Creating a Game Plan for SharePoint

By David Kruglov posted 09-07-2010 18:11


As the CEO of ShareSquared, a SharePoint-centric consulting firm, I’m involved in both the business of SharePoint and the technology.   My knowledge of SharePoint is based on real world experiences, over a 6-year period, from customers in many different industries doing very different things with SharePoint.  Over the years we have designed and/or implemented virtually everything on the SharePoint platform including:

  • Feature rich Business Process Automation portals (link points to a case study on a SharePoint-based Accounts Payable system) with complex workflows and external system integration
  • Global Enterprise Portals with over 100,000 planned users spanning multiple countries
  • Public facing SharePoint 2007 and 2010 sites
  • Commercial software built on the SharePoint platform
  • Web-based line of business applications that leverage SharePoint but look nothing like a portal
  • Products for visually designing, documenting and deploying SharePoint without writing code

I have been very fortunate in that I’ve worked alongside several of the top experts in the SharePoint space including the seven SharePoint MVPs that have graced our halls (plus a handful more that we’ve partnered with).  Working with these people has given me many insights into not only the technical aspects of SharePoint itself, but also into other considerations surrounding the implementation of SharePoint including Planning, Adoption, Governance, Information Architecture as well as Coexistence and Integration Strategies.

What I’ve learned over the years is that a successful SharePoint initiative requires skills that cross many different disciplines, from server administration to Information Architecture to .NET development to project management and maybe more importantly – lots of involvement, sponsorship and participation from the people on the business side.  It is rare to find all of the technical skills in one person who also understands the business.  I think this is one of the big hurdles to standing up SharePoint, at least initially. 

We are often approached by companies that are on the cusp of implementing SharePoint but have many unanswered questions preventing them from moving forward including:

  • What exactly is SharePoint and what will we use it for?
  • Is SharePoint the right platform for our company and why?
  • What are the direct benefits?
  • What will it cost to move to SharePoint?
  • Can we do it in-house?
  • Do we have the requisite hardware?
  • What other systems will be necessary or impacted (e.g. Active Directory)?
  • What are the best practices for moving our content into SharePoint?
  • What licensing do we need?
  • How do we integrate with other systems?

Unfortunately, several of these questions are of the chicken and egg variety.  In order to accurately define how SharePoint might be used, a company needs to develop requirements.  By this, I do not mean that they need to detail the solution and pick the toolset, but rather to describe in non-technical terms the business problem(s) they are seeking to solve.  This is software development 101 however, for some odd reason when it comes to SharePoint, we see many companies wanting to skip this step.  Companies often forge ahead with the sole objective being to “get onto SharePoint”.  Knowing what problem needs to be solved is essential to answering almost every question above.

You don’t need to know what SharePoint is or what it does to create good requirements.  In fact, the purest requirements won’t even use the word “SharePoint” in them.  Remember, the exercise is to describe the business problem in non-technical terms.  When that’s done, we can determine if SharePoint is the right tool for the job and what features will be employed.

Many or our engagements involve providing guidance on developing requirements, educating companies about SharePoint, helping them assess their readiness to implement the platform and creating what we call a Solution Roadmap.  The Solution Roadmap lays out both the short term tactical and longer term strategic use of SharePoint.  This helps companies to establish the near term basis and ROI for implementing SharePoint, as well as a vision for how SharePoint fits into the desired future state. 

Being armed with requirements and a Solution Roadmap sets a company up for success in implementing SharePoint.  We call this having a SharePoint GamePLAN, which can literally be accomplished, at a high-level, in a matter of days.  Our tongue and cheek, but real-world corollary to the SharePoint GamePLAN is what we call a SharePoint Meltdown.  Trust me, having a GamePLAN for SharePoint beats having a Meltdown any way you look at it!

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