8 More Things to Know about SharePoint

I wrote this for John Mancini’s Digital Landfill blog on 9/3/2009

1. Most users like SharePoint in spite of some weaknesses.

You already knew this, but strong user preferences for SharePoint sites translate into value in many ways. SharePoint is intuitive, especially after you learn your first SharePoint application. SharePoint provides much more familiarity and consistency through its user interface than competing applications. SharePoint makes it easy to build and administer sites for many types of user groups. Most SharePoint users implement SharePoint in ungoverned sites that give them flexibility and ease of use that are unlike many of their prior deployments of document management or collaborative tools. This favorable response and acceptance is a strength that you can leverage in your SharePoint deployments.

2. SharePoint can do everything — given enough time and resources.

Like most myths, this one contains a kernel of truth. SharePoint is a software development platform. Similar to many competing software development platforms, anything can be built in SharePoint. This does not mean that everything should be built in SharePoint. There are some things that SharePoint does really well, such as collaboration and knowledge management sites, and some things that require endless customization. Building a large corporate website with complex data integration requirements took our team much more work than we expected in SharePoint 2007. Make sure you are using SharePoint for the right tasks and applications.

3. Management expects SharePoint to win the standards battle.

This conclusion is a little less expected. It is surprising how many management teams, both on the business and IT sides of organizations, expect SharePoint to become the standard for enterprise content and document and records management. Because of the incumbent SharePoint siblings, Microsoft Office, Exchange and Windows, management teams give SharePoint much more of the benefit of the doubt than they gave the competing ECM or EDM or WCM or BPM or RM products that provided similar functionality. You know a product is important when it is expected to triumph in areas where its current capabilities are not yet as competitive as they should be. Make sure you understand your management team’s biases and perspectives on SharePoint.

What can you do to make SharePoint more of a success in your organization? Here are several recommendations:

4. Take advantage of the job Microsoft has done in positioning SharePoint to replace shared drives.

Replacing shared drives with SharePoint is an obvious killer application. SharePoint provides features, including robust search, filters and views and a browser interface used to locate and manage content, that are much better than navigating through badly governed share drives with Microsoft Office or Windows Explorer. A well planned migration from share drives to SharePoint sites delivers value almost immediately. Because of the large volumes of content to be reviewed and ingested, there is more work to establishing these SharePoint sites than many users expect. Investments in indexing, categorization, tagging and auto-classification tools to improve the accuracy of content metadata will save you time and money. It is also critical to decide how the sites should be standardized across the organization, so that the needs of both individuals and departments are satisfied, while the enterprise compliance and records management needs are fulfilled.

5. Establish an Information Lifecycle: one key to effective governance in SharePoint implementation.

A standard lifecycle establishes states for all content types from their creation or receipt through their ultimate destruction. Information lifecycle standards ensure that content is managed consistently in SharePoint sites across the organization. The reason that a standard information lifecycle is so important is that it enables the management of SharePoint content using classification, file plan, and retention rules. This allows for much better enforcement of standards and governance across SharePoint sites and site collections.

6. Establish SharePoint site auto-provisioning: another key to the consistent implementation of SharePoint sites and site collections in large organizations.

If you are going to have thousands of sites, it is important that they be created with the SharePoint standards embedded within them, including navigation, search, content types, information policies, lifecycle management, retention management, governance, and many more. Provisioning tools that rapidly create sites with standard components embedded make the management of an enterprise full of SharePoint sites so much easier.

7. Understand that SharePoint has the potential to be one of the biggest and most difficult challenges in the history of IT.

One way to think of SharePoint is as a logical successor to the functions to which Lotus Notes aspired 15 years ago. Anyone can use the free SharePoint components to build a site and begin to collaborate or share information. Unfortunately, it is going to be difficult to find, share, and manage information across thousands of SharePoint sites that were built inconsistently with non-existent or incompatible content types and information policies. The logical result is that information governance will be more difficult instead of easier. On a really big scale. It is critically important to plan thoroughly to take full advantage of all that SharePoint 2007 and 2010 have to offer.

8. Plan now for the migration of current sites to SharePoint 2010.

Early planning is the key to taking advantage of all the new things that SharePoint 2010 has to offer. In many ways, the “euphoria” phase is over with SharePoint 2007, and we are in the “rehabilitation” phase, where people are taking a harder look at getting this tool under control. We believe that planning and implementing SharePoint 2010 is going to be a big event in many organizations. An understanding of the architecture, capabilities and limitations of SharePoint 2010 will help you guide the implementation of SharePoint 2007 applications and infrastructure. The best way to ensure the long term sustainability of your SharePoint sites is to make sure that they are consistently implemented from the first one. It is too late for most organizations to do this from the first site for SharePoint 2007, but 2010 is a new ball game!

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