There has been a lot of chatter in the community recently about the next generation of SharePoint: what it will look like, how it will operate, and when it will be released to market. I was having a conversation last week with a client that took us back to SharePoint basics that became the genesis for this article. Regardless of the technology you’re deploying, there are certain steps that have to be taken in order to achieve success, and getting the SharePoint kickoff meeting right is that first step. The SharePoint kickoff meeting is not a new concept, but through this article, I would like to reintroduce it in order to reprioritize its importance.
The SharePoint kickoff meeting is that first meeting between team members, executives and consultants where the vision and direction are established. For me, going onsite to a new client and going through the kickoff is one of my favorite things to do. I get to meet those on the team whom I did not meet during the sales process, introduce our awesome team, brag about the amazing things we’ve done in the past, and explain all that we’re going to do on the project—how we will use SharePoint to make their business stronger, better, more efficient and faster. What could be better than that?
In order to achieve a successful SharePoint kickoff, there are many things that must fall into place, all of which are dependent on your organization’s style, culture and ability to communicate. For example, if your company is an established, formal firm with 50–100 people attending the kickoff, then a more structured approach would be expected. The reverse would be true for a startup with only a few employees attending; this could be much less formal and include more of the people in the room in the presentation and conversation.
Ask yourself these questions before starting your kickoff meeting preparations:
1. What is the message I want to leave people with?
2. How will I communicate our SharePoint project goals?
3. What communication plan will I put in place?
4. How will I engage meeting participants and get them excited about SharePoint?
When you leave the kickoff meeting, everyone on the project team must be on the same page. Your preparation beforehand will determine whether your kickoff meeting will offer the greatest benefit to team members. Don’t underestimate the importance of preparing a clear message that provides vision and drive for the meeting. Messages like “When we go live, each of you will use SharePoint to manage every document you touch” and “Imagine never e-mailing a document again” will empower people to make an effort and strive to achieve that goal.
Ensure that you have spent appropriate time developing the goals, objectives and deliverables for your SharePoint project. Review the points that sold the implementation and begin conceptualizing how you will communicate the broad spectrum of SharePoint at the meeting. If a new intranet is part of the implementation, how will it change the operations of the business or business unit? What is the value of a new portal to the specific people in the room? Use real examples and true definitions when addressing these points. Proper definition of these elements will drive the decisions you must make for staffing the project and developing the project plan.
As you prepare the kickoff presentation, be careful not to fall into the PowerPoint trap of too much broad (and not deep) information. Have a few slides that explain what you’ll be doing, but try a demo of a sample intranet or document management page. Spend time beforehand customizing the page so that attendees see familiar information and logos. Finally, use this opportunity to set up a support system for the project. Introduce the people that will be front-and-center during the implementation, and be sure that contact information is exchanged. With these steps, you’ll create a great foundation for SharePoint success.
Eric is the EVP of Systems Integration for Concatenate, a software firm focused on maximizing SharePoint through product innovation and systems integration based in Toronto. You can reach Eric by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @rizinsights. Read his other SharePoint thoughts on his blog at www.ericriz.com.