Plus Ça change, plus c'est la même chose

By Bud Porter-Roth posted 09-07-2011 16:40


The more things change, the more they stay the same…..

As part of client work that I am involved with, I have been interviewing other companies that have SharePoint installed and are actually using it as a document management system. I have a set of questions that I send to the company before a teleconference call, in which we go over the questions and their use of SharePoint. All calls have been with IT people who were responsible for implementing the system.

The short story is that none of the companies interviewed so far are actually using SharePoint in an organized structured manner for document management. Each company has, more or less, implemented SharePoint, given some minimal instruction, and then users are on their own.

In each of the companies, SharePoint organization is semi-structured into site collections and libraries/lists but without any guiding governance directives/principles and users are free to create sites/libraries/lists on demand. None of the companies interviewed have implemented any form of records management and there is no governance for when a site, library, list, or document needs to be saved or deleted. Workflow is only marginally used because IT does not have time to train the users or, even worse, develop custom workflows that would be of value (“We still use email for workflow….”). Because SharePoint is so difficult for some groups of users to use (read: lack of training), several of the companies allow the users to continue using their shared drive structures for documents.

I could go on with other “shocking” details (such as for all three companies the users have replicated their share drive folders in SharePoint!!) but the bottom line is that SharePoint, with every best intention in mind, is still failing to be a productive document management system for many companies.

So what is wrong with SharePoint and why do we keep hearing this type of story about it not being used to its full potential? In the three interviews that I had, I would say that a lack of planning, lack of management support/money, and, I want to be careful here, a lack of IT support/resources is to blame. In all of the above cases, when I did some questioning about why no records management or workflow or taxonomy, or governance, it came down to the IT department didn’t have the resources to make it happen and IT was in charge of the system. “Because of other commitments, we can’t spend the time needed on SharePoint….”

Going back to my title, Plus Ça change, plus c'est la même chose, it seems to me that the original problem of user’s needs versus IT resources has not changed even though basic document management software has been around for 20+ years now and, I think, software has gotten easier to use, is more functional, and has proven efficiencies when implemented correctly. I think we see this problem reflected in the increasing popularity of the cloud-based collaborative systems in which a user, without permission or intervention from IT, can download and set up their own personal document management system and guess what? It ACTUALLY WORKS and the users love it. In one company I worked with, several users started using Dropbox for sharing files with their outside community and didn’t have to work with IT – they loved the fact that they could set up their own site, they didn’t have to get in the IT line, and it made their working life easier.

Basically, nothing has changed: IT is typically short on resources and the users are left on their own. When a system “fails” after several years, there is no accountability and rather than understand and correct the failure, a company is more likely to buy a “new and better” technology and the cycle repeats.

Bud Porter-Roth

#ITfailure #ElectronicRecordsManagement #SharePoint #projectfailure #ScanningandCapture #sharepoint