SharePoint 2010 – for the people, by the people

A couple of weeks ago I offered to extend writing for my blog to other people. I invited Comms professionals or those interested in the world of communications to get in touch and I’m pleased to say there are a couple of things in the pipeline, so do please watch this space over the next few weeks for different writers. However the very first one is coming right up…

Kicking off is Lee Stevens (@leestevens1979) who saw my plea via Twitter.  Lee is a Microsoft Certified SharePoint 2010 Consultant and is the owner of Collabr8, a specialist SharePoint consultancy.  Just in case you haven’t come across SharePoint before, you can read more about it here. SharePoint has very much become part of the comms world and he reveals his take on the technology and tips to get the most out of it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Lee, over to you…

SharePoint 2010 – for the people, by the people
A secretary walks into a Giant Car showroom and demands ‘OK tell me how much it is… I’ll take it?’ This is without actually telling the bemused sales guy; which make she wants, the model, the colour, age, size of the engine, spec etc. She had failed to ask her boss all of these things (end user) who had instructed her to ‘go out and get a car’, as he she took his instructions literally.

The salesman rubs his hands together and she goes and blows £300k of her bosses’ hard earned money on the latest supercar. All he needed was a basic saloon car to get around town!

Ok this didn’t really happen but the exact same thing happens week in week out with Internal Communicators who use SharePoint as their Intranet and/or Content Management systems and never ask users what they need and would like to see.

Between IT and Internal Comms, they are the ones that often decide what the end users will need and want as they ‘know’ their audience and have done the requirements gathering. (Often a one hour meeting with them to tell them what they were going to do!)

The days of static content (pushed out by Internal Comms) are well and truly numbered. On an Intranet, users not only demand and expect content that is fresh and relevant to them personally but also applications that will make their lives easier. With SharePoint, you will be amazed how many applications can be built within days, without any custom coding and often life changers for the users. This will also drive user adoption and get people visiting the content you want them to more often. These can be anything as simple as a holiday request form, through to a Recruitment system.

You just need to ask them what their pain is!

8 Great Tips to get the most out of SharePoint

Don’t let IT run the project – SharePoint is a business facing application. Unless there is a fresh installation needed, try to keep the project run by someone in the business who understands the challenges in the business rather than of the technology

Requirements gathering – Ask end users what they want by actually asking the question ‘tell me about the challenges in your business’. Count the blank looks on people’s faces when you ask ‘tell me what you want SharePoint to do’

Custom code – Avoid wherever necessary. For every 5 days of development, the same can be achieved with configuration in 1

‘Out of the box’ Features – Get to know all of the features that are in SharePoint

3rd Party ProductsSharePoint, like all systems, has its shortfalls, but there are thousands of products that can be bolted onto SharePoint to address these. These costs a fraction of the cost of developing from scratch and are supported also

Micro-Projects – Wherever possible, try to deliver SharePoint offering in small chunks. This will make SharePoint become viral and also make it easier to improve on each piece that you deliver. Hard to do with a ‘big bang’ approach

End User Training Train Train Train – Allow a decent budget for training end users on how to actually use SharePoint. How will people use the tool if they don’t know how to?

Support – Log a ticket approach doesn’t work with SharePoint. Try to identify the ‘power users’ that can be accessible to help the business users

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts Lee. Do you have any thoughts on what he has written? What’s your experience with SharePoint? Don’t forget you can comment using the boxes below.

Post author: Lee Stevens.


  1. Jon Miller says:

    First off, in the interests of being transparent I need to preface my comment to explain that I am Rachel’s husband.

    As for the article, I found this very interesting and I agree with what you are saying.. It is amazing what SharePoint is capable of. As an IT Project Manager currently implementing SharePoint 2010 I have adopted most of this approach. Particularly the use of out of the box settings and zero custom code, learning from major mistakes in this area in the past.

    One thing I think that does need to be mentioned though is the requirement for firm governance processes. The power of SharePoint for the user also has the power to undermine your core business processes. The recruitment system/holiday request system example is a good one. In a large company which may already employ Enterprise systems such as Oracle or SAP to perform these functions, without control and governance of SharePoint you run the risk of letting employees create their own siloed alternatives that could undermine the integrity of your main corporate data and processes.

    It’s a delicate balance between IT’s traditional stance to control everything and empowering employees to do the right thing and give them new and innovative tools but it is an important one. When we first implemented SharePoint back in 2007, we spoke to Microsoft in detail and they highlighted the control issue – when they first unleashed SharePoint internally they ended up with literally hundreds of thousands of sites being created in a very short amount of time as everyone started to explore the new SharePoint world. Obviously when your intranet starts getting this big, support becomes a nightmare and it becomes increasingly challenging to keep your intranet content relevant.

    The possibilities really are endless and provided you have a firm understanding of what you are trying to achieve before you just buy SharePoint because it’s the current thing to have, the benefits to your organisation will be enormous!

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!


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