SharePoint 2010: 10 Tips for Creating a Collaborative Framework

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SharePoint provides companies a way to promote dynamic knowledge exchange and to foster common purpose among employees. Microsoft’s one-stop “content and collaboration” platform has been around since 2001. However, it didn’t see widespread adoption until the debut of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 and the platform’s integration with social software, such as blogs, wikis, and social networking websites.

The current version, SharePoint 2010, has been substantially upgraded and now provides a diverse range of enterprise deployments. Site editing has been made easier and more intuitive since the inclusion of the MS Office-style Ribbon. This new release also simplifies the process of tagging and aggregating data. Moreover, a new set of community features enables users to share data, similar to Twitter and Facebook. The platform features better integration both with the company’s FAST search engine as well as with PerformancePoint, Microsoft’s business intelligence software.

SharePoint has consistently increased in complexity over time and now includes new capabilities, such as cloud service and Silverlight development, among a host of other additions. In order to achieve a smooth transition to using SharePoint 2010, there are a number of areas to keep in mind. Here are ten tips that suggest ways to bring together multiple data flows, improve information sharing, and create an effective collaborative framework for your company.

1. Identify exactly how SharePoint can support enterprise-wide communication and where it fits best within your information structure before implementation.

You should realize that collaboration is already occurring every day within your company. SharePoint 2010 offers a means for strengthening and supporting those interactions. However, before integrating the platform into your organization, take the time to assess.

Recognize that the collaborative nature of your organization is defined by every meeting, status report, document review or hallway conversation. By taking time to identify places in your business flow where SharePoint 2010 can provide both the structure and the means for fostering better communication, you’ll avoid a trial-and-error approach and wasting important project time.

Ultimately, you’ll be implementing SharePoint 2010 not only to increase the quality and number of collaborations within your company (although it will do that), but also to maintain and strengthen the collaborations that are already in place. Increasing efficiency in the business flow is one of the key areas where SharePoint can make a difference for your company, whether it’s in the pre-planning stage for projects, in building infrastructures, or in achieving milestones.

2. Start your implementation by first understanding the strategic and tactical goals you hope to achieve.

Creating a clear roadmap for the incremental roll-out of SharePoint 2010 within your organization indicates how your organization can best assimilate the platform’s broad functionality over time. In many companies, keeping a balance between a secure and stable information structure and allowing users the freedom to exert their own control can be complicated. SharePoint 2010 offers a range of functions that surpass earlier versions and allows you to achieve that balance.

For example, Business Connectivity Services (BCS) and SharePoint Workspace have both evolved from their earlier incarnations in MOSS 2007. These improvements enable users to alter data and ensure that any changes will be updated to back-end services, including applications, Web services, databases, and documents.

3. Take a business-focused approach when implementing SharePoint 2010.

This means examining the true needs of your company. By understanding how and where SharePoint best fits into your organization from an ROI standpoint, you can effectively evaluate the multitude of functionalities the platform provides and which ones work best within your company.

For example, if SharePoint is chosen as a collaborative tool from a primarily technology-based approach without ROI consideration, it can lead to inadequate solutions, information overload, improper hardware deployment, and ineffective user practices. These deficiencies are frequently due to lack of communication with managerial leaders regarding specific business goals and fully understanding the direction a company is heading in.

Your goal is to select the proper SharePoint solution at the right cost and with an acceptable amount of risk for the business. Remember, it’s not technology that brings success, it’s the communication it enables.

4. Take the initiative to put a training regimen in place and set aside ample time to train employees effectively.

Organic growth in the use of SharePoint within your organization over time is an impressive achievement to witness. When end-users create their own business solutions, wikis, intranets, forums, and document libraries, to name a few, the benefit to your company can be immense. This is all based on proper guidance and taking the necessary time to put in place the right learning protocols.

To that end, providing a SharePoint sandbox for experimentation will increase the likelihood that users will take the initiative to educate themselves on what the platform can do. Users may feel intimidated by SharePoint’s complexity and frustrated by its menus and cryptic options. Trial and error, performed in the right environment, is a vital part of any learning process. And hands-on experimentation helps to ensure that by the time users encounter real-world problems, they’ll be experienced at resolving them using SharePoint.

5. Implement a top-down management approach to promoting SharePoint 2010 across your company.

Without executive backing for SharePoint in your organization, the user community tends not to put as much emphasis on using it. When team members understand that management is fully behind adoption, it provides them with a mandate for using the platform and for learning the features.

Moreover, emphasizing SharePoint ownership through managerial promotion generally translates into a more successful employee adoption. Highlighting team members’ creative and interesting SharePoint solutions, and showing that management is actively behind the platform, are key approaches that will make a difference. Without executive buy-in and communicating an understanding of what SharePoint can do for your company, you may find that this collaborative solution is not rapidly adopted.

6. Create common purpose among employees in using SharePoint 2010 to meeting project goals and reaching targets.

The collaborative process generally involves many different perspectives. Emphasize how the goal of company excellence is shared by all team members. This in turn will influence the level and quality of participation among team members. As soon as users are unified in their purpose and in the means for achieving it, greater productivity will result.

SharePoint’s broad deployment base means that colleagues, partners and customers can work together in new ways. It also requires assimilating a range of opinions and perspectives. The platform offers a level of business connectivity that increases opportunities and strengthens capabilities. However, business direction and an “all-for-one” approach comes from you.

7. Create a collegial, supportive atmosphere that promotes the free-flow of ideas.

This type of environment, coupled with a collaborative platform such as SharePoint, results in a vibrant user community that thinks outside received opinions. This, in turn, can lead to original, dynamic solutions that surpass those of the competition.

Good idea generation is the lifeblood of most successful organizations. And it’s often based on the lively exchange of differing perspectives. Yet in order for opinions and ideas to flourish, a company needs to make a conscious effort to provide the right environment. Creating a beneficial, supportive business atmosphere around sharing ideas using SharePoint promotes participant satisfaction. It creates a willingness to actively contribute to the success of the platform, and to the organization.

8. Recognize that site branding encourages participation and engagement among users.

Branding also shows that the company is one-hundred percent behind the solution and it instills a sense of ownership, further increasing employee adoption of SharePoint.

SharePoint has evolved over time and now includes social networking features, Web 2.0 capabilities, and a growing number of add-ons and plug-ins. In the same way that customization around social networking instills a sense of ownership, a branded site does something similar. It helps to increase respect for the platform, prompts employees to use it more often, and to contribute more frequently.

Establishing a corporate identity with SharePoint and the resulting participation of users reinforces that sense of community. It also simplifies the navigation process making it easier for employees to locate information and perform their tasks.

9. SharePoint adoption doesn’t happen overnight. Acknowledge that it takes time to foster collaborative relationships and to incorporate SharePoint processes into day-to-day business operations.

Users are often resistant to change. For some, it could be based on past experiences with a variety of CRM solutions or ERP systems that may have previously been rolled out by IT. You can overcome resistance by providing frequent and specific communication that spells out exactly how the new SharePoint platform will build the collaborative potential of all your team members.

If resistance and non-compliance does exist, ask team members why they aren’t using the system. Try not to approach the conflict from a mandate position that employees absolutely must use the platform. Realize that time for adoption is a necessary part of the process.

10. Finally, recognize the importance of having effective security measures in place to protect SharePoint 2010 processes and to secure data.

One of the most crucial things to consider is the security of your corporate data and to make sure it’s only being seen by internal members. You also need to ensure that business data stored on SharePoint will be seamlessly available in the event of a server crash or natural disaster. It will affect not only your company’s business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) processes, but user adoption as well.

And remember to educate your users on DR and backup plans in relation to SharePoint. Employees’ lack of confidence regarding the security measures for protecting data they put on SharePoint will ultimately affect their willingness to use the platform.

You should always strive to keep information current and delete old content as much as possible. When users encounter outdated data on SharePoint, such as old documents, obsolete budget numbers and expired contact information, suspicions arise regarding the status of all the data on the platform. Secure data and confidence in the system attracts users because they trust the information there, which leads to increases in adoption and usage.

Conclusion

SharePoint 2010 is a sophisticated enterprise-level collaboration platform. Though it faces challenges from cloud-based productivity software, Microsoft is putting its power behind this desktop-based software and offering a variety of new features that straddle the divide. Whether it’s creating wikis and micro-blogging or document sharing and project management, SharePoint 2010 allows organizations to take collaboration to an entirely new level. As you move forward with adopting the platform, the ten tips offered here are essential for you to understand and to incorporate for a successful implementation. While there’s much more to learn beyond the scope of this white paper, these tips are a good place to get you started.

Related Courses

Advanced IT Pro Course for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

Configuring and Administering Microsoft SharePoint 2010 (M10174)

Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Application Development (M10175)

Utilizing SharePoint 2010 for Project Management

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