Category Archives: Peter Ward

Define a SharePoint IT Strategy - Part 2


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Editor’s note: Contributor Peter Ward is a SharePoint Solution architect. Follow him @peter_1020

Q: Who needs to be involved with the process?

A: A variety of organizational personnel will be involved in the development, execution, and analysis of any IT strategy at different times. The key to success is the input from IT and business management who have the ability and authority to assign resources to the project, and to authorize business initiatives as they relate to SharePoint.

Because a strategy is not a single project, there generally is not a single business sponsor, but rather senior members from both the IT and business sides of the organization. To increase the chances of success, these individuals should be involved from the beginning of the strategy defining process. The business sponsor is responsible for communicating the overall objectives they seek to accomplish with the assistance of IT. During this dialogue, the IT sponsor is responsible for understanding the high-level feasibility and risk as well as the desired functionality; this is the Risk Registry. Once these items are understood, the IT sponsor will need to come back with the proposed IT strategy to meet these goals. It is the IT sponsor’s responsibility to understand the resources required to ensure successful execution of the IT strategy. Initial resources to consider may include IT personnel, operational personnel, and helpdesk personnel.

Your advocates may come from various disciplines. A good place to start would be the management teams of those individuals most likely to benefit from the prioritized list. However, do not forget resources that help to drive the adoption and solicit feedback once your solution is live. If you work in the IT department, you may witness continuous requests for IT resources or initiatives with the SharePoint platform for business users. This is good, because they see you or your department as a strategic asset that can help them solve problems. If this is the case, then some of these requestors should attend the SharePoint workshop or at least see the post-workshop findings.

If you work in the IT department and the business community in your organization does not make requests, then there is a chance your department is not viewed as a strategic asset and you may be even viewed as an operational cost. If this is the case, the workshop is an opportunity to bring perceived value to the business.

Q: Do I need to get the CEO involved?

A: A typical IT strategy does not require the CEO’s hands-on involvement. However, an IT strategy, at the end of the day, truly serves only the corporate strategy. Ultimately, there is really only one true strategic player in the organization: the CEO and his or her counterparts on the board. All the other officers of the corporation must use their respective departments to help the CEO execute the company’s strategy. Most business units align their activities to the corporate strategy and similarly, IT must wrap its strategy around the business’s. Therefore, by all means, share your finding with the CEO to demonstrate that your department is supporting the corporate strategy. Most CEOs care about dominating a market or increasing sales and not necessarily whether or not you have a deployment plan for any product. So the last thing you really want is a non-technical person being very influential with an IT strategy that they don’t understand.

Q: Why is a SharePoint strategy different than other IT products?

A: It is because SharePoint is a platform. It can be difficult to define the functionality that has or could have been deployed to the business, so the milestones/endpoints are different than those for a typical application such as a CRM system. Also for a SharePoint strategy to become a deployment reality, there are several dependent technologies that SharePoint relies on, which need to be in place and set up correctly for the initiatives to work. For example, user profile synchronization needs to be configured appropriately with Active Directory in order for the organization chart in My Sites to work.

You will read "SharePoint is a platform" endlessly throughout this book. So what does this mean? A platform has multiple functionality that can be applied to different applications such as search, workflow, document management and content management, and .NET development, which takes time to configure and deploy within an organization.

An application is like Microsoft Word, a program that is very clearly defined for the single purpose of writing documentation. As stated many times in this book, SharePoint is a platform for web applications to be developed on. This is why SharePoint can be difficult to define and describe to people. Another term you will hear is that it is the Swiss Army knife of Microsoft’s web offerings, because the tool has many blades. Microsoft will often explain SharePoint with the pin wheel.

Given SharePoint’s broad functionality and its potential to be used by any employee in an organization, defining a strategy can be a challenge. This is unlike a Customer Relationship application where generally only the sales and marketing departments are involved and processes are already defined.

Another reason why defining a SharePoint strategy is unique is because employees may have had an experience with SharePoint at a previous job, and want to repeat this experience again. What they often do not realize is that their previous experience may have consisted of a customized SharePoint environment, or one augmented with third-party components. These employees end up surprised and disappointed when their expectations don’t comply with the current deployment.

It is essential to educate the user community about SharePoint if you really want to leverage its functionality. It is important to gauge the level of interest and time that business users have and are willing to spend on SharePoint awareness.

Q: Why do we really need an IT strategy?

A: In short, the strategy will help prioritize IT efforts to support the business requests. The key aspect of an IT strategy is to manage expectations of both the business and IT department so that both parties know what to expect and when.

In the first figure of the article, there is a clear roadmap of SharePoint deliverables for the business so budgets can be defined and resources allocated. The details of how this is done do not necessarily need to be agreed upon in the strategy meeting. In fact, given that the budget is not defined at the workshop, some initiatives may not be feasible.

By having an IT strategy for SharePoint, return on investment can be identified with some effort and initiatives being approved and prioritized.

Without a strategy, there is normally a passive approach to a SharePoint deployment, where initiatives are not coordinated among departments and low value processes are used with SharePoint, such as fancier and more expensive set of shared drives rather than a usable ECM system with findable information assets.

Research by AIIM stated that half of SharePoint implementations proceed without a clear business case (which shows lack of direction from the start); only 22 percent of the organizations provide users with any guidance on corporate classification and use of content types and columns; one third of the organizations have no plans as to how to use SharePoint, while one fourth of the organizations say IT is driving it with= no input from information management professionals.

Q: Any final words of advice on this?

A: Rushing off to "the next big thing" after completing a phase or a project of the first phase of the strategy road map is a bad idea. But even in the most successful projects, there are usually items still remaining. Additionally, after a few weeks or months "in the wild," the people using the fruits of your labor may have some great and often simple-to-implement ideas for improvement. However, the project is complete, deployed to the specified scope, and your resources are working on another project.

This problem often happens with SharePoint projects, when phase II functionality is urgently required to meet business expectations and perhaps prevent an initiative stalling, yet the additional resources and perhaps an already large investment of time and money is allocated to other projects.

This is typical of SharePoint projects partly because the end user actually knows what they really want, once they realize that they have to use SharePoint and experience what they requested.

In short, a small additional effort can have dramatic effects, accelerating and amplifying results. Therefore, you may want to factor in a six-month revisit on projects and should not be afraid to move projects out of phases, or even eliminate them if the business value will be trumped by a phase II project.

This article is an extract from the book: Microsoft SharePoint for Business Executives: Q&A Handbook co- written by Peter Ward. Read the previous extract here.

Define a SharePoint IT Strategy - Part 1


You may also be interested in: O’Reilly - SharePoint 2010 at Work


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Peter Ward is a SharePoint Solution architect. Follow him @peter_1020

Your organization is considering whether to install SharePoint, and you are now envisioning what it can do for your company. But you also need to consider costs versus benefits, keeping in mind your company’s directive of "being more strategic with IT spending". The time has come for your team to clearly define an IT strategy to guide your upcoming SharePoint deployment. OMG.

This article outlines a series of simple, common-sense steps to help define and implement a strategy that is aligned with the business, while simultaneously not being a huge distraction to operational work.

This article presents a different approach to typical "strategy sessions" which generally lead to a long-winded document, rife with complex diagrams, impressive-sounding technologies, and perhaps even some Excel clippings (with financial machinations in an attempt to give the whole thing an air of business legitimacy).

Q: Can you define what a strategy is?

A: A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a specific, long-term goal or result. This plan of action has explicit methods and maneuvers designed to accomplish pre-defined goals, but it can also be steered to perhaps achieve a level of differentiation against the competition, or to gain a competitive advantage. A strategy can also be implemented to guide and drive the overall aim of an organization.

The time dimension of a strategy should be subdivided into definable milestones and should include employees, shareholders, vendors, and customers. Obviously, timeframes will vary by organization and project type.

Strategies, however, are not tactical plans detailing the technical implementation of a technology your company is interested in. If your "strategy document" mentions IP addresses, networking equipment, or server farms, it’s likely that your original initiative has mutated. Strategies are usually defined by senior management who do not want to be bogged down with technical details; developers and administrators generally dislike and don’t participate in long strategy sessions.

A strategy could even be considered proactive observation: gathering information on the activities of specific departments, the company as a whole, the marketplace, the competition, and making decisions based on an analysis of this data.

Q: What is an IT strategy?

A: An IT strategy is a plan to achieve specific IT goals and results. In short, it is a roadmap of what, when, and why, regarding the IT ideas/initiatives that have been agreed on between the business users and IT department. These goals should be defined by both the business and IT department. They need to balance competing objectives from multiple departments, take into consideration the breadth of the goals, prioritize them, and reclassify accordingly. Who makes the ultimate decision on the prioritization depends on the organization’s structure and internal politics. If the CTO/CIO report to the CFO, then the priorities tend to swing towards reducing costs. If the reporting structure is to the CEO, then the
priorities reflect company growth. Additional priorities that may overlap into an IT strategy include marketing and brand recognition of the organization.

An IT strategy is a journey which leads to a series of milestones, perhaps defined and redefined quarterly, annually, or every five years (yes this is a long term in IT). These milestones should be shared among all senior management, employees, and contractors involved in the projects.

It is not a single meeting and a series of PowerPoint slides to impress management that are then e-mailed to a group. Someone senior within the organization must be accountable for the process.

Typical strategies could be aligned with your organizational goal, along with the assumption that most of the IT goals aid business operations.

Q: How do you create a SharePoint IT strategy?

A: The business and IT department need to meet and discuss objectives and capabilities. This will take more than an hour. Depending on how large the organization is, the strategy meeting would take at least a day, perhaps two and it would be beneficial to have an outside person with SharePoint expertise facilitate the discussions.

Before embarking on an IT strategy specific to SharePoint, it would be a good idea to understand the capabilities of this technology. Before scheduling any strategy meetings, it’s important to understand, at least at a high level, the value that SharePoint brings to an organization, what it takes to achieve this value in terms of time, money, and resources, and also what SharePoint will not solve or fix (such as bad business methodologies).

Have a strategy workshop.

Q: What is the intended outcome of the workshop?

A: This workshop’s findings will need to be discussed with other senior management to determine who will be the ultimate budget and resource approvers. For post-workshop conversations, the deployment roadmap approach figure at the beginning of the article provides a visual description of the roadmap for management’s understanding, as well as a Gap Analysis. This tool identifies where your organization currently is with its SharePoint deployment, and defined future steps. The following figure is a typical Gap Analysis that shows the current and future states that relate to the organization’s technology, people, and processes. It asks two core questions: "Where are we?" and "Where do we want to be?" By asking these questions, management has the opportunity to allocate resources to projects and initiatives, and to identify the gaps between goals and resource allocations. This tool does involve determining, documenting, and approving the variance between business requirements and current capabilities.

If you wish, the Gap Analysis tool can be used to benchmark your goals with other companies and other assessments. Once the general expectation of performance in the industry is understood, it is possible to compare that expectation with the company’s current level of performance.

This article is an extract from the book: Microsoft SharePoint for Business Executives: Q&A Handbook co- written by Peter Ward

SharePoint 2010: Open Word Documents Google Style


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Editor’s note: Contributor Peter Ward is a SharePoint Solution architect. Follow him @peter_1020

The ability to view and edit documents in the browser without opening Word is one of the neat features of SharePoint 2010.

Even though this is a frequently requested feature from users, most don’t know it exists.

There is a drawback however. Often there is some kind of files clean up initiative to migrate every document that ever existed in the organization to SharePoint libraries and then switch off the network drives. Yes this can include WordPerfect, Lotus 123 or even CAD files.

Users must understand that the edit document feature only works with docx saved versions. So word documents that are .doc, just won’t be editable.

You may get this lovely set of dialog boxes.

The way to get around this is to open the document in Word and save it with the docx extension. This gives the document web access functionality. This is not a SharePoint 2010 drawback, rather a design limitation of older versions of the document (non XLSX for Excel), which makes sense because SharePoint 2010 wasn’t invented in 2003.

This post, explains the problem more.

This is related to Word Automation Services, but that won’t solve your problem.

Converting a lot of documents could be a real pain, but there are ways to automate the process. Read this blog post by Eric White:
Bulk Convert DOC to DOCX

There are probably tools out there to do this as well.

SharePoint: How to Change the URL in a Links List


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Editor’s note: Contributor Peter Ward is a SharePoint Solution architect. Follow him @peter_1020

Problem:

You’ve just copied a link list template to another site collection, or performed a 2007 to 2010 migration and have realized that all the url’s in the list point to an old site and a mega cut and paste is required

So you think the data sheet can do the trick…. No

And MS Access can help….. Well no

I was surprised at this as well.

This post explains how to dump the list into Excel and run a macro to change the URL’s and then paste the new links into the list. This is easier than you think by using Excel a tool that you already have.

I’m not an Excel expert and there could be more elegant ways of doing this in Excel

Much of what is explained is in this Excel file: Example file

Steps:

Dump the list into Excel.

  1. Click on Export to Excel from the Ribbon in Excel.

2012-10-23-URLChanges-01.png

  1. Create a macro in Excel.

Watch this short video to see how to create a macro. This could be anything. What is key is to create a macro that you can edit. See figure below:

2012-10-23-URLChanges-02.png

  1. Edit the macro. Click the edit button on the dialog.

Paste in the following, macro code.


Sub ReplaceText()
' ReplaceText Macro
'
' Keyboard Shortcut: Ctrl+r
    Call ReplaceHyperlinkurl(co.uk", "com)
End Sub

When run, the code above will replace the “co.uk” part of a URL with “com”. This could be anything really.

  1. Run the macro from the dialog box

2012-10-23-URLChanges-03.png

All the cells will be searched and if there’s a match, it will replace the text.

Now that the URL’s have been changed,

  1. Copy and paste the URL’s in Excel back into SharePoint, using the datasheet view.

2012-10-23-URLChanges-04.png

You just need to paste the URL column.

JQuery dashboards to SharePoint: How To


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Editor’s note: Contributor Peter Ward is a SharePoint Solution architect. Follow him @peter_1020

This post outlines the steps to apply JQuery dashboards to a SharePoint 2010 page.

  • No coding or administration is required.
  • Skillset: Power user, you should be familiar adding content to SharePoint pages. Eg: Content Editor web parts
  • The data has to reside in lists

- For further details see Alexander Bautz post. he did the heavy lifting, this is a more step by step approach to his code.

Steps

Add these components to your Site.

  1. Copy the contents of this JS file into the Site Assets library of the site: Click here

 2012-07-18-jQueryDashboards-01.png

  1. Create a list in the site called GoogleVisualization_InteractiveChartsConfig (This name has to be exact) . This list should be based from a list template called. If this templatge doesn’t exist in the site collection, email SharePoint Support and they will add it.

This is the template that needs to be added by the site collection administrator. Click here

  1. Goto the page were you want to display the charts
  2. Add 2 Content Editor web parts parts to the page where to want to display th charts

TIP: To understand how to add a content editor web part, click here.

2012-07-18-jQueryDashboards-02.png

  1. Add the following HTML code into the Chart 1 Content Editor web part

<div id="MyChart1"> </div>

  1. Add the following HTML code to the HTML footer code Content Editor web part

<script type="text/javascript">
// All charts must be represented by a container with a unique id. This container must be present in the page
arrOfChartContainers = ["MyChart1"];</script><script src="/sites/Sales_and_Trading/client_relationship_management/DashboardBoard/SiteAssets/js/jquery.min.js" type="text/javascript"></script><script src="http://www.google.com/jsapi" type="text/javascript"></script><script src="/sites/Sales_and_Trading/client_relationship_management/DashboardBoard/SiteAssets/js/ChartUsingGoogleVisualizationAPI_v2.9.3.5.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

NOTE: The path in the HTML above must correspond to the path of your site.

  1. Save content editor web part and the page.

2012-07-18-jQueryDashboards-03.pngThe HTML is now saved on the page. The chart must now be configured.

  1. Click on the download arrow of the web part.

 2012-07-18-jQueryDashboards-04.png

  1. Complete the Chart configuration menu:

From this:

2012-07-18-jQueryDashboards-05.png

To

2012-07-18-jQueryDashboards-06.png

  1. Click Save

The chart should display:

2012-07-18-jQueryDashboards-08.png

To add additions charts to the page. Add additional content editors:
With the HTML :


<div id="MyChart2"> </div>

And make the addition to the HTML footer:


= ["MyChart1", "MyChart2"];</script><script src="/sites

Further Reading:

The API -

Graph options:

2012-07-18-jQueryDashboards-09.png

2012-07-18-jQueryDashboards-10.png

SharePoint: Double Booking with the Calendar


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Editor’s note: Contributor Peter Ward is a SharePoint Solution architect. Follow him @peter_1020

This entry explains one way to deal with double booking. The explained SharePoint Designer procedure is not bullet proof, but by extending it, it could easily be made to be.

This procedure will check to see if the conference room is already booked and if it is, an email is sent to the creator of the list item stating that the conference room is booked.

Steps:

  1. Set up a workflow so that each time a calendar item is saved the workflow runs.

  2. Create a condition to check the start date of the current item <Start Time> is greater than a start time of other items in the list.
  3.  

    Note: Start Time contains Date and time

    2012-06-28-DoubleBooking-01.png

    2012-06-28-DoubleBooking-02.png

  4. Create a sub condition to check the start date of the current item <Start Time> is less than a start time of other items in the list.
  5.  

    Now we have identified if the current saved items’ <Start Time>, is in between other items. AKA a double booking.

  6. An email should be sent if there is a double booking. What should be done is a further condition to only send the email if the item is created. This can be done by comparing the created and modified dates.

The whole step should look something like this:

2012-06-28-DoubleBooking-03.png

One point to be made when adding in a double booking check process; be careful of what you ask for. If you add a hard and fast rule, it will have to work every time. Often (particularly when humans are involved) this is not possible. E.g: The owner of the firm books the conference room and out ranks all over booking. Be pragmatic.

Golden Rules for End User Deployment - Part 2

 

Most of you will now be familiar with SharePoint’s functionality and where it can be applied in day-to-day activities. This article outlines what SharePoint is not, what is special about SharePoint and why there is considerable value in using this technology, and the user requirement challenges that a deployment will cause.

See part 1, click here

User requirement challenges

There are a number of challenges that come with obtaining and implementing user requirements which have an equal impact upon the end users, the IT department and the SharePoint technology itself. These are outlined in the following sections.

The user

A department has requested that SharePoint assists with a business process and a requirements meeting is set up.

The department and users need to be aware that there is a process/methodology in achieving the end result. This is not a one shot deal, and they are involved in the success of the project.

Prior to the meeting, the department should have the following answers prepared.

Current environment

  • What is the department trying to achieve?
  • What are the pain points of the current environment?
  • Is anything going to be approved (as an?) Excel DOC, submitted form PDF?
  • How many steps are involved in the process?
  • Who is involved in this process? (Submitters, approvers, or content viewers)
  • If there is a business process, how should it flow?

SharePoint environment

  • What are the critical success factors of using SharePoint?
  • How does SharePoint help these critical success factors? (The more factors ticked off the better. If none are ticked then it goes to the back of the queue).
  • How does the process start and end, and are there milestones involved?
  • When the process goes live, who will be the owner of the process?
  • Does SharePoint bring new business functionality to the process?
  • What are the strategic objectives of this initiative to the business?

If the preceding points cannot be answered either prior to the meeting or during it, the business process has not been thought out, and the SharePoint solution is more likely to fail.

Often, the users will not be aware of SharePoint’s capabilities, so there will be some educational aspects of such an engagement:

  • SharePoint is a template technology. Must users work with this?
  • The implemented approach will be out of the box with no coding—are there limitations?
  • How can SharePoint be better than your existing process?
  • What is required from you, the user?
  • How much training is required by you?

At the beginning of an initiative, a simple process can become quite complicated, so it is important that complex requirements are identified at the beginning of the requirement gathering process.

IT department

Often, an IT department will implement the free version of SharePoint (Foundation) on a spare server, resulting in rumors within the company about a SharePoint deployment. The effect may be that requests for SharePoint applications from business units will come in like a tidal wave. And this is all on a test deployment.

Fast forward three months: the server has run out of disk space, the IT department is reading the manual to understand how to restore a deleted file, and users are complaining that SharePoint is not living up the hype. Unfortunately, it is all too often that the IT department will then adopt a have-a-go approach to the SharePoint technology.

A SharePoint installation and deployment needs to be carefully thought through with a one to three year plan of business usage and infrastructure considerations. This should be reviewed every year to assess the business requirements.

Just do it

SharePoint is a versatile platform, but all SharePoint business processes do not need to be deployed on the same server or within the site collection. Often, companies will install SharePoint on a server or server farm, and insist on driving all their initiatives off it, with the attitude that, we have SharePoint deployed, let’s do it on the existing SharePoint infrastructure.

A good example of the Just Do It attitude is when a SharePoint application that was originally designed for employees is now being accessed by non-employees, and access levels are being set up as if they were internal users.

Good to talk

The IT department must engage with the business and users. This statement is not profound, but with SharePoint deployments, because users have the ability to customize and personalize so much functionality, the user experience, and ultimately the success of the deployment, is not a result of formal training sessions. Rather the results are from users experimenting and making slight adjustments to features such as alert notification, meta tags, and their My Site so that it is personal to them.
We might estimate that 40 percent of the user experience is the personalization of notifications, pages, and the general look and feel, rather than what someone else did in building out the functionality. This is very different to other applications and is the reason why low touch, low value SharePoint deployments are as they are because the users are not aware of the functionalities that are all out of the box.

Recruiting evangelists throughout the organization is the only way to make a big project of any kind work. Usually, any new technology or process that is visibly promoted by only the IT department is difficult to be universally accepted across an organization.

People need to be nurtured, educated, and inspired to use the technology so they see the value.

Another challenge for the IT department is to understand the actual request from the business. Often, there is a request for a team site for a business function, when in reality a document library was all that was required.

SharePoint technology

One of the really nice things about the SharePoint technology is that the specifications do not all necessarily have to be required at the beginning of an initiative. Functionality can be added after the release, and even by the users themselves. This is different from traditional IT projects where requirement gathering is documented, but a true understanding by users of the process is incomplete.

With SharePoint deployments there is the ability to engage users with proof of concepts very early on in the process. This allows the users to become more confident with their own SharePoint skill-set and take ownership of projects.

By users taking ownership and personalizing content and design, the endless list of small requirements can be done by the users themselves.

We recommend performing follow-up coaching sessions, and having the more vocal people speak out about the small alterations they have made, to a deployment, to educate the other team members.

 

Note: This article is an extract from the book: Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Business Performance Enhancement- Taking the basics to the Business - with No-Coding Solutions for SharePoint 2010 End Users. By Peter Ward and Michael McCabe

Foreword by:
Mark Miller: Founder and Editor, EndUserSharePoint.com, Chief Community Officer and SharePoint Evangelist, Global 360, Founding Member, NothingButSharePoint.com

This book can be purchased from the publisher Packt . By using this code P.Ward (valid until the end of April 2011 ) will provide a 20% discount on all books bought directly from the site

Golden Rules for End User Deployment- Part 1

 

Note: This article is an extract from the book: Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Business Performance Enhancement- Taking the basics to the Business - with No-Coding Solutions for SharePoint 2010 End Users.  By Peter Ward and Michael McCabe

Most of you will now be familiar with SharePoint’s functionality and where it can be applied in day-to-day activities. This article outlines what SharePoint is not, what is special about SharePoint and why there is considerable value in using this technology, and the user requirement challenges that a deployment will cause.

What’s special about SharePoint?

Often, senior level management within an organization has already made a decision to make SharePoint the de facto corporate web platform, and users have to live with this decision and figure out a way for it to work for them. In many ways, this is what is special about SharePoint: the user base can define SharePoint’s destiny within the company by embracing it or not.

SharePoint is a platform for the solution, and is not the solution itself. This is often a challenge for management to understand. We recommend that some kind of SharePoint business architect should be employed to be the SharePoint owner, and a point of contact for its processes and upcoming collaboration initiatives from the business. This person should be accountable to ensure that the technology is working within the organization, and that it is meeting the business needs it was implemented for. This person does not need to be doing everything from the backups to the Site build-outs, but should have the following credentials:

  • Some understanding of SharePoint’s capabilities and limits
  • Good knowledge of the business and its IT requirements
  • Ability to speak to senior management about such requirements, and state if SharePoint is a good fit or not

If this person is the Exchange administrator or junior in the organization, there is a high likelihood that the SharePoint deployment process will not be successful because their role is focused not on the business needs of teams, but rather the technology side of the business. This is why business analyzers scope the requirements of a project.

In America, where job title inflation is rampant, the person’s job title can be glorified to Internal Collaboration Director, VP of Communications, or CCO – Corporate Collaboration Officer.

What SharePoint is not

As we’ve already touched on earlier in the book, SharePoint is a product that can be a challenge to define, and the reality is that SharePoint has different meanings to different people. This is why we have described SharePoint as the "Ginsu knife" (an icon of "hard sell" marketing, as a knife that can do almost anything) of web platforms because, depending on its application, individuals will perceive the product differently. While SharePoint can perform a lot of functions, the following descriptions of SharePoint are not a good fit for its true capabilities and prescriptive use, and thinking of it in any of the following ways should be avoided.

A generic "best of breed" technology

There is a lot of buzz within the IT world surrounding SharePoint, and it does not help to have a keen person always stating, ‘SharePoint can solve this’ to understand if this is the appropriate technology. If SharePoint is customized enough, it can meet your required business needs. But, this is not the best use of people’s time and effort, and in reality, without some customization SharePoint will not provide the benefits of an advanced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application. So, before you open up SharePoint in your browser, think about what your specific business problem is and how it can be solved.

If your company is looking for a very sophisticated document management system or a CRM application that is unique to an industry, SharePoint may not be the best tool without customization or a third-party add-on.

Yes, SharePoint does have very good document management functionality, but its functionality is geared towards the majority of users’ needs in an organization, rather than one or two individual’s specific requirements. This is so there is broader appeal to the technology within an organization.

The whole SharePoint architecture is based on customizable templates such as Sites, Lists, and Libraries. The moment that SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio is required for a project or task, the deployment should be viewed as an actual project, and a project manager will be required for help with development, staging servers, documentation, and perhaps a maintenance plan.

A defined end solution with an end point

Because functionality can be performed by an end user, there is often the notion among business users that ‘this is the web so anything is possible’. This creates the tendency to endlessly refine and make changes to the look and feel of field types and displayed information.

A department does not request that IT change the UI colors for Outlook so it is branded with the corporate colors, or insist that the interface is redesigned so the tool bar is at the bottom of the page and menu links can go three levels deep. This is a common request for a SharePoint site, so managing these expectations is key to delivering projects within specific time frames.

With implementations such as a CRM or ERP system where there is a hard release date, and once the application has gone live, there is a freeze on requested functionality. Released SharePoint functionality in most organizations is constantly tweaked even after the go live phase.

This is not a good approach to an IT project. However, this is a common practice with SharePoint functionality releases and should aim to be minimized as far as possible.

An online transaction website

Information can be tagged and selected together, but this is not the right tool for shopping cart transaction user activity with credit card actions without a lot of development customization.

A standalone Business Intelligence tool

SharePoint provides the presentation layer for graphs and charts, and with its out of the box functionality, it can connect to a data source that could be an SQL cube or a list. SharePoint will not build or refresh the cube, or design the report.

People will often say, ‘That’s in SharePoint’, referring to a graph displaying information from another database. In most cases though, SharePoint acts as a presentation layer to capture a graph from another application. An end user can easily capture web pages displaying cubes and graphs with the Page Viewer web part. For the more advanced user, Business Intelligence Center is more appropriate.

SharePoint will complement the BI functionality that is provided with other tools, rather than provide the functions of these tools itself.

Excel files can be rendered in your browser on a SharePoint page using SharePoint’s Excel Services, which is part of SharePoint Server. In this case, the Excel file is the data source, stored in a library that is being published to the SharePoint site.

An online Excel book in a list

The Edit in Datasheet functionality of a SharePoint list provides an Excel-like look and feel, which does work for basic information in a cell-like format. This is not a replacement for Excel’s cell formulas and flexibility to manipulate data and forecasting models.

A public-facing company website

You may be surprised by this particular statement, but if your company is small and with mostly static content, and has not purchased the public connector licenses required, then SharePoint may not be a financially viable web technology.

When a public facing site is designed on the SharePoint platform, there are a lot more unknown variables such as browser formats, mobile devices, and search engine optimization, which can require a skilled team to maintain. However, with a company intranet environment, browser standards and devices can be enforced by the organization.

Significant customizations are required to make a SharePoint site look like a typical website.

Another challenge with public facing websites is that when pages do not load properly or functionally does not work, the website visitors generally do not notify the company that something is not working, unlike an intranet that has a content owner, or a help desk ticketing process to assist with feedback and troubleshooting.

Furthermore, if your company already has a company website set up with something else, why do a rip and replace of the technology?

Clearly for internal websites, SharePoint is the perfect tool.

A turnkey switch on solution

SharePoint is a web platform that will require manpower and effort to configure, but if there is a business process or something unique to a requirement, it will take some effort to have this functional in SharePoint. As you can see from reading this book, much can be done by the user without development, but this will require both learning SharePoint’s functionality and understanding how to makes changes to it.

There is a perception by senior management in companies that SharePoint is a turnkey solution, and that once it is installed, benefits can be achieved in minutes. This may have something to do with the sales process, or that technology companies tend to focus on their solutions with SharePoint, rather than the process of implementing them.

An application that everyone will use on day one

While an accounting system upgrade will have a go live date where on a defined day all the invoices will be processed in the new system, SharePoint does not generally work like this, partly because people can use existing processes such as e-mail or the phone to perform their current tasks that SharePoint can also do.

So, during and after the go live release, users must still be constantly nurtured and educated to use the application, and will be questioned as to why they are not using it.

The biggest challenge for people in adopting a new system is for them to change their daily habits in going about their work.

The SharePoint platform

Because SharePoint is a platform for end user solutions and other third-party SharePoint applications to reside, the costs of ownership can dramatically decrease because installation costs and administration is spread across multiple business functions, and end user training is reduced because users are already using the application. This makes deployment of applications easier since the technology is already installed, and cultural acceptance within the company is in turn made easier because the users are already using the technology for other purposes.

This is why a lot of third-party applications have an interface deliberately designed to look like Microsoft’s Office because it is easier to learn as people are more familiar with it, making the transition to using the technology go all the more smoothly.

Because there are multiple applications working off the same platform, integration of workflow, security, and file management is easier to manage as there is a single interface for administration, user authentication, and user management. This is a major win in breaking down the information silos of a company.

First impressions of SharePoint and what it can do for a department and the individual are very important. If these are not favorable then enterprise deployments can be difficult.

In the past, IT departments have deployed bit boutique applications for different business requirements that usually provide short term benefits and additional overhead for both users and the IT department. Because of an extended learning curve, more technologies are needed for support, as are additional licenses.

A hosted solution

SharePoint can be installed on premise or purchased as a hosted option from a third-party hosting company. Obviously, with the hosted approach, the IT department can be completely by-passed with a deployment. We recommend that if there is a business need that requires SharePoint, and the IT department is reluctant to deploy it in a desired timeframe, the hosted option should be considered with the IT department’s involvement. This way, IT governance, security, and policy can be incorporated into the deployment.