Search icon Looking for something?

How to Encourage Good Use of SharePoint
2011, Q3 (October 02, 2011)
By David Dick, STC Fellow

David Dick
David Dick
Many organizations are adopting Microsoft SharePoint as a content management system, and view it as a low-cost alternative to a high-end content management system. However, just because an organization has SharePoint, does not mean that everyone is aware it is available. Likewise, just because it is available does not mean everyone will use it or wants to use it. The paradox is that nobody knows how to win user acceptance, and how to transition users from maintaining documents on desktops and share drives to SharePoint.

I faced these problems when I took the initiative to transition my coworkers from maintaining documentation on a share drive to SharePoint. The transition was mostly to my benefit because it would centralize documentation and enhance collaboration. This article describes my efforts to encourage good use of SharePoint and lessons learned.

Opportunity for Change

I recognized the opportunity for change when I saw the situation of my coworkers.
  • Multiple versions of a document were stored on individuals’ desktops and on a network shared drive. The owners of the documents didn’t always have the latest version.
  • Documentation reviews involved e-mailing a document to several people who returned the documents with markups. Electronic versions of the document had distinctive file names to denote the names of the people who made the changes.
  • Occasionally, documents were deleted from the share drive. Recovering the document meant asking the help desk to restore the file from the previous backup. Restoration of the document was not a priority for the help desk.
  • Folders on the share drive were listed by project name and sub-folders named by categories such as user guide, system design document, and project charter. The latest version was not always in the folder—it could be on anyone’s desktop.
  • Documents on the shared drive were not indexed, which complicated finding them using a search tool.
  • The share drive did not support version history, which encouraged saving every document with a version number.

Introducing a new technology to the workplace involves change that is rarely welcomed. SharePoint could easily solve the above problems if I could convince coworkers to use SharePoint.
An important step towards winning user acceptance and encourage proper use is to train users on the fundamentals and good practice to avert bad habits from forming.

Convincing Skeptics and Winning Proponents

While navigating the corporate intranet, I discovered that somebody tried to introduce SharePoint in 2007 and created SharePoint sites for several projects and divisions. Most of those sites either were under construction, dormant, or contained a few documents of no value to establish a presence. How could a potentially valuable tool be so underused?

Three factors contributed to lack of interest in SharePoint:
  • SharePoint did not have the support of management to champion its use.
  • Management did not have a rollout strategy.
  • Users were not taught how to use SharePoint.

I never aspired to evangelize SharePoint throughout the organization, only to one small group: my coworkers.

I discussed the use of SharePoint with my project’s team leader who, fortunately for me, was willing to discuss opportunities for getting people to work together and improving documentation management. If SharePoint could satisfy his expectations, he was willing to consider it. This story could have easily ended here if the team leader were against using SharePoint; however, he offered to be a champion for change.

The SharePoint System Administrator gave me permission to have full control of the SharePoint site that was created for the project. Following the guidelines written in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Best Practices, I enhanced the site with SharePoint’s out-of-the-box templates such as calendars, announcements, and documentation libraries. I introduced the new project site to my coworkers at our weekly team meeting and did a walk-through of its features and functions.

Access control and user privileges were an important concern of managers. Corporate policy required that the project’s home page be accessible throughout the organization. But my manager did not want external audiences to view documents, calendars, and announcements.

SharePoint makes it possible to restrict access at every level of the site. Best practices suggested assigning individuals to user groups. The SharePoint System Administrator created user groups for Site Owner, Manager, Contributor, and Reader. And over time, my manager agreed to allow selected parts of the home page to be visible to external audiences.

When I proved that adequate control was established, my role evolved from being the custodian of the SharePoint site to maintaining the site and promoting best practices. I provided individual training on how to use SharePoint, which helped to alleviate anxiety my coworkers had from using SharePoint in the past. I also provided my coworkers with a quick reference card for using SharePoint.

I was the point of contact for all concerns, complaints, and problems with SharePoint. My supervisor agreed that familiarity with SharePoint would be part of everyone’s job description. Within six months, my coworkers became acquainted with basic features and functions, and I received fewer requests to help them.

The SharePoint Project Site Today

Our project’s SharePoint site has evolved into a dashboard and became an integral part of project communication.
  • The Home page has two calendars: one to track absences and meetings, and another to track when developers are on-call and when new releases of software are ready for production.
  • Important links to Web sites and documents on the corporate intranet are accessible from our SharePoint Home page.
  • We send links to documents instead of attaching documents to e-mails.
  • When we conduct peer reviews, peer reviewers checkout a document, enter comments, check it in, and inform the next person that the document is ready for review. We use SharePoint’s reporting tool to track the progress of peer reviews.
  • The network shared drive is seldom used for documentation except for a few external people who could not be convinced to use SharePoint.

Microsoft Office products seamlessly interface with SharePoint. However, for the interface to work, the organization must be running SharePoint 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007 and above. My employer runs Microsoft Office 2003 and SharePoint 2007, which are not compatible. As soon as the organization upgrades to Microsoft Office 2010, I will train coworkers on how to take advantage of SharePoint’s ability to interface with PowerPoint, Outlook, Word, and Excel.

Lessons Learned

  • Introducing a new technology to the workplace involves change, which is not always welcomed, so be prepared to address stakeholders’ concerns and issues.
  • An important step towards winning user acceptance and encourage proper use is to train users on the fundamentals and good practices to prevent bad habits.
  • To encourage user acceptance, always be prepared to help users.

SharePoint is not always properly implemented and maintained, which results in significantly slow response times during peak use and frequent system crashes—none of which you have control over. Consequently, people quickly lose trust in SharePoint and revert to their familiar way of working. This situation fuels the skeptic’s argument that SharePoint is not a reliable tool, so be prepared to address these issues and concerns.

SharePoint is more than a platform for a Web site, file repository, blogs, and wikis. In the hands of an experienced SharePoint System Administrator, the out-of-the-box features can be tailored into multiple business solutions that will enhance communication and collaboration.

Recommended Reading and Resources

Microsoft offers free introductory SharePoint training courses. Each course includes video lessons, a quiz (not scored), and a printable Quick Reference Card. See SharePoint Training at your Desk. SharePoint for Dummies was written for technical and non-technical audiences on how to install and manage a SharePoint portal.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Best Practices presents proven techniques for designing, deploying, operating, and optimizing Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. This book is not intended for novice users, but it is well written and is a helpful in learning the anatomy of SharePoint.

About the Author
David is a member of the Washington, D.C. Chapter and works as a contractor for a government agency in northern Virginia. David is editor of Usability Interface, the newsletter of the User and User Experience community.

David Dick can be reached at Davidjdick2000 at yahoo dot com. End of article.

More articles like this...
Comments powered by Disqus.