In my 5/12/2014 post I took a look at one of the main reasons many SharePoint installations fail—lack of user buy-in. One of the best ways to get buy-in is through SharePoint education. Then in my 5/29/2014 post, I began to look at some of the primary roles within a company that are involved in planning and implementing SharePoint. I covered how targeted and structured training within these roles can create an environment where communication can flow freely, resulting in SharePoint deployments with a high rate of success.
In this post, let’s take a look at the remaining roles within a typical SharePoint deployment, and why they also need a solid understanding of SharePoint in order to obtain buy-in, and thereby create the necessary steps to insure a high level of success.
Developers are given the task of implementing the business logic that controls the document flow within SharePoint. Typically this should be the most obvious place to throw training dollars, but surprisingly many companies don’t believe it necessary. They feel SharePoint development is no different than any other Web development so why bother. Unbeknown to them, they have now greatly increased their chances of stepping on one of the biggest landmines in SharePoint deployment—code from an uneducated developer. SharePoint provides a very powerful framework that gives developers a huge amount of leeway on how they can extend it. Not taking the time to understand the pros and cons of all options can jeopardize the security, stability and maintainability of a SharePoint installation.
Depending on the size of the company, the design of the SharePoint site might be controlled by a team other than developers. Designers are responsible for the look and feel of the site and likely do not have a strong programming background. They may control areas like images, color, fonts, logos, layout, and branding that are implemented throughout the site.
Since part of the success of any SharePoint deployment is getting your employees to use it, attention to design and the user experience cannot be overlooked. Your design team needs to become familiar with SharePoint and understand how people will use it, so they can then design a solution that is easy to use and increases productivity. Any solution that creates a burden on performing even the simplest of tasks will not be adopted.
Another key role in the deployment of any SharePoint installation is the administrator role. This person is the infrastructure guru that is ultimately responsible for allocating internal resources and installing all the services necessarily to get SharePoint up and running. The administrator will, of course, be guided by the detailed plans laid out by the infrastructure architect. Clearly this is a role that needs to have a firm understanding of SharePoint. Bad decisions by the administrator could lead to security breaches, loss of documents, degraded performance and/or site outages. Each of these could break the trust of its users, leading to a slow adoption curve or even no adoption at all.
Once SharePoint is installed and operational, the task of configuring SharePoint falls to the site owner. In many smaller installations, the site owners and champions will be the same person. Since the champion role requires a much deeper understanding of SharePoint, and therefore much more training, many larger companies may elect to limit the number of champions to what they need, and instead have additional site owners.
To make SharePoint more manageable, companies will break up SharePoint in many ways (by department, region, floor, rolling dice, etc.) since it is impractical for one person to manage it at the global level. By dicing the site up into pieces, individual site owners can customize the look and feel, as well as security, to meet the direct needs of that group.
Site owners are like mini-administrators. They have full control over their little piece of SharePoint and are responsible for creating and managing their site or sites. This may include the type of templates and document libraries used, as well as creating users and assigning access rights. There are still needs that would require going to the company administrator…for example, if their site runs low on storage space.
Even at this level, education and training is very important because these site owners need to understand how to do the tasks necessary so their users have a positive and engaging experience. This is the last group to influence SharePoint before it goes live.
Power Users and Business Users
Now that your SharePoint is live, the education needs don’t stop. You’ll likely have hundreds or even thousands of employees who can now take advantage of the power of SharePoint. But will they use it if they don’t understand it? Often users tend to get intimidated by SharePoint. They have been doing things one way for so long that it is difficult to trust that a new way would be better. The quickest way to gain trust and increase engagement with SharePoint is through training—successful SharePoint deployments always include training for their general users. That way they can feel comfortable working in this new environment right off the bat, and can more easily trust that this new way of doing things will be a better and more productive way than before.
Creating a successful SharePoint deployment requires a conscious buy-in to the solution that starts from the top of the organization chart all the way down. Any member of the team who doesn’t understand or doesn’t trust the solution will be a kink in the armor. Too many kinks will cause the solution to stall, falter or fail. To get everyone’s buy-in, the best prescription is education. By training the top, you can be sure that the design and necessary resources will meet the needs of the business. By training architects, developers and administrators, you can be assured that the installation is rock solid and performs well. By training at the user level, you can be confident that the solution will be adopted and the company will reap the benefits.
Finally, I want to give a shout-out to one our indispensable SharePoint gurus and instructors, Philip Wheat, who assisted me in putting some of the content together for this blog series.
About the Author
Martin Schaeferle is the Vice President of Technology for LearnNowOnline. Martin joined the company in 1994 and started teaching IT professionals nationwide to develop applications using Visual Studio and Microsoft SQL Server. He has been a featured speaker at various conferences including Microsoft Tech-Ed, DevConnections and the Microsoft NCD Channel Summit. Today, he is responsible for all product and software development as well as managing the company’s IT infrastructure. Martin enjoys staying on the cutting edge of technology and guiding the company to produce the best learning content with the best user experience in the industry. In his spare time, Martin enjoys golf, fishing, and being with his wife and three teenage children.