Making SharePoint Easier to Use – An Approach That Works Every Time
Pretty bold claim, right? We’ve all heard about SharePoint’s complexity, its “Swiss Army Knife” characteristics, and how it is being integrated with many other Microsoft platforms and custom capabilities. We’ve heard about the SharePoint programs introduced by IT departments that never really get off the ground, or the guerrilla SharePoint servers that flourish in isolation until the mover and shaker leaves. There is, however, a way to radically increase the odds that your SharePoint program will start strong and grow to become a strategic collaboration and information-sharing asset. With the growing acceptance of Office 365, the up-front investment just got a lot cheaper and the set-up time a lot faster – so the cost and technical hurdles are getting lower.
Here is the sure-fire approach boiled down to a simple formula: Start with a team that has a business problem and a willingness to try SharePoint. Build them a working prototype (maybe 60 percent functionality) in a week, show them what you’ve got and then engage them in tuning it up. When you build the prototype avoid putting anything on the site that doesn’t directly address their problem. As you work with them to fine-tune their site, use that opportunity to train them on the few features they will use. That’s it. Yes, there are other things that come once you’ve got a few of these brush-fires going (common-sense governance, a SharePoint planning team with business and technical people, two levels of training – one for end-users and one for embedded super users) but if you can stick to the formula we’ve just outlined, your odds of building a successful program go way up.
There are a couple of things you need to watch out for. First – if the client organization is pushing for a simultaneous roll-out across a fairly large group without the buildup we describe, they’ve been sold the “it is so intuitive anyone can use it” fallacy. If the SharePoint platform is being pushed only by the internal IT group it probably won’t go very far. If early activity on SharePoint is dominated by developers (who love to customize) – the SharePoint environment will quickly outstrip the abilities of the average user and the odds of overall success diminish considerably.
We were happy to see that Aaron Eisberg thought the question of SharePoint ease-of-use worth asking as well and we encourage you to check out his blog post.