Every SharePoint installation needs what is known as a Cooler. This is just another way of saying you are the person or group responsible for the governance of the installation. In terms of implementing and getting the acceptance of SharePoint, many times it does come down to the vernacular that is chosen. So why the term Cooler?
I recently watched (again) the move “Road House,” with Patrick Swayze. It hit me how his role in the movie is an analogy for one of the necessary roles needed in every SharePoint installation. He is referred to as the Cooler, which is the head bouncer. The Cooler is responsible for keeping peace in a bar, establishing the guidelines that patrons must follow. This allows the bar to be successful while providing a place where people want to go and collaborate (of a sort). Sound familiar?
In the movie, the Cooler had three simple rules that must be followed for this to happen. I believe these same rules apply to a successful SharePoint implementation:
1. Never underestimate your opponent.
2. Take it outside. Never start anything inside.
3. Be nice.
In terms of SharePoint, we definitely do not want a divide between the team implementing SharePoint and the stakeholders/end users. Unfortunately, many organizations do see their stakeholders/end users as opponents, and vice versa.
The key part of the Cooler’s first rule is what follows it: Expect the unexpected. One of the many gratifications developers receive after releasing applications to end users is seeing how they use them. This is very appropriate in SharePoint. Many times I have watched how users apply SharePoint in creative ways that take it out of the box I created for it.
Expecting the unexpected makes all of us better. It is an attitude that will fuse the team responsible for governance with the end users because it takes away the predetermined judgments and opens up possibilities for innovation and creativity.
The next rule is critical, especially in our environment where “social” is the buzzword of the day. What does “taking it outside” mean in relation to governance and SharePoint?
When implementing SharePoint, set up proper channels for feedback. Give end users a voice, but not in a place where it will be detrimental to the success of the implementation. People want to know they are being heard. Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, wrote recently about loving his angriest customers. He says they provide details about where his application is failing them. In short, he has created a channel to management to embrace customer feedback.
Too often organizations insulate themselves at a management (governance) level and have a thin skin as to what is being said about the SharePoint implementation. I love Libin’s quote about the Internet: “It is the most efficient invention in the history of the universe for concentrating dissatisfaction into its purest, darkest and most bilious essence.”
As such, we have to learn to take it outside. Said another way, properly channel this feedback so that it does not impede the acceptance of the implementation. In every complaint, there is (most times) an element of truth. Don’t take it personally.
Which leads to the last rule: Be nice.
Rolling a SharePoint implementation out correctly/successfully takes effort, which translates into time and hours (and hours) of dedication. We unleash it, and it is a product of us—a shared vision. Proud, we want others to embrace what we created. However, there is always feedback, and it’s not always positive.
How a team deals with feedback will color the way the organization sees the SharePoint application. I can say conclusively as a consultant that has been in hundreds of organizations that the best ones are the ones who participate with their stakeholders/end users. These organizations are not seen as sludge that slows down progress. They are enablers. They are nice, until it is time to not be nice. This means they establish clear application boundaries that are in step with the business.
I understand that these three rules are easier said than done; however, being a lucid SharePoint Cooler is critical to a successful implementation. Follow these rules, and the results will improve. To paraphrase another popular Swayze movie: No one puts SharePoint in a corner.
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.