long empty roadThere can be no doubt that SharePoint has increased the types of solutions available to SME’s. It provides them with a playground to create a number of solutions to address business issues such as document management, collaboration, reporting and forms etc.

SharePoint online solutions have opened up what was once the domain of only larger organisations with teams of business and IT analysts. SharePoint is however challenging the perception on why you buy software in the first place.

One of the the statements that I have been constantly reminding companies of is that SharePoint is a journey not a destination. While it can be designed to address the immediate needs its evolution within the organisation shouldn’t stop there. SharePoint isn’t a simple executable that can be fired up to solve a particular pain point; its deployment needs to be thought of more holistically within the organisation.

Hence it is really starting to challenge how companies think about other systems that they either have in their company already or are about to purchase. A classic example is an SME I visited recently, that have the foundation edition of SharePoint, that was setup by their IT provider and they have been experimenting with it over the last few months.

As usual when it came to the IT infrastructure setup of SharePoint they had no issues getting that done. However when they asked what does SharePoint do they were met with a few generic responses around it being a document management system and a communication portal, and provided a very generic 15 minutes demonstration.

So they battled on and discovered a document library and then began to replicate what they already had on their windows file server. After a few months of hard work it dawned on them that they were falling into the same trap of creating chaos, replicating their old file folder structure.

As they didn’t possess the system architecture skills in-house to put SharePoint to best use, they investigated the purchase of another system to help them meet their specific accreditation and document management requirements.

So where is the revelation here? This is a pretty common story, people/organisations not understanding the scope or capability of the products that they have purchased and wanting a quick fix rather than a long-term sustainable solution.

If you research the SharePoint journey on the web, you get lots of information about turning the initial deployment into broad adoption and then into a business solution. But what many organisations don’t seem to understand is that it shouldn’t stop there and making a SharePoint system sustainable within an organisation is not set and forget. Of course there is initial adoption and then business solution but this neglects the sustained cultural change, constant re assessment and continuous improvement to make the system sustainable.

The only way to give your SharePoint implementation a fighting chance is to have it supported by one or many “SharePoint Champions” within the business. The roles of these champions are to continue to promote the best use of this technology within the corporate governance strategy, but above all else take ownership of the sustainability of the system moving forward.

This is however beginning to challenge what skill sets are required within an organisation, because to manage and maintain a SharePoint system and continue to evolve it, is a multi-diverse skill set that an organisation may not have.

Hence when embarking on the SharePoint journey as an SME ask yourself these questions

  • Holistically what do I want SharePoint to achieve for this business? Not just address what the company perceives as our pain points. (Investigate how other organisations are using SharePoint)
  • Design a corporate governance strategy that takes into consideration your future system needs.
  • Will the system be cloud or server based?
  • Who within the organisation is going to be the champion(s).
  • Make the definition between using a SharePoint consultant and contractor
  • What methods and form of assessment are we going to use to ensure that Sharepoint continues to be a cutting edge solution and not just another IT system that we eventually replace?
  • How will you drive continued cultural adoption and change?

The amount of value that can be derived through SharePoint is only limited by the system design, so unless you design the system around the business case and then apply the technology solution it will never meet your business needs.

This article first appeared on IDM http://idm.net.au/article/009427-sharepoint-journey-not-destination