SharePoint, the Gateway Drug OR How to Help Your SharePoint-Using Organization Succeed

“We call SharePoint ‘the gateway drug,’” says Miguel Wood, describing the experience of watching businesses with few investments in Microsoft products adopt SharePoint—“And seven years later, they’re a Microsoft shop.” Wood, a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) for SharePoint 2010, spoke at a recent SharePoint Saturday.

An organization’s willingness to use Microsoft products can be one factor—admittedly self-fulfilling—leading to a successful SharePoint implementation, Wood noted. Given the number of SharePoint users --Wood quoted a Microsoft figure of 7.3 million new users per year--you would think there are a lot of successful SharePoint implementations.

I’ve not seen any statistics for SharePoint failures, organizations that gave up using SharePoint or never used it to its full potential. But there are statistics about SharePoint usage, from which one can extrapolate successes and failures and the reasons why these occur. Wood quoted a July 2011 Gartner survey that measured deployment challenges among 510 organizations that had deployed SharePoint. Of that group of 510, 59 percent were able to deploy SharePoint according to the schedule they had expected. Of the 41 percent that had challenges meeting their deployment schedule, the reasons given were as follows:

1. Technical reasons

2. Lack of governance

3. Functional issues

4. Lack of skill sets

5. Slow user adoption

Over the years, Wood and fellow SharePoint expert Scott Jamison have seen SharePoint succeed and SharePoint fail and have observed certain patterns begin to emerge. Typically, organizations that succeed at SharePoint do the following:

1. They set specific business goals. It’s amazing how some organizations will think they want SharePoint but not have a clue what they want to do with it. Wood says to those organizations, “Forget SharePoint—tell me your strategies. What initiatives do you want to do in IT over the next 12 to 18 months?” He asks them what their pain points are: “If I can find a pain point, I can quantify it.”

2. They predefine governance policies. Governance is basically a plan for the control, design, and usage of SharePoint, and it must involve all stakeholders. During the governance process for a SharePoint implementation for 22,000 users, Wood made sure to create an additional document that provided an easy visual display for all to understand why decisions were made.

3. They have people with the right skills. Wood says that to deal with SharePoint, “You need resources with .NET development skills and .NET support skills, you need a good admin who understands SharePoint, and you need the professionals who know the other systems you’re integrating SharePoint with.”

4. They want SharePoint primarily for collaboration. Wood says that organizations, for example, that want SharePoint for application integration aren’t as likely to succeed.

5. They’re willing to empower the end user. SharePoint is all about letting the end user and the power user have more responsibility.

6. They understand when SharePoint is not the right solution. SharePoint can go wrong, of course; one media company’s implementation was a highly customized one driven by its PR and communications departments, and it broke and kept breaking until it was finally put out of its misery. There are perhaps as many ways for SharePoint to be the wrong solution as there are for it to be the right solution.

7. They’re willing to invest in training end users and communicating policies to them. The silent resistance of the American office worker to taking on what are perceived as stupid or time-consuming tools is often justified. Smart organizations make sure SharePoint is not such a tool.

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