Three Secrets to Successful SharePoint Adoption

Across the board, companies implementing SharePoint often struggle with employee adoption. How can employers assure a successful SharePoint implementation?

January 18, 2017 by Alex Collins, IT Services Consultant

Despite the obvious advantages of adopting SharePoint for use within their companies, for many companies, getting users onboard remains an uphill battle.

A recent study reported by Techarex Networks talked to over 200 respondents, and the results weren't pretty. Over 40 percent of interviewees considered their own SharePoint server implementations as failures, with over 60 percent of that group blaming the failure on inadequate training; the perceived tedium of using SharePoint; and the lack of support from upper management.

What we have here is a failure to make Sharepoint relevant for its end-users.

In many instances, executives and IT people fail to design their implementation with the end-users' actual needs in mind. What motivation would users have to share boring or irrelevant content originated by the C-suite? How can users cope with a confusing mess of features and complicated steps designed by an over-eager IT department?

The trick is not to get to the point where you have a full implementation completely divorced from the end-users' own needs. From the beginning, you'll need buy-in from all users.

“It’s a good idea to seek input from all these different types of end-users and incorporate that input into the planning as early as possible,” suggests Dennis Junk, Aptera content strategist.  “Involving users in the process gives them a stake in its success, making this one of the most effective ways to increase eventual adoption.

“If you have a say in how a solution works, you’re more likely to find it easy to use once it’s finished.”

Once you've got your users in line, there's more that you can do to address the other perceived problems with SharePoint.

Secret 1: start small, dream big.  According to Techarex' report, about 66 percent of the respondents considered SharePoint “too tedious to use”, and just over half complained that they lacked technical expertise to use the platform. It might not just be the platform – it could be psychology at work.

“Users are very resistant to change,” explains Greg Zelfond, SharePoint consultant. “If they used folders to organize documents for the last 20 years and one day you tell them to forget whatever they did and switch to SharePoint metadata – you are setting yourself up for a failure.”

To ease users into the new paradigm, Zelfond suggests a gradual implementation. “Split your SharePoint migration into smaller/manageable projects/phases/sites,” he says. “Prioritize them and roll out one by one.”

Jasper Oosterveld, Sparked Microsoft MVP, believes step-by-step implementation can foster small triumphs that can build up to bigger ones.

“You are able to realize quick-wins and share these as success stories!” says Oosterveld. “Other departments and business users get interested in SharePoint, see the advantages and the success it can bring... Step by step, you keep expanding your SharePoint solution.

“Getting closer to the ultimate goal: Successful adoption of SharePoint solution.”

Secret 2: hold regular knowledge sessions for your users. Training should be a no-brainer, but a full 67 percent of respondents in the earlier survey complained about inadequate user training.

For Jasper Oosterveld, users should be acquainted with SharePoint benefits before implementation begins - “Organize knowledge sessions that show the power and advantages of these features,” he explains, suggesting this be done early and often.

“Organize these sessions every quarter, because not every business user will be able to join your session…. [and] try to keep the sessions around 45 minutes (or less) because the concentration of the attendees will drop rapidly after 30 minutes.”

Relevance to your userbase is key: “Are you working for a financial institute? Use content related to a financial institute and not related to an insurance company,” says Oosterveld. “It’s a lot easier for people to connect and relate to your demo when they recognize the content.”

Secret 3: Find a SharePoint champion among your userbase. About 64 percent of survey respondents reported that senior management provided no support for their SharePoint deployment, guaranteeing failure.

Without internal support, SharePoint implementations cannot help but fail – but SharePoint maven Greg Zelfond suggests that you can counteract this by finding power users and SharePoint advocates within your user base – not necessarily within upper management.

“In every organization there are users who are a bit more techy or excited about the change…. Take advantage of them!” says Zelfond. “Involve them every step of the way, organize a 'SharePoint Power Users Team' – meet regularly – solicit feedback. Also, use power users as a funnel to other members of your organization.”

By finding champions within the users and outside the usual power centers of the IT department and the C-suite, you ensure the SharePoint implementation's success among the rank and file: an advocate for SharePoint that can answer questions and demonstrate the platform's usefulness for their peers.

Are you failing in your SharePoint implementation… or succeeding? To go by the tips we've listed above, it doesn't take much to consign your project to failure… but with support from your userbase, managing a successful implementation turns out to be simpler than most people think!