Organizations all around the world use SharePoint as a one-stop shop for company collaboration, information and communication. As with any IT investment, the return must justify the expense and effort. However, many companies aren’t getting the return that they could be out of SharePoint, and it is often a static repository rather than a dynamic resource for company employees.

Most companies fail to treat it as a targeted communications solution and, rather than researching, measuring and tailoring the content to their users, SharePoint becomes a conglomerate of information, resulting in a scattered interface with low adoption rates. Imagine walking into a furniture store that also sold corn dogs. Most likely you wouldn’t stick around to check out the wares because it isn’t targeted. However, by setting a few simple goals and then measuring those goals, you can transform your SharePoint investment from RO-why to ROI.

Here are some quick ways to get the most bang for your SharePoint buck:

Define your stakeholders
SharePoint can be overwhelming because it serves many purposes across the organization. First, determine who in your company will benefit the most and why. Targeting the correct users will help them do their job better, which will give you instant ROI. Think about which departments have the most to gain from a collaboration and storage tool that can be accessed by everyone in the company. While your company might have different use cases, the most common departments that benefit the most are human resources, corporate communications and IT.

HR teams are often tasked with creating and delivering universally accessible employee on-boarding programs, ensuring employee benefit enrollment, and disbursing company legal policy updates, among other processes. All of these involve connecting with employees across the company both consistently and reliably, setting tasks and timelines for completion, empowering employee self-service, and ensuring that employees are in compliance. A centralized internal portal, like SharePoint, can seamlessly deliver this information and resolve many of the operational issues HR teams face.#!Corporate communications may work with company executives to broadcast monthly CEO messages or updates on corporate activity, policies, and other critical announcements to the entire company or to individual teams. Many companies in highly regulated industries—energy, health care, and automotive, for example—depend on internal communication systems to ensure that their widely dispersed workforce is immediately made aware of changes in policies and regulations that can impact their workplace. Since SharePoint is scalable to reach across all divisions, regions and individuals within a company, the portal helps corporate communications deliver critical messages out to company employees, partners and the larger community.

IT teams are uniquely primed to reap the benefits that SharePoint solutions are designed to deliver. Already tasked to employ technology to enable a better, more efficient workplace environment, IT teams may also be attracted to SharePoint due to the familiarity of its Microsoft functionality and features, as well as its ability to easily integrate with complementary Microsoft compatible operations and productivity solutions.

IT teams are also often the first ones asked to justify spending in any kind of technology solution, and are thus the first to use metrics in a SharePoint deployment. Further, other teams typically go to IT to tell them how they’re doing and if the solution is doing what it’s supposed to do. IT also devises strategies to drive engagement and enhance site performance.

Knowing which audiences will benefit most will help to narrow the focus of a SharePoint strategy. Developing the strategy and the target market is the first step to determining what you want to improve.

Set your goals
In order to evaluate the growth and return on investment from a SharePoint implementation, you need to know your starting point. If you’re launching SharePoint for the first time, it will be easy: start at zero. If you already have SharePoint in place and are looking to improve the program, think about what you want to improve. Is it overall user adoption? Once you determine that, look at where you currently stand to create a benchmark for growth.

Then, break out your goals into attainable and quantifiable metrics. Here are a couple of examples to start with, along with how to measure them:
• Increases in user adoption for an upgraded SharePoint solution—moving from 2007 to 2013, for example. If you can set a baseline user adoption and engagement metric in your 2007 deployment, you should be able to set targets and expectations for what will happen in a 2013 upgrade, based on new capabilities and adoption strategies. Then you can validate the spending based on whether or not that goal is met.

• If a particular team is seeking SharePoint for a particular process or capability, consulting with them before, during and after an implementation can allow for better design, accountability and performance. Workflows, content efficiencies, and user actions can be measured and contrasted against expectations.

Setting goals, documenting milestones and consistently updating the internal SharePoint strategy are all key factors in understanding and improving the value of SharePoint within your organization.#!Implement strategies and measure growth
While the implementation of a SharePoint strategy differs depending on the company, one thing is consistent across all organizations: the need to measure. After all, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Here are some easy ways to implement strategies and measure growth:
• Reward the power users: If you have a set of SharePoint champions, reward them. Convincing users to adopt a new technology can take a lot of time and effort. Expedite the process by rewarding early adopters and users making an effort to integrate the new process into their workflow.

• Build short-term campaigns that can lead to long-term adoption: Increasing HR page adoption by integrating popular Web Parts on key pages is a targeted campaign effort designed to get users to visit and explore the HR page through the use of Web Parts like stock tickers, weather, and other often-updated information. Campaign measurement can show how integrating these items drew in users, for example.

• Build on what is working, and remove what isn’t: This might seem like common sense, but many people don’t consider it. Basic analytic measurement can give SharePoint admins the ability to gain insight into what is or isn’t working within the SharePoint environment. For instance, if reporting is showing a usage drop every day at 11:45 a.m., then you might infer that people are leaving SharePoint to research where they will be going to lunch. At that point, adding in a restaurant finder wiki could be your answer. If you are getting a large amount of traction from a certain add-on within SharePoint, consider similar options to implement for other use cases.  

• Cultivate buy-in: Focus on the involvement of and enthusiasm of key stakeholders from different departments. Even one dedicated team member can inspire, coach, influence and train others. As they know intimately the role their team plays and their processes, they can strongly influence others to adapt and adopt SharePoint. Measurement can target individual divisions, teams and users to track the impact of influencers on their team.  

• Grow over time: Starting small and growing by deploying to or enhancing the SharePoint environment for a highly visible team, effort, or process, showcasing success, and then expanding into other areas is a way to implement growth in a measureable and strategic way. Measurement can define the baseline, targets, strategies, and success factors

• Solve people’s problems: The single best strategy for SharePoint will always be to solve a user’s pain point through use of the software.  

SharePoint can be an incredibly valuable resource for a company to share information across multiple departments, but most organizations don’t execute in a way that allows them to get the most out of it. By taking simple steps to identify the right market, set specific goals and measure progress, businesses can quickly and easily streamline SharePoint to increase user engagement.

Measurement matters, accountability matters, and the confidence an organization has that it is doing all it can to ensure employee, customer, partner, and community engagement matters. Great companies have been brought down by small communications disasters. It is important that the systems put in place to ensure that these things don’t happen are working as planned and designed. And it’s measurement that offers the ability to prove it.

Loren Johnson is a Senior Product Manager at Webtrends.