As the uptake of SharePoint 2010 continues, Microsoft is shifting its messaging to focus on the business value of the software platform.
At last week’s SPTechCon in Boston, Microsoft director of SharePoint product management Christian Finn laid out “Seven Habits of Highly Successful SharePoint Users,” and he discussed how organizations get to that point.
He noted that Microsoft sees three patterns of usage—for individual workloads, where users get immediate value out of the box; then as a unified infrastructure, for business collaboration and information management; and finally as a business platform that runs SharePoint-based business applications that improve the efficiency of key business processes.
Finn pointed out that some in the community are touting an “If you build it, they will come” strategy for SharePoint adoption. But, he countered, the first habit of successful SharePoint users is to learn that “Deployment does NOT equal adoption.”
Using slides to show an empty Gillette Stadium and a filled Fenway Park (we were in Boston, after all), he said it’s not enough to build it and create access, and then let users do whatever they want. The real job of the SharePoint advocates in the organization is to create “a raving fan scenario” as shown in the Fenway photo. (As an aside, the “if you build it they will come” strategy was a failure in Atlanta, which built the spanking-new Phillips Arena for the city’s Thrashers hockey team, which last week announced it is moving to Winnipeg. Clearly, in sports, as in SharePoint, it’s not enough to build a gleaming new facility to get fans to show up. It’s about putting a winning team on the ice.)
This actually dovetails nicely with Finn’s third habit: “Governance is policy and process, not a feature.” If you spell out for users how they can best use SharePoint to gain its advantages, while steering them clear of things they should not be doing, they will be more likely to use the software and more likely to be successful with it. Governance is something for the organization to create and determine, not an out-of-the-box feature you switch on.
Back-tracking to habit No. 2 (“Create your SharePoint implementation with end users in mind”), consider how people will actually want to use the software and give them that capability. This reminds me of an earlier time when I was in the mortgage business, when we used to joke at how easy it would be to get a deal done if not for those pesky borrowers. They’re the ones with the poor credit scores, or the jobs that don’t pay enough to qualify for the loan, or who balk at the interest rate presented to them. Of course, we then had to remember that without borrowers, there is no mortgage business, so we had to tailor our programs to suit their needs.
Same is true of SharePoint. Tailor your deployment to the needs of the users. Don’t just throw it up on a server and sit back and admire what you did.
Finn went on to talk about habit No. 4: “Make SharePoint your own.” SharePoint, he said, is an extension of your organization’s culture. If you’re going to build a website, he explained, you’d optimize the site for the way people use it, by getting good analytics on where people click, what they’re looking at and what they’re skipping, and how long they’re staying there. Finn made the important point that things like campus maps, office locators and lists of contributors to projects drive adoption.
The highly successful user will take habit No. 5 to heart: “Consolidate IT with a platform approach.” He gave the example of the Miami-Dade County schools, which used SharePoint to offer textbooks online via a portal, so students could no longer say they forgot their book; and posted report cards so they could never “get lost.” But they found that once they had the platform, they could extend it to staff for such things as materials requisition; and to parents for notifications, and to create a portal where they can find other students with expertise in a certain subject to tutor their child. “Once you’re on a unified platform, the ability to pull in content from multiple places is powerful,” Finn said.
Habit No. 6 is “Create business value with solution thinking.” Finn said Microsoft has done this with an employee-to-employee enterprise podcasting portal, which allows workers to make their own videos and post them for others with their same jobs to view and learn from, without needing any approvals. This, Finn said, allows for a more efficient exchange of information.
The final habit, Finn said, is “Prepare for the future.” Keep an eye on what’s coming down the pike, as well as what’s happening with the other tools in your organizational tool box, and keep yourself positioned for shifts that can give your organization a leg up on its competition.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from Microsoft in the months ahead about what organizations are doing with SharePoint to maximize its value to their businesses. If you haven’t done it already, now would be a good time to assess where you’re at with SharePoint, and where you want to be.