How to kill innovation in SharePoint, in five easy steps

By Christian Buckley posted 05-27-2011 02:32


Alright, I admit it: I borrowed my post title from a great article by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief of TechRepublic, in which he provides guidance on the habits to avoid if innovation is in any way important to your company or team (and I'm guessing that it is). The title is an attention-getter, and got me thinking: what are the quickest ways to kill innovation within SharePoint?

As Jason mentions in his article, its easier to mess things up than it is to get things right. That's certainly true with SharePoint, where a clear understanding of your business objectives and careful planning, architecture, and execution are the key to success.  While his broad business innovation-killers are certainly true in this context, there are a number of things which are unique to (or at least more relevant to) SharePoint.

Understand that most of these mistakes are made with the best intentions, in many cases the result of budget limitations, time constraints, or the lack of proper skills to accomplish the end goal. The end result, however, is fairly consistent: poor end user adoption. These are not in any particular order. They're mutually-exclusive innovation killers.

  1. Skip the information architecture.
    Understanding how the platform works, how sites should be structured with planned templates, content types, taxonomy, and navigation are foundational to a healthy, extendable SharePoint environment. Far too many organizations roll it out without any thought to how end users will actually add their content and….oh, I don't know...find it again later. Setting up a proper information architecture will allow your end users to take advantage of the rich features within. Instead of struggling to accomplish the basic tasks, the platform might enable them to innovate.
  2. Deploy it, and walk away.
    Yes, you can stand up a server out-of-the-box, in all its vanilla glory, and call it well and done...and it will work for a while. But nobody who deploys or supports SharePoint for a living recommends you do this - not if you're actually planning to use it in the enterprise. SharePoint takes care and love and feeding - not because of limitations of the platform (though there ARE one or two limitations) but because of your limited ability to design it and build it right in the first place. Or, more to the point, you'll build it right for that point in time, but as end users get smarter and figure out how to master the basic features, they’ll want and need more and more and….well, you get the point. SharePoint is an iterative process, not a one-time task. What enables innovation today will not enable it tomorrow.
  3. Don't plan for governance.
    In addition to planning out future features and capabilities, you need to proactively manage what you have deployed today. Governance is like preventive medicine: its kind of hassle now, you have to take time off work just to hear the doctor tell you that there's nothing wrong. But the early detection of what could be a serious long-term problem is invaluable. Proactive governance (is that redundant?) gives you an ongoing view into how your system is being used, allowing you to refine and improve and (back to that end user adoption concept) anticipate changing needs.
  4. Refuse to recognize the power of social computing.
    Block out the mental pictures of productivity-killing Facebook and Twitter escapades, and recognize that social computing is much more than these consumer-driven technologies. Social computing is another layer of the search experience, helping put content and ideas (and innovation) in context to the running dialog within your organization. Without social, you are severely limiting your ability to find content and ideas outside of the exact search terms you input. With social, those search terms can be connected to people, to expertise, to user-generated keywords (folksonomy), and threaded comments, connecting you to people and ideas and content that you would not have found otherwise.
  5. Don't have a user adoption strategy.
    Ok, this one kind of ties together the others. You really need to go into your SharePoint deployment with a strategy for how you will keep your end users plugged in and happy. Some ideas? Plan out your information architecture. Refine and iterate the platform. Proactively govern the system. Utilize the power of social tools. And communicate your user adoption strategy. Even if you're trying to do the right things, a lack of visibility into what is happening behind the scenes could cause users to quickly move from supportive to apprehensive to concerned to apathetic. The longer you take to deliver, the harder it will be to regain their trust. Include people in the process and give them visibility into the change process, and people will be more understanding (even if it takes longer than expected).

Just remember that SharePoint is a journey, not a race. You're not going to get everything right all the time. Listen to your users and be authentic, and just do your best. Oh, and reach out to the experts community for advice and best practices. Hmmm...maybe I need to write an article on 5 ways to spur innovation in SharePoint... 

#useradoption #sharepoint #SharePoint #socialcomputing #innovation #governance