4 Steps to Adopt SharePoint and Be Successful with it
Once a disruptive technology, SharePoint has since become the de-facto platform for enterprise content management especially with the advent and subsequent success of Office 365. Deploying SharePoint is quite easy, but making business users embrace it for their document management needs is the tougher part.
Designing and implementing an organisation wide information management strategy around SharePoint/ Office 365 can be a time consuming journey. Many mid and large sized organisations take years to achieve it. As IT leaders, we need to approach such deployments with a definitive vision of how the end state is expected to be before embarking on this journey.
Four questions IT leaders should ask their program team involved in SharePoint deployment projects are-
a) Is there simplicity in our information architecture?
b) Is there a well thought out strategy for moving existing content?
c) Are we providing a seamless end user experience?
d) Are we empowering business users to govern their content?
These are key factors that influence the success of deployment.
Simplicity in Information Architecture (IA)
IA has evolved with each new version of SharePoint. With the push toward the cloud, the trend is more toward using out-of-the-box features for SharePoint's IA. Customizations need to be looked at as a last resort, and even in such cases it is better to look for third-party products and Microsoft-supported best practices as options.
When designing an IA, the impact on end users need to be evaluated. A stringent, policy-driven IA can force users to look for other easier alternatives to store and share their data. Typical consideration for simplifying your IA includes:
• How is content expected to be organized? Flat and horizontal hierarchies are preferred over deep and vertical hierarchies with large number of sub-sites.
• How easily and quickly can users upload content? Metadata is important for classification and findability – however, with each additional mandatory metadata, we increase the risk of discouraging users from uploading content.
• Can content be searched easily? Searchable managed properties should be defined early in the IA. The Office Graph and Delve attempt to present content users need without requiring them to search –how ready the organisation and users are for this needs to be evaluated while you design.
• How easy is it to collaborate with other users internally as well as externally?
• How easily can information of temporary value and records be classified?
Strategy for Moving Existing Content
Every organisation will have an existing content management system. This could be a legacy system like OpenText, Documentum, older versions of SharePoint, or shared/personal drives where documents are dumped. It is tempting to migrate all shared content to SharePoint and personal content to OneDrive. While it is not always a bad idea to migrate everything, such a decision should be taken after careful consideration of its impact.
Organisations should consider moving everything as-is only if IT is convinced that:
• The business has complete understanding of its content and there is no dark data
• Content is already organized in a way that it is easy to navigate and find
• All content has well defined ownership and permission structure
• The Business and IT understand what data is active and what is inactive
Migration provides an opportunity for the organisation to finally take control of the data, classify it appropriately, and move only what is necessary to the right location.
Engage Business Users
To reap the desired benefits from SharePoint, it is important that business users value and use the platform as part of their daily activities. The more we force document management practices on users, the more they will resist SharePoint. These ties in with our IA design as well – make it simple and make it usable.
• Integrate with Office products (such as Outlook, Word, and Excel) that users use every day
• Train and excite end users
• Develop business champions
• Share teams successes
• Encourage feedback
Empower Business Users to Govern Their Content
Business users own the content stored in SharePoint, so they should be allowed a certain degree of control over it, as long as their actions stay within the organisation’s set policies. Some of the key content management activities business users may require include:
• Provisioning site collections and Office 365 Groups to collaborate
• Managing access to content
• Moving content within and between site collections
• Changing ownership of content
• Archiving / deleting non relevant content
If business users need to approach IT for such services, the time taken to get things done will discourage content owners from using the system. IT should enable businesses by providing them with easily consumable automated services with governance policies already built in.
Organisations with successful SharePoint deployments put users and content owners at the centre of their information management strategy. The IT team’s job should be to enable businesses to create, share, and govern their content efficiently and securely.