Planning for SharePoint 2010: What Execs Need to Know

For companies planning a SharePoint 2010 implementation, choices need to be made about software, infrastructure, IT readiness, user readiness, and, for some, where to host a SharePoint 2010 solution.  These choices, along with other questions to answer, need to be considered before SharePoint 2010 is implemented. Many parts of the organization besides just IT might need to cooperate, such as Human Resources, Public Affairs, and a wide variety of business stakeholders. If you’re the one in charge of ensuring the success of your SharePoint 2010 implementation, you need to think about answering some tough questions.

Answering Questions Requires a Plan

Making the right choices depends on the information that you have available.  Some of the questions you might hear include these:

     “Are we struggling in our collaboration environment?”

     “Is our search strategy currently failing or totally missing?”

     “Do we have a tool that will allow social interaction with employees?”

     “Can we easily provide business intelligence in the form of reports and interactive dashboards?”

 

Many portal and collaboration managers will answer “Yes, we can solve the problems,” but having a plan to tackle each one is important.  SharePoint 2010 provides the framework and functionality for many scenarios.  Each scenario should be planned out and a realistic timeline associated with each new piece of functionality that will be deployed.  Make sure you have the right people in IT and champions in the business that are ready to handle these new features and that can lead you not only with operational guidance but with strategic recommendations on future direction.

SharePoint Project Phases

Every initiative has major phases that occur naturally in the project’s scope.  Here are some of the major ones to make sure you are prepared with prior to the start of the SharePoint project.

Planning. This is when you address the major issues around the project.  Determine early the costs associated with content migration, infrastructure, personnel, and licensing. Whether you’re using online hosting such as Office 365 or an on-premise installation of SharePoint 2010, planning is crucial to the success of the project.

During this phase, you create a governance plan.  (See “SharePoint Deployment and Governance,” www.sharepointpromag.com/article/sharepoint-administration/sharepoint-deployment-and-governance-using-cobit-4-1.) Determine what metrics will make this a successful project as well as reach out to the team that will create the communication strategy to engage the end users.  Remember the project is successful only if it meets the success factors and platform goals.

Implementing. Two of the major groups to assist in planning will be the operations team and the application development team.  The operations team will be concerned with the installation and configuration of the system defined in a deployment guide. 

On the flip side, the application development team will be concerned more with SharePoint Application Life Cycle Management (ALM).  Your teams should define a development guide that other will guide other business units on the capabilities allowed within the company.

Supporting. Supporting a SharePoint installation after the deployment is a major part of any project.  This is an ongoing effort that requires many team members.  During the planning phase, you will need to create a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for the level of support that users can expect for the platform and the various capabilities contained therein. 

Your team might create the SLA from existing support plans and tiers that are already defined, such as a Tier 1 SLA in which SharePoint might be a critical application. If you select an SLA that’s already defined, make sure to review it with the operations team to make sure that you can meet the demands placed on the team.

This is especially true when creating your disaster recovery and business continuity plans.  SharePoint 2010 can contain large amounts of data and there may be small windows for recovering a system from outages in order to meet agreed-upon SLAs.  Make sure you create a disaster recovery plan that lets you meet your SLA given the size of content you will store, and test your plan on a regular basis.  Testing a recovery plan is crucial; without it, you only have a backup plan and the hope that you can actually recover data from backup.

Maintaining. Long-term maintenance can be one of the most costly operational areas.  Try to create a charge-back model that works for your organization for any feature request, customization, or infrastructure addition that might not be covered by the core infrastructure. 

The operations team also needs to be prepared for configuration management and release management changes that will occur.  Defining a strategy for installing updates such as service packs and cumulative updates is critical to maintaining SharePoint 2010 reliably.

Executive Readiness Checklist

Here’s a big-picture checklist to guide you through the SharePoint implementation process. Ensuring a successful SharePoint implementation requires collaboration from a variety of departments, plus a leader to ensure it all comes together.

     Create a roadmap and reasonable timeline

     Define clear success factors and governance

     Show a cost/benefit model (ROI)

     Prepare costs for support and operations (Charge Back Model)

     Create a deployment guide

     Create a development guide

     Define SLAs for SharePoint

     Create and test a disaster recovery plan

     Maintain a release management plan

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