3 Keys to Develop a Collaboration Strategy around SharePoint

By Rich Blank posted 05-26-2010 20:59


If you are thinking about your overall collaboration strategy and how to best leverage SharePoint, there are 3 things you need to understand before you develop your approach: 

1. Type of Collaboration.    Collaboration can be both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (“offline”).   Synchronous collaboration is your web meetings/conferencing and instant messaging.  With SharePoint you are mostly talking about asynchronous collaboration in which users manipulate time and space to their own advantage with some degree of independence.  Users can work when and where they want without being constrained by the schedules, time zones, or locations of others.

2.  The degree of openness.  Is your strategy focused on project teams with a limited number of users?   Is it focused more on a business process automation/improvement?    Is it more open focused on social or community?   or is it focused on the individual and collaboration within their social network?     Identifying the degree of openness will help define the scope of your strategy.   This will help provide a focus for SharePoint as the technology incorporates several components from social computing to team sites to portals to workflows, etc…

3. Goals and Objectives.  What are the business drivers and what do you hope to achieve?   organize and capture knowledge?   attract top talent?  provide a platform for project management?   external collaboration with business partners or clients?  is it more document management focused?   compliance?    executive dashboards?  collaborative business process management such as contract management or regulatory submissions?  all of the above?  I’d also include whether or not the collaboration is globally or regionally or enterprise or line of business focused.  

You can then outline your approach for developing your collaboration strategy around SharePoint.  Your approach might include identifying the current state, assembling an advisory panel of stakeholders and their requirements, evaluating SharePoint to determine the fit and gaps, design the high level future state and overall roadmap for implementing the solution.

Identifying the Current State – Take an inventory of the current state of collaboration technology within your organization.  Where does the information live?  What are users collaborating on?  Types of documents and with whom (internal or external people)?  How are people collaborating today?  Fileshares or email?  Externally hosted platforms?   Document management system?   Some combination of technology?    Paint the picture of the current state of collaboration and the technologies involved.   I’d also include costs of those technologies if you can identify them.   It’s likely you’re spending a total of 6 or 7 figures on several technologies depending on the size of your organization.  

Deliverable:  Current State Summary

Stakeholders - Assemble a panel of stakeholders (global in nature if possible) and interview or survey them.   Ask them how they collaborate, what tools they use, what their priorities are, and frustrations/challenges they face.  I’d also inquire about their definition of success if they were to leverage a tool like SharePoint successfully.   Does the stakeholder hope to just stop emailing versions of documents and be more organized?   Or do they foresee cost savings from process improvements with forms/workflows (more of a six sigma approach).  Draft a requirements list for SharePoint (including features like calendaring, workflows, secure team space, etc..) and get feedback on it.

Deliverable:  Stakeholder Requirements Summary and a High Level Requirements Table.

Evaluate SharePoint – Once you understand the current state and have spent time on stakeholder requirements, it’s time to look at SharePoint.  What components of SharePoint do you need?   Will SharePoint address requirements out of the box?   Where is room for customization or branding or workflow/forms development?   Does business intelligence fit into the picture pulling data from ERP or CRM or datawarehouse systems?   Look at the features & functionality of SharePoint and develop.   If you don’t know SharePoint well, you’ll need some outside assistance from a technology consultant or your Microsoft Sales Engineer.

Deliverable:  Fit/Gap Analysis.

Future State and Roadmap - Design the future state both at a high level functional/conceptual perspective and technical architecture level around SharePoint.   Try to focus on the ideal state as the vision.   This would include all the components you might need (base architecture like web and database servers as well as BDC, excel services, or forms).   You might already have a SharePoint implementation in place.  However, the current state will tell you if you have all the right components to meet your stakeholder requirements.  The roadmap will provide the game plan to get you from the current state to future state.  Break it up into phases and try to keep it simple if you are first deploying SharePoint.  The first phase should build the baseline infrastructure for future phases.   You can’t build a house without the foundation first.   Subsequent phases can include expanding the deployment.  I’d also focus on 1 particular

Deliverable:  Overall Collaboration Strategy Document including sections for the executive summary, the current state summary, stakeholder summary, requirements, fit/gap analysis, your future state/roadmap, and of course costs and risks.

Depending on the size of your organization developing a collaboration strategy around SharePoint might take anywhere from 10-12 weeks — if you do it right.  Investing in this type of planning will help maximize the ROI of SharePoint and set the foundation for a successful deployment.  In my next series of blog entries, I’ll tackle the topic of SharePoint Governance.   The is a lot more technical information on SharePoint on the web, but not enough on governance — at least not enough comprehensive information.

#knowledgemanagement #microsoft #Collaboration #strategy #SharePoint