SharePoint, we all love it, we all have it, but we’re not all sure how we should be using it. I for one would like to propose that we all do something very few of us actually think to do or had thought to do when we first got it, and that is: Plan for it.
I don’t say this without good reason or quantitative support. There are a number of surveys out there that state one of the biggest challenges we have with SharePoint is a lack of planning and strategy. Now don’t misunderstand…this is not actually a challenge with SharePoint the product, this is an organizational issue. SharePoint is a platform, and we build off of, or onto platforms, and the concept of “out-of-the-box” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to SharePoint. This is especially true when we’re talking large-scale deployments (Terabytes of data and thousands of disparately located users). Again, it is a platform, after all.
People, Processes, and Technology
So think Big Picture here. Think in terms of three big buckets: people, processes, and technology.
The people bucket is the biggest and usually the most complex one. We have many different people with many differing objectives when it comes to SharePoint. We have the IT folks whose job it is to manage SharePoint as a solution and the content that lives within it. We have people with more specific wants and needs, such as compliance officers, records managers, and the legal departments. And, lastly, we have the line-of-business workers, or the end-users, those people who truly use SharePoint. All of these groups of people leverage SharePoint in different ways, are involved in different processes, and are connected to or connect to the technology differently.
The process part is actually pretty straight forward from an understanding point of view. Business processes and workflows are already engrained in the corporate environment, although they aren’t always the most efficient processes, they are there, and as of now they are actually the glue that bonds the people with the technology. SharePoint can transform these processes and drive even greater connection between users and content while also greatly improving efficiencies.
Speaking of technology, there is a reason I mention it last. We tend to get all caught up in the technology or products that can enable the people and the processes. And this is a bad thing. We deploy without thought as to why – we bought it so let’s use it! We hear that SharePoint is a great solution, can help improve efficiencies and connect people with content. All of this is true, but without a plan, none of it is possible. We need a strategy! And that starts with outlining how people are going to actually engage with the technology and then we can define a best suited design or architecture with those same people in mind. After this we must train people in a way that lets them best utilize the technology we’ve put in place.
If you are a larger organization, consider the fact that you have already invested in a number of technologies, or information management solutions, many of which do exactly what you want them to do, provide the processes unique to your organizations and enable the people you employ. And now you have SharePoint… as well. If you are this larger organization SharePoint is not likely to be your information infrastructure, rather, it will be part of your information infrastructure.
Leveraging SharePoint's Breadth of Capabilities
Your plan to provide all this is very important as we now have to think, how will we leverage SharePoint’s breadth of capabilities within this information infrastructure from a technology standpoint (meaning how will we integrate it)? How will we connect SharePoint to those processes we have in place, or how can we best use SharePoint to streamline these processes? And lastly, how will we enable the people, all the people, who will be using SharePoint?
These are big questions, and I will disappoint you by stating the answers differ for every organization. But there are a number of key considerations that can at least make executing on all this a bit easier.
Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss with you some of the things you should be considering when defining this strategy or plan for leveraging SharePoint within your information infrastructure. We’ll discuss site provisioning, storage optimization and management, as well as governance of the content and the people involved in this Big Picture.