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SharePoint Gone Wild: Driving Up Adoption Levels

How to achieve high adoption levels that drive demand for Microsoft SharePoint

In this post, I will cover adoption - one of the key things to be aware of when you're aiming for high adoption levels is that without focus on the aforementioned requirements, adoption will be low. I've been writing these in order for a reason - in order to drive high adoption levels, you must be able to address the other seven business drivers first.

Adoption is one of the key ways to measure the return on investment, and overall success, for SharePoint as a service within an organization. What do we mean by SharePoint adoption? Different organizations measure adoption in different ways:

Size of Data in SharePoint

  • Reduction in file share data size
  • Reduction in attachments in emails and email traffic due to collaboration
  • Average number of concurrent users in SharePoint during work hours
  • Average number of unique visitors per work day
  • Engagement of employees from all departments/divisions in the organization

That list is by no means exhaustive - feel free to let me know what additional ways you measure adoption by commenting at the very bottom of this blog post.

The reason that adoption is important, other than to prove the dollars dropped on investing in SharePoint, are honestly endless. Here are a few horror stories I've heard:

  • Rogue Warriors - I can't even tell you how many times I've heard people spinning up new wiki platforms or blog platforms on hidden servers in the organization because they didn't like SharePoint's blogs or wikis. Often, this is due to the lack of training and the ability for them to have the "keys", or requisite permissions, to create these in SharePoint. Locking down SharePoint can often be a big hindrance to adoption and often, in instances like the one I just mentioned, business users will find it easier to build their own.
  • Confusing - If the information architecture of SharePoint is too confusing, people will push back and, in some extreme cases, will stop using SharePoint as the assigned document management system. They will often then look at other alternatives like DropBox, Google Docs, or even Microsoft Office 365 for their division and bypass IT altogether for the same SharePoint solution where they'll have control.
  • Unaware - Sometimes, assuming people know what SharePoint can offer the organization is the first - and potentially biggest - mistake. If employees are not aware of the initiative, obviously the adoption is going to be low. Unfortunately, it also increases the risk of them looking for alternative software platforms.

I have worked with a lot of large organizations and change management experts in Australia on adoption strategies of SharePoint. The key lesson I learned is that communication plans are extremely important. Organizations I worked with tended to rely heavily on email as the only way to communicate with their employees, but there are plenty of other mediums you can use:

  • Intranet - Maybe that is already on SharePoint, and typically is the homepage of each employee's computer workstation web browser. The key with this is to ensure that content stays "fresh" on the Intranet homepage so employees don't start to ignore it every morning because they expect a dearth of content updates. The Intranet needs to be "sticky" and bring employees back to explore for new content.
  • Posters - Those bland walls in your office, with the occasional splash of health-and-safety posers, are boring. Brighten up your office, and stir conversations among employees, with some posters to promote your ongoing initiatives.
  • Mouse Pads - I've actually seen a lot of organizations get mouse pads printed with the new initiatives in order to promote the new solution in SharePoint, such as the new Document Management System or new Collaboration Project system.
  • Naming Competitions - Personally this one makes me cringe, but it's a very effective way to get people talking and having a giggle. Getting them to name the new solution, such as the Intranet, is often a way to encourage collaboration on the ramp up to launch. If you do this, though, expect to receive weird names like iTrevor or iBroccoli like I witnessed in Western Australia!

There are plenty of other ways to increase communication around initiatives, but these are just a few to get you started. A good friend of mine, Richard Harbridge, has a great list of adoption strategies that you can also use for inspiration.

While these various mediums of communication are great, I believe the most effective one I have seen is engaging champions within your organization to evangelize the initiatives on SharePoint. Having people spread the word costs nothing, in most cases, to the organization. The best way to identify who these champions are is:

  • Executives - The most effective champions I have witnessed are those in the C-Suite. Publishing a video showing either the CEO or CFO explaining how they use SharePoint on a day-to-day basis is extremely powerful. Employees often are encouraged by the enthusiasm from the top, and are motivated to try these things themselves. These can be one-off videos, or even a series featuring various executives on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
  • Business Owners - Look to these members within the governance committee first for a top-down approach. They'll obviously be very enthusiastic about the initiatives they own, and are perfect for walking the office floor or mentioning these projects in key meetings.
  • Gadget Geeks - Scour the office floor looking for employees with tablets on their desk and try and convert them into SharePoint gurus. Typically, tech-savvy employees will like being able to "play" and learn new technology. One approach I've seen is for IT to give them a "sand pit" in which to experiment, and then have brown bag sessions for other employees to see what they've done.

With all of these champions, the best way to encourage more evangelism is to stroke their egos by giving them some limelight. People will start to associate the champions as the right people to ask SharePoint-related questions. Thank them in your day-to-day communications and highlight their brown bag sessions as well as their additional evangelization initiatives. All of this will only encourage more activity in the organization.

Essentially, without adoption you'll have a SharePoint deployment that is woefully underutilized and failing to realize a return on investment. As such, it is important to have clear communications plans from the beginning and understand the importance of cultivating project champions as part of your governance strategy in order to prime your SharePoint deployment for success.

More Stories By Jeremy Thake

Jeremy Thake is AvePoint's Chief Architect. Jeremy’s 10-plus years of experience in the software development industry, along with his expertise in Microsoft technologies, earned him the label of “expert” in the global SharePoint community. He was named a Microsoft SharePoint MVP in 2009, and continues to work directly with enterprise customers and AvePoint’s research & development team to develop solutions that will set the standard for the next generation of collaboration platforms, including Microsoft SharePoint 2013.

Jeremy was one of only eight Microsoft MVPs from Australia, where he lived for seven years, who was recognized by the SharePoint Product Team in 2010 for his extensive contributions to the global SharePoint community. He also played an instrumental role in organizing the Perth SharePoint User Group during his time living there.

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