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Planning SharePoint projects and avoiding some common mistakes in the process – Part 2 – SharePoint Will Fly You To The Moon

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

In the first article of this series, I have stated that the definite and the only criteria on which SharePoint projects are considered as successful or failures is user acceptance. Users are the ones who deal with SharePoint on a daily basis, and if it doesn’t help them, if it doesn’t speed up their work, if it doesn’t speak their business language, they will just find a way around. They need to want to use it. They need to see and feel a clear advantage of using it – after all, that’s the very reason why SharePoint is being implemented, isn’t it?

There are, of course, plenty of reasons why user acceptance can turn to be so bad to goof the whole project. But, in all the years that I am dealing with SharePoint, I have never seen a single SharePoint project which has failed on the technical reasons. It is all about people, as we have said, people that have expectations, people who are supposed to fulfill those expectations, and people who have to do something with it.

In the course of time, I have created list of my favorite reasons why SharePoint projects are failing or succeeding, and, as you will see, each of them is actually about user acceptance.

  1. No Vision Statement
  2. False expectations
  3. No support from the management
  4. Showcasing features instead of building solutions
  5. Lack of proper planning
  6. Lack of proper staffing
  7. Undefined success measurement
  8. No adequate support

All of the above mentioned reasons apply to early phases of SharePoint projects – some crucial things, like governance, or taxonomies, are not part of this list, that staff comes later.

In this article I will start with tackling some of those reasons, and how they, by my experience, impact SharePoint projects.

Vision Statement

Before your SharePoint journey starts, you should know where and when should it end. Installing a SharePoint and hoping that someone somewhere is going to use it won’t work.

There are many aspects of SharePoint, and many ways how it can be used. You don’t, and probably won’t, use all of it. In the same way, you should try to identify people and groups who are going to use it. And for what.


Making the “SharePoint will be” and “SharePoint will not be” lists, as Richard Harbridge suggests, is quite a good idea. It should look something like:

SharePoint will be:

  • Our primary collaboration platform
  • Our primary workflow/business process automation platform.
  • Our primary BI platform
  • Our intranet and communication center for internal corporate communications.

SharePoint will not be:

  • Our web content management platform.
  • Our primary document management platform.
  • Our contact management platform.
Get support from the management

You need this one. Implementing SharePoint is not just another “IT department’s toy” (I love this expression). SharePoint makes an impact on your corporate culture, and necessarily influences the way how people are doing their daily work.

Talk to the bosses, but talk business to them, don’t talk tech. Explain them what does SharePoint promise to do for your organization: to make everybody’s life a little easier, at least in those eight hours they spend at work. Talk about potential benefits, the financial ones as well as those which are not measurable.

And don’t accept a “Yeah, OK…” as an answer, try to get a straight “Yes!”. You need them to keep your back here, and you need them to understand a big picture why it should be done, and what they can gain from it.

Avoid false expectations

I have had some good fights with the salesmen, both those from Microsoft, and those from Microsoft partners, in the past few years. My point – SharePoint is really already quite a good tool, you don’t really have to pump it up. Those people just can’t give a “No” as an answer, when they are presenting SharePoint. Even if they try to say “No”, it somehow comes out as a “Yes”.

We have to be aware of SharePoint limits. There are some things SharePoint really can’t do. For example:

  • It’s not a replacement for the file storage and file share. It doesn’t really make any sense to put Adobe PageMaker files and folders into the Document Libraries and to expect that it will work the same way as when they were on the shared drive. We have to consider and to acknowledge limits here – SharePoint is NOT a replacement for your file share, doesn’t matter what the salesman has told you.
  • All the other software applications used by your company will not be automatically integrated with SharePoint. Some might be, some will require certain work to be done, and some can’t be integrated at all. Especially those ones written in COBOL in 80-ties.
  • SharePoint is not that simple that “everyone can do it”. It just isn’t. You need people who know what they are doing there.
  • A simple SharePoint installation alone will not increase your profit by 17% (although it has some potential in that direction, with a bit work involved).
  • SharePoint can’t make FC Schalke 04 to win the German Soccer Championship, not now, not ever. Even Chuck Norris can’t do that.


You need to decide about the scope – which roles your SharePoint will take in your organization. Make a brainstorming meeting, and bring all the involved people together (don’t forget the management!), and talk about the things they think or expect can be improved with SharePoint. Bring an SharePoint expert to the round, too, because she can give clarifications if the expectations can be met, and how much efforts and money it is going to take. IT should be there too, because they will have to carry the whole thing on the infrastructural level, but they are not deciders in this process. Business is.

I am always amazed how enlightening those meetings are, for all of the involved sides – when everyone gets a clear picture of what is expected, what is possible, and where SharePoint can really help. And that picture is your rough project scope.

Don’t showcase features, build solutions

Here, this is our new SharePoint portal. It can store documents, track versions, it can host workflows made in SharePoint designer, oh, and there is a charting webpart, it’s pretty cool. Now, go, use it!”

If you have smiled by reading the last sentences – don’t. You would be surprised how many SharePoint installations are done exactly that way. And then, you can only hope that some department lead somewhere has heard about SharePoint, and that she will bother IT long enough until they create her a Site for her department, and make her the site admin. And then, SharePoint project is considered successful.

SharePoint is not an improved Windows Explorer, it really isn’t. Don’t show to the people where which option in the SharePoint ribbon is – talk business to them. Don’t focus on the technology – tools don’t run projects, people do. If it is possible, don’t even mention the word SharePoint. Talk about intranet, collaboration and processes – they will understand that, and they will immediately see a potential value. Try to explain them how to achieve advantage, both for them, and for the projects and processes they are working on, by using it.


And please don’t show them the Site Menu options immediately – they will figure it out when they need it.

(to be continued…)

SharePoint comics from: