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SharePoint opens up tremendous opportunity for organizations of all shapes and sizes.  But like anything this mature and comprehensive, there are very specific challenges that come along with it.

Keys to Successful SharePoint Implementations

SharePoint is, more or less, a technological swiss army knife. It’s a web content management system (WCM). It’s a document management system. It’s a development framework. It’s a collaboration suite. It’s an Enterprise 2.0 style “Corporate Facebook”. It’s got business intelligence tools.  It’s an enterprise search engine. It’s a powerful taxonomy/metadata framework.  Even if we narrow the list to what’s “out of the box”, there’s so much functionality in SharePoint that a comprehensive feature list would easily consume this entire page.

Miller Systems has been working with Microsoft SharePoint for many years and learned a lot along the way. Here’s some advice from the trenches that might help you have a more successful result:

  • SharePoint provides lots of ways to solve any given problem. The decision to use out-of-the-box features vs. a third party add-on vs. a custom developed solution can be very complex. The “right” solution depends on your situation/need.
  • Beware of the “magic demo”: Some things look a lot easier to implement than they are in practice.
  • Balance “the Agile” opportunity with practical adoption challenges.
    • Customizing anything? Write something down first. Even if you’re skipping traditional detailed functional specs, it’s always a good idea to get consensus on primary goals and some key descriptions about experiences before you roll out prototypes.
    • Keep the “spaghetti throwing” within development sandboxes and UAT environments. Respect your production environment as a place where things have been vetted and tested - for people that aren’t necessarily SP experts.
    • Run real pilot programs and treat them with respect. Trying new things can often lead to great results. If you don’t test them with a limited audience and really pay attention to adoption, you’re likely to wind up with an intranet or extranet that’s littered with ½ baked, ½ implemented ideas that erode the entire experience.
  • Use the Managed Metadata Service and folksonomy together with one another to “glue” concepts together.
    • Introduced in SharePoint 2010, the MMS is easily one of the most powerful tools in SharePoint’s arsenal. A good MMS implementation will help organize content, improve search experiences, enable intelligent content re-use, and more.
    • If you’re trying to deliver knowledge management to your organization with SharePoint, your MMS design and implementation is particularly critical.
  • Use Search and Analytics together to improve overall experience. SharePoint provides good user search behavior analysis OOTB. Pay attention to what people are looking for, and configure Best Bets to make important incremental improvements to your results.
  • Don’t be afraid to delegate/enable people with the ability to contribute and update, especially on intranets. If you implement permissions, auditing, workflow, and other governance related features properly, you should be able to achieve a broad delegation model without fear of reprisal.
  • Beware of “site sprawl”. Chaos comes in all sorts of flavors. Respect the boundaries of a SharePoint site – and what it was designed to do. Site sprawl can have undesirable effects on things like consistency of look and feel, a content contributor’s ability to locate and use images and documents, and accidental duplication of files across sites, to name a few.
  • Even in an intranet, design and aesthetics matter. Will a cookie cutter SharePoint experience get your site adopted? You might be surprised - design matters a lot.
  • A little customization can have a dramatic positive impact on WCM adoption.
    • Out of the box, SharePoint contribution experiences provide too many options and take too many steps to create a page in the right place, using the right template(s).
    • Does everyone with privileges to create content on your site really need ALL of the options SP gives you OOTB?
  • Managing SharePoint infrastructure properly is a substantial commitment, and needs are very specific to each organization.
    • “Best Practices” are more specific to the organization and the site experience(s) than they are to the SharePoint framework itself.
    • Performance tuning and upkeep for a site that’s mostly a basic web content publishing site is going to be a very different process than a highly collaborative experience or a site that contains a lot of “mashup” experiences.
    • Consider a cloud-centric or hybrid architecture for your SharePoint deployment.

Does Any of This Sound Familiar? Get in Touch

  • We need to redesign (or build) a new primary intranet or customer portal, and…
    • …We’re considering using SharePoint, but we need to determine if it’s right for us.
    • …We’re settled on SharePoint, but we’ll need help designing the experience and implementing the technology.
  • We think the potential for knowledge management/business intelligence / business process automation/”enterprise 2.0” / with SharePoint is tremendous, but we are going to need some help to make it happen.
  • Our intranet (or customer portal) looks like every other SharePoint site I’ve ever seen. Booo-ring. Nobody’s excited about it. People aren’t using it as much as we know they could be. Can’t we make it look and feel like a “real” web site?
  • We’ve got SharePoint, and we feel like we can and should be doing so much more with it, but we’re having a hard time articulating why. We need some outside expertise and experience.
  • We have a very good SharePoint intranet, but my department/business unit needs some features and/or system integration that’s specific to our group. So far, it’s not available to us. We know it can be done, but we don’t have the resources or expertise.
  • We like the idea of building our public web site in SharePoint, but the out of the box experience to manage it feels really arduous compared to other WCMs we’ve looked at/used. If we could make it easier to create and maintain pages, we’d do it.
  • We’re on the fence about implementing Office 365, Azure, our own in-house SharePoint infrastructure, or some hybrid combination. We could use some objective assistance to make these decisions.