A well implemented SharePoint environment can be a major asset to an organization.
- Departments and teams can collaborate easily without filling their email quota sending files back and forth.
- Business processes can be automated and managers can easily measure and track records and business performance.
- Users can quickly find and filter relevant information.
Unfortunately, a poorly implemented SharePoint environment can cause even more harm than good.
- The number of SharePoint repositories and information types can grow rapidly, creating silos and numerous versions of the same or related content.
- Searching can be a major headache, forcing users to wade through pages of outdated documents or ten different versions of a document
- Finding the “right” place to store and information can be futile due to the site hierarchy not meeting access needs across groups or containing numerous places that seem like the best place to contribute content.
This blog post will highlight some of our thoughts on why some SharePoint implementations fail.
1: A Solution without a Specific Problem
One of the most common failures involves implementing SharePoint without a clear understanding of the problem(s) SharePoint should address. While a potential issue for all IT solutions, the problem is magnified with SharePoint.
Often SharePoint is implemented to “improve” collaboration, communication, or record keeping. IT installs and configures the environment and hands the reins over to the business users with documentation and limited training on how to upload documents and create new lists and libraries. Business must then figure out how best implement SharePoint for their specific problem. This approach can lead to business users creating solutions that are focused on short-term needs but don’t solve the long term problem or issue for multiple users or groups.
A successful approach with SharePoint focuses on working with and listening to users to achieve one or two specific goals, such as:
- To create an online request tracking system via SharePoint to reduce entry errors and delays in response
- To enable reporting metrics and a current issues dashboard for that same request tracking system.
With these more specific business goals in mind, the implementation can be better configured and designed to provide immediate benefit and avoid an unorganized and confusing experience for users.
2: The Solution Doesn’t Fit the Organization
Another difficult aspect of SharePoint implementations for IT is recognizing the culture and environment of the business leaders and users. A technical solution can only be a success if it supports and enhances the way people already work. Without an understanding how people interact and collaborate—regardless of the technology platform—it is very difficult to successfully enable collaboration within SharePoint. For example, a SharePoint implementation that works for a tightly controlled business will create frustration for teams that are used to a more flexible business process and information management approach.
To be successful, a SharePoint implementer must work with the business groups to develop processes and standards that successfully enable SharePoint collaboration, communication, or record keeping. Any proposed solutions must also be measured against current practices to ensure they provide a positive experience and return on investment for the users and contributors.
3: A Lack of a Long-Term Governance Plan
The first issue of governance usually involves balancing the roles of IT and the business. Most IT groups are held responsible for performance and stability/availability of a system, and not always held responsible for how the system is being used. In order to ensure stability, IT may tightly control access to managing information that the business feels it “owns.” Business users, on the other hand, are concerned with getting work done and often need flexibility to update or change business processes and have those changes reflected quickly in the solution. This can often lead to a governance conflict, where the business views IT as unresponsive and IT sees the business as imposing too much stability risk or work on top of their already heavy workload by requesting difficult configurations or customizations.
One strength and weakness of SharePoint (depending on your point of view as mentioned above)is SharePoint’s flexibility in terms of access delegation and governance strategy, but planning is required in order to establish who will control different components. Without this step, policies are often set by IT, resulting in a solution that could be either inflexible and cannot meet changing business needs, or one that is too open, leading to a longer term issue of unorganized and unplanned growth.
In addition to planning governance of the solution architecture, it is also important to plan how the documents and data will be managed over time. Long-time users of SharePoint often complain that there is too much old, duplicate, irrelevant information that accumulates over time. Information management planning can be as simple as planning monthly, quarterly or yearly reviews of content; but SharePoint also provides a number of options for automatically reviewing data and documents for retention, deletion, or archiving.
Along with a good taxonomy and search planning, a good information governance plan can ensure users can quickly find relevant information, and avoid issues where inaccurate information accumulates or is available when it really should be archived or deleted.
4: Skipping the Training
While the SharePoint interface is rather straightforward (with even more improvements in SharePoint 2010), it’s amazing how many SharePoint implementations don’t allocate time for training and an initial incubation period for the business. SharePoint is more complicated than other desktop applications like Word or email to use correctly, and is a very customizable and configurable platform. Assuming the solution was well conceived, designed, and user-tested in the first place, providing training and an initial solution incubation period is one of the most important steps to ensuring long-lasting success. Without training, users can become frustrated with any new system that requires work changes, and small “issues” that could be easily adjusted before becoming big deterrents to user adoption.
We hope this post provided some insight on common issues we’ve seen for SharePoint implementations. These issues are naturally challenging for IT for a couple of reasons:
- They are non-technical in nature and often take a great deal of time, compared to the comparatively comfortable task of bringing a SharePoint server or farm online.
- A successful solution requires consensus at all levels of the business. Because many SharePoint projects originate from a desire to improve organization or communication within the business, IT groups often find themselves in the roles of business process and team-building consultants, which may not be core to their mission.
Please comment below if you have any additions or other comments to share.