I may have spent a good portion of my career building or running project and product management teams, but I owe a lot of my process knowledge (and what little patience I have) from my two years in an operations role at Microsoft. Sure, the bureaucracy was maddening – especially for someone who prefers action over endless analysis – but my time in role was a great learning experience, where I was able to read and participate in discussions around business systems development, team dynamics, and operational excellence.
As my kids get older and I am able to talk with them about work and technology (that they now understand), one piece of advice I have given them on more than one occasion is advice I picked up in graduate school back in the 90’s, but which surfaced again during my operations stint at Microsoft: you’ll never go wrong focusing on productivity. Within operations, you’re constantly looking for ways in which you can decrease the “mean time to resolution” or MTTR of problems (usually in the form of support tickets). One way to do that is to improve the processes you follow, and improve your personal, team, and organizational productivity.
Productivity improvement is at the core of operations – and it was the underlying theme of two of the most influential business books of all time: Eli Goldratt’s book The Goal (which is a must-read), and statistician, author, and management consultant W. Edwards Deming’s book (who is a hero of mine) Out of the Crisis, which was originally titled “Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position.”
In my experience, far too few administrators look at SharePoint activities with this operations and productivity mind set. When upgrading the version of their platform, such as moving from SP2013 to SP2016, it is an opportune time to reflect on the state and well-being of your existing investments, and to determine whether or not your environment is not only running optimally (which is important, of course), but whether there are opportunities to improve your productivity. You want to get the most out of your SharePoint investments – but how often do you review your use cases, solutions, and usage patterns to find out if you are optimized? A common question from executives to the teams and stakeholders who own and manage SharePoint is "How productive are our end users in SharePoint?" But do you have an answer?
This can be a difficult question to answer. Most organizations have traditionally focused on deploying the platform, but have failed to consider the measurements of success. Increasingly, I am talking to administrators and executives alike about the need for more focus on SharePoint productivity, and how your ongoing operational goals should be to:
- Simplify the interface into SharePoint
- Align end user activities with the needs of the business
- Streamline business processes
- Get more out of SharePoint investments you've already made
The result of changing your operational activities toward a productivity focus means a higher return on investment (ROI) for the platform overall, because it will have a direct impact on platform usage. And when more people are using the platform, your company will get more out of the platform. You'll see these benefits through faster employee on-boarding and training, more business output and stronger platform usage -- all of which means a faster realization of the financial investments you've already made in SharePoint. But remember that there is no end to your operational focus. Your business is constantly changing, the technology is constantly changing, and your end user needs are also constantly changing. Another key takeaway from my time at Microsoft is how they would “spin” any issues or gaps or problems that we found into “opportunities” for your team to learn and grow. So get ready for a lot of learning and growth