SharePoint sites and solutions- set yourself up for success

Inspired by this blog post by consultant Gia Lyons which specifically targets launching a social media pilot program- it’s practically the same conversation with regard to SharePoint solutions. I recommend you read her article for context but I have used it as the foundation of this post.

Don’t pretend that throwing this rock won’t make any ripples- Acknowledge the impact that implementing SharePoint will have on your team.

  • Depending on user experience, SharePoint may present brand-new technology, ALONG WITH a brand-new learning curve.
  • It’s a challenge to establish both at the same time. Who will lead your users?
  • Manage your expectations- figure out how to prove usefulness in small ways before trying to make SharePoint “do it all.”

Survey the landscape

  • What is your team’s general contribution to the business?
  • How many people will use your site/solution?
  • How long will it be needed?
  • What is the lifecycle of the site’s content?
  • Where are team members/participants physically located?
  • What is their general attitude towards collaboration software? What concerns do they have?
  • Are there inconsistencies in technology? For example, multiple Office versions or IE versions in use) among participants?
  • Are most participants considered “technology-forward?”
  • Can you anticipate pushback from those less inclined to embrace a technology-based platform?
  • Are there cultural or language differences within your group that should be considered?

Find a purpose
How does the group want to use SharePoint? This is very important- mandating one person’s vision will not produce success. There must be a strong sense of “group-ness” permeating the reasons why SharePoint is the tool selected for this job.

  • How are participants getting what they want today, without SharePoint?
  • Fix on a few key “pain points” and go from there, then branch out.

Define roles and responsibilities
In the context of the functionality your site will be providing, classify all participants into the following broad categories:

  • Site owner/Business Process Owner (~1-2 persons)
    • Top “responsible party” for the site who would have to answer to upper management when/if anything about your site came on their radar
    • Person on the hook for budget dollars related to SharePoint costs
  • Site manager (~2-3 people)
    • Could be at the site or site collection level OR both
    • I consider this the most important role in SharePoint.
      • Person(s) established as site managers must spend a lot of time in the site; they are required them to know its ins and outs and troubleshoot most situations that arise for end users
      • They may also be responsible for on-boarding new users and/or hand-holding less confident users.
    • Facilitate use of SharePoint and help others incorporate its use into their work routine.
    • They are the go-to person for anyone who has questions about the site and should present a confident, knowledgeable, pro-SharePoint attitude.
    • They must know how to quickly and accurately escalate issues beyond their expertise.
  • Site contributors (as many as needed)
    • Persons whose normal role requires no stake in the site’s design, look & feel etc. but who need to be able to interface with content elements (lists/libraries) to do their jobs- upload, create/modify list items etc.
    • These people are the best resource for feedback on site functionality- site “mechanics” must work for them or overall success of the site will be threatened.
    • They need good training that lets them clearly step through the most common site-related functionality
  • Site visitors (as many as needed)
    • Persons whose normal role only requires them to view content to gain value from the site, but may occasionally be elevated to a more interactive role for specific situations.
    • They are a good feedback resource regarding site navigation- if an occasional user experiences frustration navigating the site, it needs to be re-thought.

Define success factors- How will you know if your group is using SharePoint successfully? What will the indicators of success look like? Define measurable success criteria BEFORE launching the site/solution. If your site/solution does not support the criteria you have listed, you have a problem!

  • For example:
    • Problem: Team members are constantly email-requesting current presentations from the team PowerPoint author.
    • Solution: Centralize presentation storage in a versioned document library. Train users on the new process.
    • Success indicator: Track email request levels before/after implementing the solution. Did they drop? Are users self-serving from the library? You’ve got a success metric.

Encourage feedback on site performance and user experience.

  • Have some early adopters create good-quality, substantive feedback early on, so that others have an example of what you’re looking for.
  • Periodically send out a simple user survey: “As a result of using SharePoint, I am better able to… ”
  • Share those responses to see if others can benefit from the gains. People support what they help to create!

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