SharePoint is becoming a more important part of Rackspace’s business, and as it continues to grow, we realize many of our customers might not know exactly how to get started with SharePoint. Here’s a primer with insightful tips to help you get started with SharePoint and get the most out of it.
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the process of getting started with SharePoint and how to best move forward. In most cases you will see information that leads you to think of Governance as being the starting point for all things SharePoint. And while I agree with this, I think the better thing to do is to evaluate your goals as an organization. No matter if you are the smallest of companies or the largest of companies, you have goals and a direction in which you are moving.
As you look at SharePoint and determine if it will become part of your organization, you will want to ensure that it all starts with the overall direction of the company. By starting here you can really align the value found within SharePoint to the core of your organization. SharePoint, after all, is just a tool that you can use to build solutions that make your organization better. But the focus should never be on the tool or what the tool is doing. The focus should always remain on the business. By doing this you will be able to really align your solutions to the heartbeat of the company and will be able to ensure a broader user adoption. After all, if we are building tools that make the company better and align with the direction of the company, why wouldn’t people use them? At times I know that all of this sounds great in theory, but can often be hard to incorporate into everyday practice. So in this post I want to share with you some of the ways that I think you can be sure to incorporate these ideas into your work.
The first thing that I think we should focus on is the fact that SharePoint is just a tool. If you were to build a birdhouse, the focus would be on the actual constructed object and not on the wood, nails and hammer used to build it! The idea is the same with SharePoint. There are many, many different options available to be used within our solutions, but at the end of the day, if we are using Workflows, Lists or Forms they are all just tools that are used to make up a complete solution. The important thing is that we are providing an easy way for users to submit expense reports or that we are tracking project data. If the focus becomes we need to use InfoPath for this and Lists for that we run the risk of having a focus on the technology and not on the business. The technology is great and it can empower us to do some really awesome things within the organization, but if we lose focus on the business goals we are entering into really risky territory.
The next thing I want to highlight is the audience and the importance of knowing it! When you start to look at potential solutions that can be built in SharePoint, knowing your audience is a key success criteria. If you build the most complex solution you can build using all the advanced tools but no one actually uses the solution, then what value does the solution have? Every time we look at a new process or idea to implement in SharePoint we need to look at our audience and we need to build a solution that aligns with its needs. By doing this we are helping to ensure that our solutions are going to bring immediate value to the organization. And the beauty of this approach is that as our audience matures and develops the types of solutions we build will likely also develop into more complex, detailed solutions. By taking this approach we can mature our solutions as our audience matures. This allows us to make the most of the moment while still planning for the most in the future.
The next thing I want to point out is the importance of getting started. I have a phrase that you will often hear me repeat over and over, which is “Think Big, Start Small & Keep Growing.” You definitely want to look at the big picture when you start to think about how SharePoint can be used within your organization to solve business problems, but you don’t want to get caught up in the analysis phase to the point that you are never able to really get started. So I encourage you to spend some time looking at the big picture, but if you find an area that you don’t have all the information determined or that you know things are changing, I encourage you to identify it and plan to the best of your ability, but still keep moving!
The final thing that I want to point out is the importance of learning the tool. You may not know exactly how to configure advanced versioning for a document library, but it is important to understand what versioning is. By at least having an understanding of the concept you will be able to more easily identify locations in your business or problems that those tools can address. This part can get tricky because there is really no end to the learning! But that’s ok, because you can take it in steps and continue to learn new skills over time. I get asked a lot how to get started, so I created a blog post around my thoughts. If you are looking for more information in this area I encourage you to check it out!
SharePoint is a powerful tool to have in your environment, but like most things it can also bring harm if not looked at correctly. By always looking to the business you will force yourself to align your solutions with the overall strategy and direction of the company. By keeping the technical solutions aligned with the company and built for the internal audience, you will find that you have a much greater opportunity for user adoption. Hopefully you will find these tips helpful as you look at how you can begin using SharePoint within your organization.