Putting SharePoint Genie Back into the Bottle

Ann All
Slide Show

SharePoint Brings a Wide Range of Benefits

Our partners at Info~Tech Research Group did an extensive survey of businesses to determine the value they are finding in SharePoint, Microsoft's enterprise collaboration, portal and content management platform.

I'm the mother of a 10-year-old, so I know what it's like to repeat something over and over (and over) again, with little reaction from my intended audience. Just this morning, I fetched a pair of socks for my son from a laundry basket and put them on our couch, saying, "Here are your socks" so he could put them on and get ready for his day at camp. About 20 minutes before it was time to go, I noticed he still wasn't wearing shoes and said, "Please put on your shoes. Your socks are on the couch." I repeated this statement with about 3 minutes to go, as I was frantically packing up stuff for my trip to the office.


His response? You guessed it: "I need socks." Everyone knows most 10-year-olds have what we parents call "selective hearing." Apparently most companies with SharePoint installations suffer from this same problem.


Just about every time I write about SharePoint, sharing the advice of consultants and other experts, I mention lack of governance as a common problem and offer steps to address it. Just last month I mentioned results of a recent AIIM survey in which 46 percent of respondents named a lack of strategic plans on how to use SharePoint as their biggest ongoing issue with the software.


Unfortunately this meshed with results from a late 2010 AIIM survey that found less than 50 percent of SharePoint implementations were subject to a formal business case, and that nearly a third of companies with existing enterprise content management or document management systems had not defined how SharePoint fit with those systems. In a post about that survey, I shared some comments from SharePoint users willing to share their experiences with others. Three that stuck out:

  • SharePoint is rather easy to roll out and is attractive to end-users, so the risk is that everybody becomes an administrator and governance is neglected.
  • Need a governance plan FIRST. It is an absolute must and the step CANNOT be skipped under any circumstances.
  • Plan, plan, plan. Really work through governance and content type issues.


Realist (and mom) that I am, I know frequent repetition of this message may convince some - but not all, or even most - companies to heed it. Plenty of others will continue to approach their SharePoint implementations in a disorganized (I'm being kind here) fashion. So it makes good sense to offer advice that may help those with SharePoint installations that have already gotten out of hand.


Nick Inglis, AIIM's SharePoint program manager, suggests in a blog post that companies should revisit the reason(s) they got SharePoint in the first place. (Let's hope you had some reason - though in some cases that may not be true.)


Also ask yourself if SharePoint still matches up well with your business requirements. There are some tools that can help with these assessments in IT Business Edge's IT Downloads, including a SharePoint Decision Tool from our partners at Info~Tech Research Group.


Assuming SharePoint does still suit your needs, you can proceed to what Inglis calls "restor[ing] SharePoint to its glory" by employing third-party tools to reduce sprawl and by establishing rules and permissions to combat future sprawl. In an earlier post filled with suggestions for those considering SharePoint 2010, I shared Gartner analyst Mark Gilbert's recommendation to create a "SharePoint site request form" to reduce rogue content creation.


Of course, users aren't too fond of forms. Companies using too many of them run the risk of being seen as obstructionist by employees. I think companies will encounter less user resistance if they explain up front why a SharePoint form is needed.


That's where my favorite of Inglis' points comes in: Educate the users. Illustrate the appropriate business uses of SharePoint. Maybe throw in some examples of how unchecked SharePoint usage can wreak havoc on efforts to better organize data and make it easier for folks to do their jobs.


The trick is not to get too heavyhanded about it. As Inglis points out, exerting too much control over SharePoint can be as bad as not enough control. It may even prompt some users to start using free Web tools for tasks better suited to SharePoint, adding to corporate risk and creating new informational silos. Inglis offers a best practice that may help: Increase functionality incrementally and keep users informed of changes.

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