Increasing Your Focus on SharePoint Productivity

By Christian Buckley posted 01-07-2013 17:15


I was reading Daniel Antion's post entitled Make SharePoint Simple, which made me think about my own transition into the topic of SharePoint productivity this past year. In his article, Dan shares some experience he's had recently with customers and students who are beginning to use SharePoint, and the feedback he has received consistently is that "SharePoint is too complicated."


Now, you have an army of Microsoft personnel and community experts who will argue against this idea, but it’s a growing perception out there. Microsoft did a tremendous job with positioning SharePoint as quick and easy out of the box. And it is, to some extent. You CAN install SharePoint with all of the standard settings (or, with Office365, you just sign up) and very quickly take advantage of its core features, but most people are not satisfied with the out of the box features. I often compare it to ice cream consumption: vanilla is great, but most people want something more. And moving from the default settings to a customized solution can come with quite the learning curve.


One of the major themes I have been writing about this past year has been SharePoint productivity, which, at its core, means simplifying the interfaces into SharePoint. The #1 productivity tool used by the majority of organizations is workflow -- which is why Microsoft spent time and money to expand this capability natively in SharePoint for their 2013 release. Another big productivity enhancer is forms -- whether through standard list forms or through the use of InfoPath forms. In both cases, the goal is to simplify, automate, and guide the end user's activities as they interact with SharePoint. Most users know how to upload a document into a library in a team site. While that's great, if that's the extent of how you're using the platform, you're not getting your money's worth.


The key to productivity is to understand

  1. The business activities your end users are trying to accomplish
  2. You end user's expectations for how the platform, and those key business activities, should work


The acid test for SharePoint productivity is your usage reporting. If people are not using SharePoint, find out why. Is it a training issue? Is it a technical issue? Is it a business process issue? Attempt to solve this problem, and then iterate. If you find that people are struggling to get their work done, understand why.


While SharePoint 2013 makes huge strides in improving productivity for the end user (although it is moving from a platform to more of a product, which is a topic for another thread), it still requires teams deploying the technology to carefully consider the user experience, and then to design, deploy, and configure it in a way that better aligns with business objectives and use cases (we're all doing that, right?). This planning should also take into consideration company culture and end user habits. In short -- build your tools in a way that fits with how your end users expect it to work. Instead of struggling with knowing where to move content, how to follow a business process, which metadata to assign, automate that process with forms and workflow. Take the guesswork out of their activities by simplifying the SharePoint interface, and you'll see an increase in end user productivity. 

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