “Sharing” feature in SharePoint, John controls who can access the file and whether they can edit or simply read the document. Everyone works off the same copy, and this avoids much of the confusion and redundant work. Changes to the document are immediately available to all users, and versioning let’s people see how the document evolved. SharePoint also:

  • Allows for simultaneous editing by multiple users
  • Records and facilitates discussion and debate around the document
  • Offers workflows for tracking document approval
  • Applies document retention and control policies


The final step in the adoption process is training. Yes, SharePoint is easy to use from a contributor standpoint, but it is also very important. Small misconceptions or mistakes can lead to big problems and mistrust.

End users should be involved in every phase of the project. Their buy-in and support during design and planning phases softens their reception during deployment and migration. Their feedback on the site design helps to make the site more functional, intuitive, and easier to use.

After deployment, ongoing training, user groups, promotions, awards, lunch and learns, and webinars help users remember SharePoint when solving their critical business problems.

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