“One of the reasons I’m such an advocate of SharePoint now,” said infrastructure and security director Patrick Cote, “is it makes repetitive tasks very simple, it makes collaboration very simple and when I say collaboration, I mean everything from status updates to version control.”
“I see people struggle every day with something so easy--version control. It’s often the small things that companies struggle with, and SharePoint can solve those small things as well as larger problems.”
Pluses and Minuses of Moving to SharePoint
Cote discussed challenges his team faced rolling out SharePoint and lessons learned based on their experience creating an intranet at Windham Professionals, a 1,000-employee collections services provider. The team rolled out SharePoint 2010, Cote said, but plans to look at 2013 and see what functionality is available.
One challenge was compliance. “The need for access control was one of the first issues we had to tackle. We obviously could do that through SharePoint’s inherent abilities, incorporating Active Directory (AD), but we didn’t necessarily want people who had privileges to share information with other people. So we started looking at third-party add-ons to do encryption and data leak prevention. That’s why we settled on HiSoftware—that’s all they do is compliance.”
Timing was a factor. Cote’s team rolled out the SharePoint intranet to users in stages, starting a year ago, and finishing in the last two months, he said. “Integration with AD makes it easier to do. Since we’ve rolled it out, we’ve also rolled out team sites, some content only. We’ve spent some dev time doing workflows and processes too.” A SharePoint extranet is in the works, too.
Workflow was a tantalizing benefit of SharePoint for his organization. “We have things like our change control process integrated within SharePoint. It’s nice because it’s all in one place.”
End users weren’t familiar with SharePoint. “Certain departments and groups have embraced the technologies, while others are slower to adopt.”
Some of that end-user reluctance, he said, was because people felt already busy enough with their full-time jobs. But for others, “Change is sometimes difficult to begin with. IT has been embracing this process for a long time, simply because we see a lot of the benefits in automating a process once and repeating it a number of times, but it’s difficult for some to get to that point.”
SharePoint Lessons Learned
The 16-person team rolling out SharePoint learned many things during the year and a half it took. Cote mentioned a few that stood out for him.
Governance is a necessity. Cote’s team did its duty and covered the governance part first. Because of the developer they used, he said, there was a lot of experience in SharePoint. “Do your homework,” Cote advised. “Do the governance piece up front and build everything around that.”
Work with partners. “We recognized the need for security from the ground up, so we tried to bake that into the processes. If I had to build some of the security that Hi Software gives, I would have had to find a company that does data leak prevention, encryption—it’s not a point solution, it’s a holistic solution for compliance.”
Look at processes for greater ROI. “We have 16 people in our information services division, and throughout the rollout, at one point or another all those people were involved. While we were developing this, we tried to look at processes and see if there were opportunities to do better.
“That’s also how you derive a tremendous amount of ROI from SharePoint—it’s not about doing what you used to do, but doing what you need to do better. This tool doesn’t make any money, but if it’s saving time, making processes repeatable, then it does.”
Find a strong sponsor. “Fortunately our sponsor was our company’s CIO, Richard Skinner. He’s a huge SharePoint advocate for building processes. He had done that at another organization, so he was the one who really pushed for the governance, pushed for the tool development, because he recognizes the inherent power of this application. Without him, it would have been more difficult.”
Make security and compliance easier for end users. “The fact that the product [we chose] can do things like data leak protection and takes care of things like data classification is fantastic. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of it for our users.”
Empower users. The Windham Professionals intranet site was “rolled out by 16 people and managed by one,” Cote said. “Although a lot of the day to day content is managed by department or teams, but that’s the way it should be. I don’t know what HR needs on its site, but if we can let them change content, they can have the power.”
Help users see that you get out of it what you put into it. “When people see that it does take some resources for care and feeding, that’s where resistance comes from, because everyone already has a full time job, and the perception is you’re giving me another full time job. But that’s not the case. It’s giving them the tools to manage their sites effectively.”
“SharePoint truly is, at the end of the day, an honest and transparent application, because if you take no time, that product is going to reflect it. People make it their own and if they don’t embrace it, it’s reflected by their team site.”
And check out Dan Holme's series about rolling out an intranet for the NBC Olympics during its coverage of the London Summer Olympics.