With the spike in focus on SharePoint adoption, and the rise in the need for governance, businesses around the world are shaping themselves for long-term SharePoint success. However, regardless of how much money is being invested in these processes and systemic tools, one “gotcha” still exists in SharePoint: that of attrition and the risk companies run of losing their SharePoint advocate. This became a reality for one of our clients recently, and I found myself doing my best impression of a firefighter to try to bring things back on track for the organization.

A pragmatic organization knows that a thorough risk-management strategy must be in place to address the reality of staff members leaving the organization. This goes beyond simply following an HR process to replace the individual who has announced his or her departure. Companies must work together with the departing employee to build out a tactical plan for how SharePoint will exist in this post-advocate world.

Typically, a SharePoint advocate has amassed a collection of SharePoint knowledge from a variety of sources; whether it’s from online research, training, conferences or personal experience, it is important first and foremost to ensure that this information is collected and catalogued. Have the advocate sit down with the team and first explain where the information came from and how it was used on the project. If your project or rollout is ongoing, be sure to include directors and managers who will be responsible for replacing the advocate. If the rollout is complete, make sure that the original project team is brought together to learn what information is available to them. The critical point here is to try to learn everything possible from the advocate.

In an effort to collect information on the project, have the advocate commit to documenting everything that was completed on the project in as much detail as possible. This should include not just a project plan that details the tasks, resources and investment made on the project, but also project details from a strategic perspective.

Have the advocate answer operational questions that will benefit the company going forward. For example: What was the most difficult business unit to draw an adoption plan for? What was the largest challenge in defining requirements at each phase of the project? Which project sponsor required the most coaching and coaxing to gain his or her involvement? Each of these questions should provide the context required to understand the strategic decisions made on the project and how they impacted the undertaking overall.

Regardless of whether your SharePoint project is underway or has just been implemented, it is very important not to lose the momentum created by your project thus far. Focus on the efforts that have been put forth, the functionality that has been created, the project team that is either in place or in-house to support the team, and the future of an enterprise system that has seen significant investment from the organization.

An effort to increase adoption and governance on SharePoint is an excellent way to control the potential negative backlash that may come from losing your advocate. Users must see SharePoint as the future of the organization, and something that is much bigger than one individual involved. The investment made in SharePoint was done so as a strategic maneuver to implement an enterprise system that will assist the business long-term. Even if SharePoint was the sole idea of the individual on their way out, I’m sure that through the project SharePoint has generated some traction and created value for many users. The challenge now is turning a potentially negative message into a positive one.

On the topic of communication, make sure that everyone on the project team or initiative has an opportunity to bid their departing colleague farewell. This will ensure that any critical messages are passed along, and that commitment to the project and work being done is assured going forward.

Also, be sure that the organization finds another advocate in short order. Remember, an advocate isn’t necessarily a project manager. An advocate is a person (or group) who will be on the cutting edge of “latest and greatest” SharePoint changes and happenings in the Microsoft world. These are the people who will make strategic suggestions and decisions on SharePoint’s functionality and changes to your organization.

Eric Riz is the Executive Vice President of Concatenate, creator of the RealTime suite of products. You can reach Eric by e-mail at ericr@concatenateinc.com, or on Twitter at @rizinsights. Read his other SharePoint thoughts on his blog at www.ericriz.com.