If you have a teenager, then you already know what it is like to have SharePoint in your organization. Teenagers represent potential, hope and drama. We could delve into all of these characteristics and find easy comparisons when implementing or supporting SharePoint in an organization.
The one characteristic that many (though not all) teenagers have is the belief that the world revolves around them. For those of us who are parents, we see this and must cope with it while helping our child grow into a contributing member of society. When implementing and supporting SharePoint, we must do the same.
How to put an end to SharePoint self-centeredness? One way is to realize that this is not your client’s problem. It is your problem as the implementer of the technology. You may not even realize that you set up the self-centeredness.
I have been creating software for 20 years now, the last 10 mostly with SharePoint. I can definitely say that SharePoint is blamed for many things. Some expressions that I have heard over and over through the years:
“I can’t log in. It’s SharePoint’s fault.”
“SharePoint is not user-friendly.”
“I can’t find anything in SharePoint.”
These are all valid points to the client. SharePoint’s strength and weakness is that is that it does so much and can touch so much. On top of this, just like any proud doting parent, you have Microsoft touting this software as the very manna from Heaven. It’s no wonder that we become SharePoint self-centered.
What this means is that you have to be smarter when talking SharePoint. Here are a few points that will help:
1. SharePoint branding. It is not just branding, it is usability. A majority of SharePoint users I’ve encountered don’t like it because usability was not taken into account. This is not SharePoint’s fault. Don’t blame the ribbon because a user cannot see how to add documents to a library.
2. Security. I love it when users complain about this, and then you ask them about Active Directory, trusts, forests, etc. The point is SharePoint’s security is innately tied to a much bigger infrastructure, and this should be discussed up front.
3. Technical folks. Just because I do application development does not mean I can come over to my uncle’s house and fix his computer hardware. The line from the great Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” comes to mind. Bill is asked how he got so good at piano, and he says, “My Dad was a piano mover so…”
So it is with SharePoint and technical folks. There are disciplines, and it is your job to educate your clients—your users—on this subject. Just because you “code” in SharePoint (a.k.a. use SharePoint Designer) does not mean you are able to write jQuery client object model code.
Another way to eliminate SharePoint self-centeredness is to properly educate users on the role of SharePoint in an enterprise ecosystem. The best way to educate users is to push the onus back with a few directed questions. You have got to stop doing some things for your client or users, even if you know the answer and can “fix” something in five minutes.
You must stop and get out of the way, so your users/clients can grow. If you don’t do this, the product will not mature in the enterprise. It will be deemed a failure.
How do you do this? Proper questioning. When customers complain or ask questions about SharePoint, always start with a positive without sounding patronizing:
“That is a great question, John. Is search not working at all, or just not working the way you would like it to? What type of functionality would you like to see out of search?”
Your client may think for a bit, but direct focused questioning spurs growth. Questioning puts the responsibility back on the other person. Leading that person to the solution through logical analysis will make them self-sufficient. They will develop new pathways. You will be seen as a trusted advisor, no longer an enabler.
Finally, the third way to stop SharePoint self-centeredness is to broaden you and your client’s viewpoint. Understand what other technologies are doing with business intelligence, content management and social media, to name a few aspects. Being able to speak to these technologies while specializing in SharePoint will ease the frustrations and potentially make a difficult circumstance bearable.
SharePoint is a great technology that is always part of a bigger picture. We all know users or organizations who are impeding their own growth by being SharePoint self-centered. Are you also impeding them?
Peter Serzo is a published author of the “SharePoint 2010 Administration Cookbook,” a founder of the SouthEastern SharePoint group, a speaker, and SharePoint Architect for High Monkey Consulting. Peter has been in the IT industry for 20 years. He has extensive experience with SharePoint implementing business solutions for several enterprise organizations over the past seven years.