About half of SharePoint shops in a recent survey said they had no real strategic plan for deploying the Microsoft collaboration platform enterprise-wide, and not surprisingly that's turning out to be a problem. Our Ann All has a nice wrap-up of the full survey and some advice for shops that have let SharePoint get a little out of control in her blog.
So how do you develop a strong strategy for SharePoint in your business? The first step is evaluating your overall needs before your first SharePoint implementation, which, as Ann notes in her blog, often is somewhat cloistered inside IT.
The SharePoint Decision Tool, from our partners at Info~Tech Research Group, asks you about 40 questions on your company's IT environment, training plans and collaboration platform needs. The tool is available for free download to IT Business Edge members here in the IT Downloads library.
After you complete the questionnaire, the Excel-based tool gives you suggestions on which version of SharePoint is the best fit for you, as you can see in the figure below.
The questionnaire is quite extensive; you will need to have done your homework about the project before you complete the form.
Issues you will be asked about include:
In our example, we described our business as having 250 potential SharePoint users and a moderately complex IT environment. We planned on using pretty much the full scope of SharePoint's functionality, except for building external portals and business intelligence, but we don't plan on doing a lot of customization. We also will rely mostly on self-training for support teams and users.
Based on our input, the tool suggested that we go with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, the in-house solution. It also gave us a suggested cost range and an anticipated effort level. Our project does not seem to be shaping up to be a huge effort, but it is more substantial than what you'd likely see for a shop simply going with services-based SharePoint for one or two tasks.
The tool also offers you a look at the benefits you can actually expect to realize from SharePoint, which of course has the potential to impact a wide breadth of your business. In our example, we can expect to get a big payoff in internal communications and data entry quality, but not so much in IT time savings, as you can see in the image below.
If you are seriously considering a SharePoint initiative for your shop, you should check out these other resources, also available in the IT Downloads library:
The SharePoint Planning and Deployment Checklist, from Toolkit Cafe, gives you a good idea of the technical housekeeping you will need to undertake to get ready for SharePoint. It covers issues such as server hardware requirements, SQL Server deployment and the service accounts you will need to set up in SharePoint before you set up your first site.
In the book excerpt "Top 60 Custom Solutions Built on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010," author Yaroslav Pentsarskyy examines potential applications of SharePoint from a .NET developer's point of view. It is a good resource to share with your IT team as background on the wide range of applications SharePoint can have for your business.