Planning SharePoint projects and avoiding some common mistakes in the process – Part 1 – Introduction

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – SharePoint Will Fly You To The Moon

What is this SharePoint all about? You have seen the SharePoint wheel dozens of times, but it is a marketing and sales-talk. From the perspective of an average information worker, SharePoint is all about daily doing. A tool which should help them in completing everyday tasks in a faster and more efficient manner. Or, as Mark Schneider wrote in his blog: “It is a virtual environment that connects people, information and work areas in order to accomplish ad hoc tasks. The truly amazing thing is that it does so in a way that enables the knowledge workers to have a great deal of tactical freedom while maintaining a strategic structure and focus to all of their activities.”

SharePoint can be great. No, wrong, SharePoint IS great. It’s a tool which, if properly set up and used, can help companies and organizations to eliminate a large number of tasks which are killing productivity and causing low morale – it can help us to eliminate repetitious work, it can help us to avoid redoing work which has already been done. To achieve that, we have to align SharePoint tightly with our business data and business processes. With SharePoint we are managing business, not the data. We are working with information, not with files.

part1-1

If we say that thorough planning is a key for any successful SharePoint project implementation, that isn’t just repeating buzzwords and phrases which fit to any technology we use. “It’s about economy, stupid!” Remember, that was one of key Clinton’s election slogans back in nineties (and, for that matter, history seams to repeat itself 15 years later) – but when we start with a SharePoint project, we always need to think about a slight modification of Clinton’s slogan – “It’s about business, stupid!”. SharePoint is meant to be IT infrastructure for collaboration and business processes inside the company – and, if we don’t keep that in mind, if we don’t start with a clear vision of goals and benefits that SharePoint should bring us – our project is destined for disaster.

After such a disastrous scenario at the very beginning of this blog post, let me be fair and say that most of the SharePoint projects do have a happy ending, where everyone lives happily ever after. And there is already another SharePoint buzzword we have to keep in mid – user acceptance (that’s how the word happy is being translated now :) ).

Of course that a satisfied user is a definite goal and definite measure of success in every IT project. But again, the difference is that in the SharePoint projects, user acceptance is the only measure, from a very simple reason that users don’t have to use SharePoint, or any other IWS solution for that matter. They need to want to use it. In an average company, employees must use ERP software. They might not like it (they mostly hate it, actually), they might complain about it – but they will use it, because there is no way around. The same thing is with LOB software. Even with CRM.

With IWS software, as I mentioned, this is not the case: if the portal organization is not logical, if site templates are not cut by the users needs, if metadata is not appropriate, if workflows don’t follow business processes – they just won’t use it. Hence, if they need even a second longer for completing a task with SharePoint, than they needed without it, they won’t use it. Against all the prejudices, they are actually not stupid, and they will find a way around. And, they will have to, because they don’t have time and strength to deal with technology which is slowing them in their daily doing. They are already stressed enough. They will keep sending documents per email, they will call boss’s secretary to arrange the vacation, and nothing terrible will happen. Business as usual. Except that you will ask yourself why they don’t use this brand-new SharePoint portal which you have set up. And it wasn’t cheap, too.

part1-2

The next few articles in my blog will have slightly different topic from what you might have  been used from me until now. I will temporarily switch from tech-talk, to planning and management talk, and I will try to give some tips and ideas what should be considered before you even take the SharePoint installation DVD in the hand. I’ll try to answer some questions about infrastructural planning, ECM use-cases, BPM and BI use-cases, taxonomy questions, and last, but not the least – governance. As you see, pretty wide spectrum of topics, and the bad news is you really need to think about all of them.

The good news is, if you think it through, and do the things right, your users are going to love you. Promised.


SharePoint comics from: http://blogs.technet.com/b/sharepointcomic/