Where do you begin with SharePoint?

Whether you’ve just unwrapped the Christmas packaging off your shiny new SharePoint 2010 deployment, you’ve downloaded a trial version, or maybe SharePoint has been in place for a couple years but not really utilized and you’re trying to build a business case for a much broader deployment. Where to begin? I’ll tell you one place not to begin – Human Resources. image

I’m not trying to beat up on HR, but it seems that every organization, when deploying SharePoint for the first time and thinking about building a business case, seems to focus in on some of the most common HR activities, such as automating expense reports, or maybe vacation requests. My money says that this is exactly where most of you started. And that’s fine when you’re learning the platform, doing a proof of concept, or experimenting with workflows. But don’t go that route and expect to wow anyone.

You might get some attention, get SharePoint approved. Inevitably, the vanilla version of SharePoint (the out of the box experience) is deployed, initial focus is spent on building your HR solutions, and life gets underway. Jump forward 3 months, and people have associated SharePoint with your non-business critical HR solutions. They lose interest. People will look at SharePoint as a bloated, wasted effort that automates HR stuff. And then management turns back to look at you, at the lost time, at the lost productivity.

HR is not the point here. My point is a focus on solutions that don’t mean much to the overall business….at least right now, in the early stages. Your strategy should be to focus on those areas that will drive value to the business first. Quickly routing expense reports, while wonderful to your accounting team, is not adding tremendous value to your business. Email will work fine for a few more weeks while you focus elsewhere. SharePoint deployments should (like everything else) follow the 80/20 rule: focus your efforts and deliver functionality to the 20% of your organization who will be doing 80% of the workload in SharePoint. Find those teams that **need** productivity solutions, and build to their requirements first.

A funny thing happens when you deliver to the needs of the smaller group of end users, that 20% of users who actually need SharePoint – they’ll become the platform’s strongest advocates, and do more for end user adoption for the other 80% than anything in your bag of tricks. But your management will need to see the numbers. Track the KPIs around their performance increases, measure it, report on it, and demonstrate ROI back to your executive team. From there, with that success in hand, you can think about building out broader solutions that will improve life for the other 80%. Like a vacation request form. Or an automated birthday reminder.

Ooh, I can feel the productivity bubbling up now….

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.