Slinger's Thoughts

August 8, 2011

Who’s SharePoint installation are you training your users for?

Filed under: SharePoint — slingeronline @ 8:48 am

The proliferation of SharePoint in the business world brings new users to SharePoint everyday.  Because SharePoint is so easily customizable, many businesses have optimized their SharePoint installation for their own business needs. Some use SharePoint as a CRM system, some use it for ECM, and yet others use SharePoint as a full blown intranet. While some users may have used SharePoint at a previous company, many others have not.  So if you ask someone if they have used SharePoint you’ll get an array of answers and experience.  The real question should be, “Have they used your SharePoint?” 

Any default Out of the Box installation of SharePoint will have the requisite lists and document libraries, and training your users should include the basics of how these work, including views and content types. What is not Out of the Box, is how your company uses SharePoint. You probably have many custom content types, workflows and other features that will need some specialized training for at least some of your users. Pointing your users towards the videos that Microsoft has put together will get them started, but what about using MySites, or that specially designed 149 step process approval status update workflow that crosses 6 departments at 3 different levels, or integrating your SharePoint site with SharePoint workspaces and Outlook? For some of these features, Microsoft gives you a brief introduction on how to do it, but they don’t really dive too deeply into why you should, or would even want to, and for other features, the Microsoft videos will likely be very little help at all.

While there is nothing wrong with using the Microsoft training materials to train your users, you should also train them on the specifics of your SharePoint installation and any customizations that you have added. It also couldn’t hurt to include some details of your governance policy. You do have a governance policy right? Letting your users know what they can and cannot do, and what they should and should not do, are just as important as telling them how to do it. Just because you can upload your entire Wiggles MP3 collection to your MySite, doesn’t really mean you should. Your users will need to know this. (And I have not seen it personally, but I have heard cases of worse things being stored in a user’s MySite.)

I’ve seen an instance where a large hospital organization has implemented SharePoint as their intranet. The customizations to the SharePoint site were elaborate, and every single one of the employees gets an extensive class on how to use SharePoint, from the most basic of how to upload a document to a specific document library, and including all of the appropriate metadata, to how to create their own customized view of a custom dataview webpart, including how to configure the appropriate connections. The result is that each user has their own custom intranet portal, that provides them with exactly the information that they need, and nothing that they don’t. The result is that the users love SharePoint and what it can do for them, and they are continuously offering ways to improve the system through little tweaks and “wouldn’t it be nice if..” comments to their SharePoint staff. 

I’ve also seen an instance where a large school district has implemented SharePoint as their extranet. The only customization to the SharePoint site was a custom theme for each school that was that particular school’s team colors. Every user was given a site to use as their own, and they could do whatever they wanted with it. Some teachers have individual sites, and some teachers have opted for a departmental site. There is no discernable governance around anything, and navigating the site is a wonder of Copernican magnitude. The users hate SharePoint and only use it because it was mandated that they have to, and there was very little, if any training on any aspect of SharePoint. They don’t know what they can and can’t do, and they have no idea what they should and shouldn’t do.  I don’t blame the users here, since it is simply a matter of them not knowing what to do, or how to do it. (I have spoken personally with a few of these users, and the most training that they have received is how to log in to the site. After that they are on their own.) These users can’t stand SharePoint and they want to use any system besides SharePoint.

So to wrap up, training your users to use SharePoint is important. Training your users to use your SharePoint is crucial. How you train your users can make the difference between your SharePoint installation being the greatest thing to happen to your company, or the worst experience your users have ever had with a software solution.



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