A Good SharePoint Education... Priceless!

By David Kruglov posted 09-14-2010 15:09


In my last post, I emphasized the requirements development and planning activities that should precede a SharePoint implementation.  Another crucial component to successfully implementing SharePoint is education.  SharePoint is a very broad platform with a plethora of features. 

As we all know by now, you don’t simply insert the disk, click on setup.exe, install SharePoint and starting using it.  SharePoint is unlike other systems, such as Accounting, CRM, Word Processing, Email, etc. for which there is a predetermined, specific, intended use.  With SharePoint, you first need to decide what you’re going to use it for and then determine how best to implement a particular use case.  To reiterate, it is a platform, not an out of the box solution. 

Think of SharePoint as being like a toolbox.  You don’t have to use every tool in the box; it’s just there if you need it.  You do, however, want to know what tools you have and how best to use them.  A great starting point for companies on the cusp of moving to SharePoint is education centered on what the platform is and what it can do. 

By education, I do not mean down and dirty, boot-camp style training, at least initially.  The problems I see with attending deeply technical trainings at the outset are that:

  1. Getting too granular with SharePoint initially does not provide a global view of how the platform could be used at an enterprise level in your organization.
  2. Features are often covered one by one from an abstract, technical perspective but outside the context of the business problem they solve.  Tying this abstract understanding back to the real-world use of the feature becomes the challenge.
  3. Classes are taught from a fairly rigid syllabus, which may omit features that are important to your particular use case or delve deeply into parts of the platform that are not relevant to your organization’s use of SharePoint.
  4. Architects and Developers get trained and become the ones who drive the SharePoint implementation, whereas a successful SharePoint initiative should be driven by the business needs of the organization.
  5. Technical features are taught in isolation without regard to the greater concerns of Information Architecture, eDiscovery, Scalability, Reuse/Extensibility, User Adoption, etc.

In my experience, the type of education that is most impactful in terms of setting organizations up for success with SharePoint is aimed at IT and business Decision Makers and provides a broad understanding of how SharePoint maps to various business-technical needs.  The focal point should be:

  1. How SharePoint fits into the business objectives of the organization at the enterprise level
  2. What organizational structures need to be put in place to define and support the use of SharePoint (e.g. a Governance Committee, User Adoption Strategy, Content Taxonomy)
  3. How various SharePoint features can be used and/or combined to replace or complement existing systems and processes (e.g. the Corporate Intranet, Line of Business Applications, legacy ECM solutions)

At a minimum, I think Decision Makers need to understand, at a high level, what the following features are and how they might be used to solve common business-technical problems:

  1. Various options for implementing Web-based Data Input Forms and Workflows in SharePoint
  2. Document Libraries, Document Sets, the Document ID Service and Remote Blob Storage
  3. Enterprise Content Types & the Managed Metadata Service
  4. Content Organizer, Drop-off Library and Content Organization Rules
  5. In-place Records Management in SharePoint 2010
  6. Integration Support including Business Connectivity Services (BCS), the Business Data Catalog, SharePoint Web Services, etc.
  7. Business Intelligence features including Excel Services, PowerPivot, KPI’s, Dashboards, etc.

This education or conversation should look more like a brainstorming session where the business person identifies a business need and the “instructor” explains how the need is fulfilled (or not) using SharePoint, various 3rd party products, custom development or other technologies on the Microsoft stack.

Armed with an understanding of these features, Decision Makers will be well-equipped to identify initiatives where SharePoint can be leveraged to increase efficiency, reduce risk or cost, and/or capture new business opportunities.

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