Update and Volunteer Appreciation
Last week, our focus was on Basic Terminology. We now have 27 terms (and still growing), 20 defined thus far, a combination of “short” and more detailed descriptions for each, and many with screenshots. If you haven’t signed on as a volunteer, please do!
Everything we do here is a community effort, but I would like to cheer for our star of the week. Can you all help me applaud? I realize we are all reading this in various parts of the world, but if we all clap together, maybe Steven will be able to hear us in London.
Steven Andrews (@backpackerd00d) worked very hard to organize, develop and manage our Basic Terminology Section. He diligently replied to suggestions from the community and fellow volunteers, and he carefully edited content to preserve the work of his peers. He stepped up and took a leadership role. What a great way to kick off the project! I sincerely appreciate his hard work!
We actually had a number of wonderful volunteers and community supporters “come down” to our Basic Terminology pages and make suggestions or direct edits. Many thanks to Olaf Didszun, Sean Garvin, Roger Skauen, and Ben McMann for working in the wiki directly. And thanks to Veronique Palmer, Guido, Amarprit Jaspal , Marisa, Richard Harbridge, Andy Burns, Beth Beck, Gene Vangampelaere, and Frederik Zebitz for all your helpful comments and suggestions. That’s 14 volunteers who “came down” to contribute to the Terminology section. Thank you ALL for adding to this project! Whether you have a lot of time or just a few minutes to spare, we value your contributions.
Explaining Basic SharePoint Concepts
This week we focus our attention on Basic Concepts. Many of the common features and best practices in SharePoint are mere “concepts” to the new SharePoint user. Concepts they have yet to grasp. How do you explain Metadata and Columns and Views to a trainee? Sure, you can attempt to define each (and good luck with that alone!), but how do you talk about them together as a possible replacement for folders? What words do you use? What analogies do you suggest? What benefits can you boast? And how about document versioning? The idea that it can solve so many of your shared drive, 20-copies-20-names-of-the-same-document woes? These are “concepts” a new site owner needs to learn, to understand, and hopefully, implement and evangelize!
I’m making slow-but-steady progress at work in getting people to move away from using folders in SharePoint and saving file versions under different names. They are slowly grasping these “new ways” of thinking and are starting to use the shared drives more for archiving old inactive documents.
What was really fun for me recently was the opportunity to explain the concepts to someone with a completely “fresh” perspective. Who? My very own sister. She doesn’t have any experience with SharePoint. The conversation came up so innocently, and it was such a nice change from some of the conversations I’ve had at work. It went a little something like this…
Sister: “So…what is it you do exactly?”
Me: “I manage my company’s intranet.”
Sister: “…and that’s like our “O” drive where I work? Is your intranet the same as that ‘SharePoint’ thing you are always talking about?”
Me: “Well, no, but that’s a great place for me to start to explain it! Your ‘O’ drive is probably like our ‘G’ drive. Different letters at different organizations, but essentially these are those massive shared drives where employees store files. LOTS of files. In folders. LOTS of folders.”
Me: “So, on your ‘O’ drive, do you have deep folder structures? Do you ever have trouble finding a document? Do you find yourself digging deep into one path, then digging back out and into another? Are you ever confused about what folder you should be saving in?”
Sister nods continuously. I’ve clearly hit a pain point.
Me: “And do your co-workers need to retain previous versions of a file? Do they rename documents, adding ‘v2’, ‘v3’, and so on to the end of the filenames? Have you ever edited v9 instead of v10 because you didn’t notice the latest version due to alpha sort?”
Let’s just says Sister has felt this pain a million times over. She is agreeing left and right.
Me: “Well, SharePoint has a way to add metadata [I branched off for a second to explain metadata and used her beloved iTunes music collection as an example] and easily view documents in different ways, outside of folders, in an easily grouped/filtered/sorted way, using any of the metadata that’s relevant to you. It’s like an actual library, where you can easily look for something in a variety of ways. No more need for folders to organize your files!
And, there is a feature called ‘versioning’ that allows you to save over the same file while retaining the previous versions. No more renaming files and getting lost in a sea of visible versions. All versions retained are available for viewing, but only when you intentionally go to view them. By default, you only ever see the latest version, so you always know that’s the one you’re editing.”
I also went on to describe the advantages of “forced check out” and “alerts” and all those other goodies that have been making my life easier for many years.
My sister had a glimmer in her eye, like I had just told her about the absolute coolest, “must have” gadget in the world! And it was so fun to see that look!
There is so much potential in a standard SharePoint team site. There is so much site owners can do to help their teams work more efficiently. Yes, in out-of-the-box SharePoint!
This week, our goal is to identify these basic concepts that, while often confusing at first, are essential to unlocking the true potential of the team site. We will lay out the concepts, explain how and why they are used, and we will then be able to determine what questions to ask to ensure the site owner understands them.
My personal goal is to get new site owners to have that same look my sister had, and to pass it on to their site users. It’s not about “selling” SharePoint, it’s about education. We just need to help the site owners grasp the concepts so they can unlock the potential of their team sites. Don’t set up a bunch of folders; set up columns and view and some required metadata. Don’t rename files; turn on versioning, and help your team avoid chaos. Educate!