Puzzle with solutionI was asked the other day whether SharePoint is the solution to all SME’s management problems. Can it replace any or all current IT systems that they are using? At first I was taken by surprise as to why a business owner would ask me if SharePoint was the magic pill to cure all of the businesses ailments. But when I began to do some of my preliminary investigation into the organisation, I started to confuse myself and think well maybe it is.

After a few minutes of being lost in the cloud of “SharePoint being the magic pill”, for all of the business’s issues disappear, I came back to reality and started to wonder what had actually prompted that statement? It wasn’t like this particular company didn’t have other systems in place such as MYOB, a scheduling program, a CRM and various other software products all working independently. The real question was what were those systems doing, or should I say not doing? Why weren’t they collectively meeting the organisational requirements? After a few more questions and some off the cuff remarks about the previous IT solution providers lack of service, it basically came down to a few key factors:

– The previous software solution(s) were purchased to address a specific need independent of any other systems that were currently in place, with no consideration of integration.

– The users of the new system(s) were not properly trained and then retrained periodically. Hence there are only a few key people (usually in the management team) who are competent with the technology but didn’t necessarily pass that knowledge onto their staff.

– The solution(s) weren’t deployed correctly it was just handed over with generic motherhood statements about its capability.

– The solution wasn’t evaluated properly and then later re-evaluated post implementation to see if it was the right solution for the organisation.

This type of deployment in an SME isn’t uncommon and generally outlines why many of the organisations that I consult to are only using about 40% of the full capability of their IT systems. It’s generally due to one or a combination of the above key factors or staff just got lost half way through initial deployment and never got back to making it work.

There is a new role developing both within the consulting world and larger business in general, a business systems efficiency analyst, this role is to help organisations make better use if their software systems through an understanding of the actual business application. They also analyse the users training needs to exploit the software’s functionality. Further, one of their major tasks is to work out what role each software solution plays within the organisation so that there is no overlap and where possible ensure the systems work together to make information transfer easier and therefore efficient.

So how does this apply to SharePoint? Before the implementation of any SharePoint system, it’s important to determine what SharePoint is for your organisation and where it will fit within the organisation. Just like hiring a new employee, you define the need and then the role based on their skill set and perceived ability to fit into the organisation’s culture and allow growth. SharePoint is the same.

So where do you start?

Define what your business does from the customer’s perspective. What are the inputs and outputs of the organisation, what roles do the support functions play and how does each department fit into the puzzle?

Determine how your current IT systems fit in and what the role of each system plays. What is the functional capability of each system? (This may require further research.)

Engage a consultant that understands SharePoint’s capability from a business solution perspective not as an IT solution. Conduct discussions with the team around what SharePoint can do including but not limited to an intranet, document management, forms, dashboards etc. Have the consultant explain to you how other organisations are using it and lessons learned in situations it has and hasn’t worked.

Determine where the gaps in your system(s) lie and where SharePoint can act as either the intermediary or solution to make improvements in your businesses operations and communications.

Produce a document that describes your vision or dream for how the systems work together to make your business more efficient, what is the end state they are looking for.

When you hire a consultant get someone within the organisation to work with them, learning what they do and how they do it, so that you’re not permanently tied to the consultant as an extra expense on the business.

But above all else keep in mind, SharePoint is a journey not a destination.

This article first appeared on IDM http://idm.net.au/article/009524-role-sharepoint-your-sme