SharePoint Blog

SharePoint: Get It Right the First Time

It’s just one of those days. You sit in the tram going into work and on your mobile you’re reading just another blog post. In my case I was reading SharePoint: Get It Right the First Time. Suddenly I felt the immediate urge to reply. Not there was anything wrong with the essence of the post. No, everything written I could agree to. But four out of six headlines used by the author triggered a feeling of unease in me:

  1. There is no such thing as out of the box SharePoint
  2. One size does not fit all
  3. If you build it, they will not come (I agree)
  4. It’s never just about SharePoint (I agree)
  5. SharePoint is not an IT thing
  6. SharePoint is not an Office product

The author (Joe Shepley, Twitter: @JOESHEPLEY) already suspected his post might add to the regurgitation (a word that I needed to lookup). I don’t want to disappoint him, so here I go.

1. There is no such thing as out of the box SharePoint

Wrong. SharePoint does come out of a box (or out of downloaded installation file). Even better: To start with, it comes out of a free box called SharePoint 2010 Foundation. Depending on what you want to achieve, SharePoint 2010 Foundation gives a company all it needs to enable its employees to feel more engaged and work more closely together. I worked for (and am consulting at) a company that employs about 430.000 employees worldwide that heavily depends on exactly the functionality that is provided by the “free” version of SharePoint. However, they would never have successfully implemented their collaboration world, if it wasn’t for proper Change Management. Simply replacing the good old shared network drive one day and sending a link to a SharePoint collaboration site wouldn’t have done the job. The introduction of SharePoint can only be successful if it is executed as a Business Change Management Project. I had the opportunity to co-develop a generic change management strategy for introducing SharePoint when migrating from a shared networkdrive and was successful at exactly this. SharePoint out of the box is real. But you need to understand the magic of change management from both the business as well as from the IT perspective.

2. One size does not fit all

Wrong. One size does fit all. However, that size needs to be such that IT can still manage it and proper governance needs to be in place. Without it, you’re lost. Also, this one size should be considered a starting size. It may and will grow over time and then your collaboration world will change and with it its footprint will change. But we all know by now that SharePoint projects will fail if you want to start ahead of the game. Hence I recommend that every company, not matter its size, will start with a very basic SharePoint installation; one that covers 80% of the requirements. Most likely, that’s the one that just popped out of the box (see point 1). The last 20% is the hardest part. That is where companies start thinking about workflows, business intelligence, shops, newsletters or other heavily customized applications. Still in that case I like to take a look at the box. Was it really empty? Or maybe I can buy a second box. By now, there are lots of IT-companies selling top-class SharePoint extensions that probably cover another 80% of the requirements of the 20% that wasn’t covered yet!

5. SharePoint is not an IT thing

I know it’s common to say that SharePoint is not an IT thing. But in the end we all discover that we were wrong. Only proper governance that in the end is executed by IT will assure that wheels are still turning and employees are still engaged. However, in most cases, the IT department isn’t aware of its luck! It is true that SharePoint allows for decentralized management of permissions and structure. But that doesn’t mean IT isn’t any longer responsible. Whenever a hard disk is near capacity, who you are you going to call? Ghostbusters? No, you will call the IT-helpdesk. So IT needs to regroup and understand SharePoint and take its part in defining guidelines for guidelines for collaboration. It needs to stay ahead of the game. In that respect I really enjoyed reading this blog post, as it contains almost all pitfalls in one post.

6. SharePoint is not an Office product

Wrong. SharePoint = Office. SharePoint is where all Office products meet again after they left Redmond. Of course SharePoint is more. But I find it hard to believe that the strategists in Redmond would disagree with me. SharePoint is Microsoft’s product that moves Office into the private cloud, which means that companies that currently use SharePoint are all potential customers that may consider Office 365 and the Business Productivity Online Suite. Since a couple of weeks it’s also possible to synchronize your Office documents with Google Docs using Google Cloud Connect (which actually works quite nice). You could also consider using DropBox for simple document sharing. But the deep Office integration is key to what is SharePoint all about. Without it, SharePoint wouldn’t be as successful as it is today. Collaboration is about many things. But document management for sure is a big part of it. And even thought there are better products on the market for document management than SharePoint, none of them is as deeply integrated as SharePoint. In my humble opinion, this is and should be one the main drivers for businesses to consider SharePoint in the first place.

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