Slinger's Thoughts

July 22, 2013

SharePoint Adoption – Don’t Crawl, Walk or Run. Charge at it screaming.

Filed under: Community, SharePoint — Tags: — slingeronline @ 2:37 pm

I’ve not worked at a lot of companies that use SharePoint in my SharePoint career; I’ve worked at three. At all three companies, SharePoint was implemented sometimes as an afterthought, in most cases by someone who didn’t know anything about SharePoint and what it could do when it was initially set up.  Implemented isn’t the right word. Managed doesn’t seem to fit either. Whatever the person who tells the person who implements SharePoint does, that’s the word we’re looking for. That person, is one of the problems with adoption in SharePoint. The one who says “go make me a SharePoint.” That person, at all three companies that I have worked for, has done one thing horrendously wrong in their implementation of SharePoint. They have left the ideas of content types and views behind. Probably the 2nd and 3rd most powerful features of SharePoint, and they are completely ignored. Instead what you have is users who try very diligently to recreate their network shared folder structure in document libraries. At engineering companies, this is disastrous. I have seen document libraries that have 150 folders in them of varying levels of hierarchy, and 3 documents.  

This is how that happened. The project manager, sponsor, or whoever is “in charge” of implementing SharePoint has the idea that SharePoint is this large and scary tool that users are going to need to get used to. For someone who has never used SharePoint, they are absolutely correct.  They will then bring up the concept of “crawl, walk, run.” At first they want to duplicate the network shared folders in document libraries so that users get used to SharePoint. For my first installation, I agreed that it would be best. I know better now. The last thing you want to do is to allows users to bring their bad habits from the network shared folders into SharePoint. You’ll end up with SharePoint libraries containing 150 folders, that are empty. At these organizations, SharePoint has grown “organically” which basically means “ we had no idea what we were doing so there was no plan in place for adoption, governance, backup, etc.”

SharePoint is a tool that is large and scary, and I understand how users can be intimidated by it. As I was working with SharePoint, I had an “a-ha” moment, where I suddenly “got it.” From that point on, I wanted SharePoint to be a part of everything I worked with. I wanted the “My Documents” folder on my home computer to allow me to set custom metadata columns so that I could treat it like a document library, with different views.   And I wanted other people to see how brilliant the idea of views was.

I attempted to show a user how genius views were and I thought I was getting somewhere until I heard this; “So what folder would I find that view in?” Phooey! The user has brought their idea of how information should be “structured” with them from the world of the network folder and has infected SharePoint with it.  Maybe I would have better luck showing how views work on a list… I showed a different user how to create a view of a list based on sorting, filtering, grouping, and so on. That way they wouldn’t have to go to the list, and then select “filter” and “sort” values from the column headers every time. Again, I thought I was making progress, I thought I was getting through to the user, and that they might have almost gotten the idea. “Wouldn’t this be easier to do in Excel?”


Users would embrace SharePoint, and become evangelists for SharePoint in their organizations, if they would just get out of their own way. And it’s not their fault that they have this limited idea of what SharePoint can do, instead treating it like a glorified FTP site. What we get from users however, are gems like this; “SharePoint was not designed as a collaboration tool.”  (Yes, I actually heard that from a user, at the first company where I worked as a SharePoint Admin.) It is our fault. SharePoint Administrators, Architects, Developers, Consultants, Analysts, and so on, it is entirely our fault. We have failed our end users. We allowed them to try to crawl. We encouraged them to walk. We pushed them to run. What we should have done was shove them off of a cliff so that they had no choice but to dive headlong into SharePoint, flailing and kicking and screaming, until they learn that we have actually given them wings, and they can fly. Imagine what the adoption rate of SharePoint would be if every user that used it “got it” because they didn’t have a choice? 

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