5 Ways IT Orgs Can Transform Themselves to Be Winning SharePoint Rockstars


There’s a lot of great buzz & excitement about the growth of SharePoint in the enterprise. In spite of the rich business solution ideas produced by the vibrant SharePoint community, functional adoption remains focused on file sharing (see AIIM State of the Market: SharePoint report).
There’s a lot of great buzz & excitement about the growth of SharePoint in the enterprise. In spite of the rich business solution ideas produced by the vibrant SharePoint community, functional adoption remains focused on file sharing (see AIIM State of the Market: SharePoint report).

Why is this the case you may wonder? Well, having worked with various enterprise organizations, the reality is that most users rely on IT for SharePoint help. Since SharePoint is an enterprise technology, that means it’s IT’s job to help/support the user. Unfortunately, I see a lot IT organizations provide only break/fix type of SharePoint assistance (i.e. I can’t access the site; my permissions are messed up). I don’t think this was intentional, IT is busy with a lot of other stuff that treating SharePoint differently is hard to justify.

Hence, the mindset of SharePoint being a glorified network share is the impression that most users have today. There are only a handful of users that are resourceful, motivated and passionate about SharePoint that they do their own research and exploration on maximizing SharePoint to support their business needs.

As IT is the trusted SharePoint advisers within the enterprise (whether users like it or not), it’s a great opportunity for IT to elevate their role from being a second class, “I-have-a-tech-problem-you-will-fix-it-for-me” citizen in the enterprise to become the hotshot, thought leader that can help empower the business to solve business challenges.

Here are 5 ways IT organizations can transform themselves to be winning SharePoint rockstars:

1. Make Sure Your Organization has a SharePoint Godfather

I was asked one time by a system administrator (the lone SharePoint ranger in their organization) on how to promote better adoption and convince people to use document libraries on SharePoint sites for document collaboration instead of network shares.

I suggested that he gets rid of the network share or make it read only. He said he can’t do that since he doesn’t have the authority to do that nor anyone in the higher up would allow for that to happen.

There is the problem right there: Unless there is an executive level sponsor committed to utilizing SharePoint as a business platform, it will be difficult for IT to effectively help the business better themselves with the technology.

It is NECESSARY for IT to have a SharePoint Godfather – someone who has their back, who can cut through the organizational red tape and more importantly, have spending power to invest in making SharePoint happen in the organization.

As IT, your job is to identify that person or group of people, and educate them on how SharePoint can help transform their business. (Check out this article: 5 Reasons Why SharePoint Ignorance Is Not Bliss)

2. Don’t Be The Soup Nazi, Be Doctor Phil

If you don’t know who the Soup Nazi is, read this first.

The problem with SharePoint platform deployment today in most enterprises today is that IT still takes the typical enterprise application release strategy. Too focused on making sure the technology is all set without enaging the business up front. SharePoint is made available with a fast food approach “Here’s your SharePoint site with surveys, wikis, libraries.”

Certain users might be confused and question IT’s wisdom “I don’t need another tool. I’m not sure what value SharePoint provides …” Then IT’s knee-jerk response will be “What? You don’t like SharePoint? No Soup For You! Next!”

At the end of the day, most users don’t get excited nor care about SharePoint – it’s like dialtone as Ruven Gotz pointed out. What gets users excited in most cases is if a solution helps them get their job done better, easier and faster (as long as they don’t have to learn anything overly complex and new that is).

Knowing this, IT should behave more like Dr Phil (click here to learn more about Dr Phil) – IT should engage the business up front and discuss business challenges and map to how SharePoint can support them. You want to help

Develop business solutions and not showcase SharePoint features. I love Dan Antion’s advice on why it’s important for IT to be a part of the business.

I’m sure you’re thinking “Well, you talk a good game here Dux, but c’mon, the reality is IT is short staffed, we have other things to do, how do you expect us to handhold the business and make sure we are meeting their needs?” That’s why having a SharePoint Godfather is important – once she/he sees the strategic value SharePoint can provide to the organization, you can make the case for the necessary investment which includes technology and human resources.

3. Be a Leader and Not a Passenger

Since IT is the SharePoint trusted adviser (it’s rare people will ask help from Marketing, but you never know) within an organization, IT should draw the line on what can be done and cannot be done on the constraints given.

You don’t want to set yourselves up for failure.

If the business comes to you with “I want you to convert our public facing site using SharePoint and make it look like Ferrari.com or NothingButSharePoint.com within 2 weeks on top of your day job” – you have to ask and have them rank the priorities of their business need. Is it the 2 week time frame? Is it the custom branded look and feel? Is it only utilizing IT internal resource?

Realize that you can’t have anything that’s good if you want it fast & cheap. You can’t have anything that’s fast if you want it cheap & good. You can’t have anything cheap if you want it cheap & good.

If all you do is take marching orders from the business even if you know it’s not realistc, you are being a passenger and not a leader.

To learn more how to prioritize business needs when implementing SharePoint, read this.

4. Teach Them How to Fish

In the recent article “Why Businesses Move to the Cloud: They hate IT” it was stated that:

Their top reasons for going around IT? The need to respond quickly to changes in the market, self-sufficiency of their IT-savvy workforce, and the easy availability of top-quality it services that can be bought without long implementation or testing (cloud and SAAs apps, primarily).
Business is moving so fast these days that relying IT to do everything is impossible. And that’s where SharePoint can shine in the enterprise – it can empower the business to build solutions without IT doing it for them all the time.

As IT, we should be more like Mr. Miyage (the Karate Kid sensei) teaching the business how to make the most out of SharePoint. After all, technologies like SharePoint helps drive innovation (check out this recent Forrester report: How Consumerization Drives Innovation).

As SharePoint adoption matures, I predict IT’s role will be more consultative. If the assumption is that SharePoint will enable/empower the business, the old model of relying on IT to build all solutions for the business should be history. I can see IT still building complex solutions, but for basic business solutions (i.e. conference room scheduling system, expense reimbursement system, etc), ideally the business should be able to do it themselves with OOB tools available in SharePoint.

An issue with this scenario is that the business is not ‘trained’ to build solutions. They may know the technical capabilities of SharePoint but won’t have any insights into best practices, process, techniques, etc. So I suspect what’s going to happen is that the business will ‘request’ support from IT but not necessarily asking IT to build it. They would seek guidance/advice into what’s the best way to go about by doing it and have the business go at it. This is where the consultative role of IT comes in.

5. Be Proactive and Not Reactive

A key component of being able to help the organization to reap the business benefits of SharePoint is being proactive and having a strategic enterprise SharePoint roadmap. As IT, you don’t want to sit and wait what the next SharePoint marching order is (which most likely in some cases is some random “i-think-it’s-a-great-idea” request).

This means that a plan has to be in place on what tangible outcomes an organization would like to see with SharePoint within a specific timeframe. In his recent blog post “Getting to the Second Value Tier of SharePoint“, Craig Roth from Gartner nailed it:

Clients that have had SharePoint for a few years are beginning to wonder what more they can do with it to get more value. And I think they see that getting a larger megaphone to evangelize its benefits will just perpetuate the random application of the technology. That’s why I’m starting to find organizations that are creating business-focused services out of SharePoint. In those organizations, SharePoint is seen as a valuable, mature business contributor rather than a precocious, energetic kid who notices problems old-timers haven’t noticed and rushes in to be useful.

Here’s to being a SharePoint rockstar! Who doesn’t want to be like Joel?

10 thoughts on “5 Ways IT Orgs Can Transform Themselves to Be Winning SharePoint Rockstars

  1. I suspect what we are ultimately missing is the understanding of roles, the very concept of SharePoint, this platform that lets user build their own solutions (?!) is so foreign to how IT normally functions that they are still trying to figure it all out.

    We have to show them the light…they will get it eventually! Thanks Dux (and thanks for linking me in there at the top!)

  2. I see the guidance you refer to as a combination of education and BA-type work.

    But most IT folks holding the SharePoint reins are not BAs! They “own” SharePoint but don’t have time to train people or extract the necessary requirements to provide that tier-2 level of help you refer to. These are not tickets that you can knock off, dozens a day. These are solutions that require thought, planning, testing, ongoing support, phased enhancements, etc., leveraging SharePoint features and concepts even many IT folks find difficult to master. This type of work is typically not within the grasp of a normal business user.

    To even attempt to bring along business users at such a level, you MUST have education. Who is going to educate them? The overworked IT department? Therefore, who interprets between IT and the business and helps solve this conundrum?

    As soon as users get put in touch with someone that can speak both languages and deliver meaningful solutions, adoption and perceived value shoot WAY up. Their minds are blown (in a good way). And I’m not doing a shred of VS development- much of it’s possible in the browser; just elevated to a level way beyond what an end user who still has to do their real job has time to learn or figure out on their own.

    It’s a catch-22. The more they learn, the more they want. The more they want, the more we find ourselves out of our depth. As you begin to deliver this level of help, you are growing an audience that isn’t going anywhere- in fact their consumption only increases as they see results. Right now, our ability to respond to these types of requests is not scaling well. Five new requests came in this week before I’ve finished gathering requirements for last week’s requests. I am so busy meeting and teaching I don’t have time to DO the work.

  3. Hey Dux. Loving the work. Enjoyed meeting you in Atlanta. I have to side with Nancy on this one. IT’s got enough on their plates today managing an environment that’s growing increasingly complicated with the explosion of communications and personal information management tools popping up on every laptop in the organization — not to mention trying to stay above water in the social and mobility realms. IT certainly has a portfolio of interests and concerns with each new business demand on their SharePoint farms. Flip the coin and the Business users – just waking up to the potentials of SharePoint to solve business problems – can’t take time off to translate their need into a SharePoint solution on their own. This is classic BA stuff. I envision a “SharePoint PMO” that prioritizes the requests coming in, drives real requirements from the business, develops and delivers solutions, templatizes for scale, and expands the enterprise-available SharePoint body-of-knowledge. (We should still be encouraging the inclined, after all.) Where such a PMO resides on the organizational chart is more a function of the people in the seats of power than the seats themselves. I would offer that such a group should fall under IT if and only if they’re measured on agreed-upon business metrics of their portfolio as opposed to the often arbitrary costs contained, tickets closed, fires fought model of the IT world.

  4. Hi, Nancy, Dan –

    Thanks for reading and the response. I fully agree with you 100% – you both nailed it that there needs to be a “BA” type of entity/layer like a “PMO”. Problem is, it is rare for such entity to exist in IT orgs today and only a handful of orgs are thinking about SP this way for the long term.

    When it comes to business solutions, I would categorize them into 2 types: 1. ‘complex’ solutions that requires IT to develop for the business (ie complex workflow systems, extranet, etc) and 2. ‘simple’ business solutions that users can build themselves with OOB SP (ie collab sites, forms, etc).

    If the ultimate vision for SP is to lower the barrier to entry for users to start building simple business solutions themselves, there needs to be guidance/mentorship on processes and techniques. It doesn’t have to be a full blown education on SDLC but users should have a process on building solutions vs firing up a SP site right away and cranking out custom lists and workflows.

    Unfortunately if orgs do not take users maturity up a notch, SP will most likely end up as a glorified network share in the enterprise for a while.

  5. I call this person ITPro Lite. They have more business chops than IT but they get invlovled with SP and via SPS and experience they grow ever closer to the ITPro category.

  6. Or are they IT Pro Plus???

    These are people who need to understand the technology intimately AND be able to be business users. In every organization I’ve seen where these people existed, they had more skills than either camp, depending how you looked at it.

    No, they couldn’t build a server from ground up (or they didn’t choose to anymore) and they weren’t accountants or marketing people, but they were just as comfortable sitting in the server room as the board room.

    Generalists can be of serious value in the modern enterprise.

    M.

  7. Great article Dux. I think you have hit the nail on the head. SharePoint is being rolled out to the business at the moment and the business love it. In reality we are just replacing the file shares for SharePoint and utilizing the document management features SharePoint has OOTB. While this is great for me (I’m seen as a hero), now is the time whilst the business is engaged, we need to revisit these people and discuss how SharePoint can be used to solve other business issues, not just document management. SharePoint is much more than a “file share on Steroids”!
    Once again, great article. I love the passion you have for this topic!

  8. Marc, thanks for that (what I call) a vote of confidence for my lonely role. I feel caught in the middle most of time. Hopefully articles like this will help spur more awareness of the value of such a skill set.

  9. This is a nice vision about fuller use of SP in organizations. I think there are two obstacles to implementing it:
    1.
    Like a lot of other MS software, SharePoint is over engineered. If you wish to deny it please look first into WordPress, which offers just part of SP functionality. Then compare that to what end user needs to do have same service from her SP portal in her ogranisation.
    2.
    People are generally lacking skills to use software to its full potential. Office, SharePoint etc. End-users need big fat layer of consultants to have any hope to use these fully.

    As we all know, it is very shrewd career move to be an SP consultant. SP is just to damn complex to be used by “normal” people.

  10. This is part of what I am addressing in my “SharePoint Developer Orientation” blog series. How developers/IT cope with “users” having the ability to develop solutions themselves. I think the “overworked IT” bit is a lame excuse. IT delivers solutions. SharePoint is a new tool in that endeavor. Much like there is training and support for Office in many organizations, there should be for SharePoint as well.

    Because SharePoint is more than an end-user tool, however, there is a huge place for IT. More developers will begin to make the transition to SharePoint to fill in the gaps businesses are feeling today. A business user can only go so far. A power user, whether it is a member of the IT solution development team, or some business unit, can go much further. This is the person Marc and Nancy are talking about above, although I would not put them in the IT Pro category. I like to call them SharePoint Designers, but I am sure Marc would prefer middle-tier developer. This person overlaps with business users and traditional software development teams.

    The issue about a BA or PMO are nothing new. Us developer-types have been working in this space for decades, and have been maturing our processes and methodologies over the years. Each project needs to be analyzed to determine what level of formality/process/ceremony should be involved. Processes with criteria need to be defined for the different options… whether it is business-user solution (no stability, maintainability, or advanced features, but fast), middle-tier (more advanced tools, expertise, but a little slower with some limitations), or development team (ultimate in capabilities, professionalism of solutions, maintainability, upgradability, etc, potentially longer and more costly).

    As DBJ says above, consultants can be brought in to fill the gap if an enterprise is unable to perform the range of SharePoint services themselves. That is not a bad thing, either. Just like custom software solutions, consultant companies can address a specific need like no in-house IT department can if for no other reason that you can find one that specializes in just about anything.

    I will be addressing more of this in parts 3+ of this series…

    http://www.nmrconsulting.com/blogs/sharepoint/default.aspx

    https://www.nothingbutsharepoint.com/sites/devwiki/articles/Pages/SharePoint-Developer-Orientation-Part-1-Why-should-we-care.aspx

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