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January 26, 2012

SharePoint Adoption rule #1: “Forget about SharePoint”

by Anders B. Skjønaa (

Originally written for the in October 2011 by Anders Skjoenaa. Edited and republished on SharePointPeople in January 2012.

Even if technology is providing the company with capabilities that it never had before, value is not realized before users start to embrase these capabilities – correctly – in regards to the job each individual is doing. People are generally not interested in any kind of change, unless the change will help them do their job better, faster or easier – and very importantly – they need to feel this themselves!

Most decisionmakers will have SharePoint presented as a very functional and strong platform, on which the company can run close to everything that has a webinterface – and even a few things that do not. Think of the infamous “SharePoint Wheel” and it’s six (6) major functional areas. All this included in the same piece of software! SharePoint provides an extraordinary set of capabilities. But no matter how much you try, you will only succeed implementing (given that we can agree on that a succesful implementation includes that adoption goals are met) the functionality that people REALLY need – or think they need.

This is why my first rule in the “Rulebook for SharePoint adoption” is to “Forget about SharePoint”.

I know that this is a provocative statement for some. So let me explain exactly what the purpose of this rule is. It is really quite simple.

It’s about communication…

As a major part of your SharePoit adoption stategy, you will be doing Communication Planning; You will define different audiences that you need to communicate – and in some cases market – your project and solution to. In many companies I work with, this type of communication is built on the capabilities of SharePoint. This just may be a big mistake!

When you – as a platform owner of SharePoint, and a responsible manager of the funds provided to you to implement SharePoint – are telling your audiences about all the good things SharePoint can do, YOU ARE DOING YOUR JOB. But the people listening to you – are probBLY not! Most of them REALLY do not need to know about workflow, collaboration and document versioning. Depending on their job, they have completely different things on their mind. Things that are pains or big obsticles to their succes, individually. And if you want to help them, you will need to forget about “the SharePoint wheel” and limit your communication to exactly the solution that solves the biggest and most visible pain, for the largest amount of users.

“Strategic” naming…

An example; Try NOT to name your project “SharePoint implementation” – or anything else with the SharePoint name in it. SharePoint is an incredibly strong brand – so strong that it may bite you in the neck, if you use is. Why? Let me tell you about “Michael”, the QA Manager at a manufacturing company I work with. (Michael is – by the way – not a real person.)

Michael is looking for a system to support the management of non-conformity incidents in production lines. The it department looks at the requirements presented to them and decides that this is a very good fit for SharePoint. Since the company already have SharePoint 2010 in production, there is a lot of sence to this decision. So they go back to Michael and tell him about building dynamic forms in InfoPath, getting production data from the LOB apps via BCS and how SharePoint has workflow capabilities that can be used for building his system.

So after the meeting, Michael returns to his desk and Google’s this new thing he just heard about; “Sharepoint”. And what does he learn? Go to the SharePoint page on Wikipedia yourself and check it out… Yes – He gets the “SharePoint Wheel” and a loooong article about internet facing websites, intranets, document and records management, etc. All good stuff – but not exactly the things Michael need to get his job done. So his conclusion is obviously, that maybe this SharePoint thing is not what he needs, and the it guys must have misunderstood his request. Next, he makes another search – this time for “Quality Management system” – and finds a small proprietary websolution that “speaks his language”.

What is the end result:

  • SharePoint is out
  • Proprietary solutions is in
  • IT Costs (operation, support, management) go up
  • Immidiate requirements are meet
  • User must learn a new tool
  • Solution and data is “Silo’ed”

So – when you know SharePoint, and understand the resources and funds a company have invested in getting the capabilities SharePoint provides, you also understand that situations – like this one – will not help you drive adoption and eventually value form SharePoint. Even if SharePoint is the obvious choice, you will – almost always – be more succesful with removing “SharePoint” from the discussion. It may be a hard one to accept – but give it a try and you will start to see a different dialogue with users and a better foundation to drive adoption of your SharePoint service.

Some people might tell you that SharePoint is a solution – dont belive them! SharePoint is a platform – and a pretty strong one – for building a wide array of solutions. And your people want solutions. They dont “want” SharePoint – even if they really need it.

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