The first time I heard about SharePoint Saturdays (SPS), I did a double-take. What? People attend an event run by volunteers to learn more about SharePoint? Then I saw how many of these free sessions exist around the world. It turns out that with 100 million active users, there is plenty of interest in SharePoint and how to use it beyond collaboration.

SharePoint

Digital transformation with the SharePoint platform

“Over the years, SharePoint’s wide wingspan of features has earned ardent fans and attracted even more passionate criticism — user complaints are a likely side-effect when attempting to be all things to all people.”

 — AIIM Article: “Where are you on the SharePoint spectrum?

Organizations often don’t realize the power they have in their SharePoint platform, but they want to investigate further on how they can better use it.  As with every solution, the right fit depends on which problem you are trying to solve.  And, you need the right expertise to help you get your projects done.

It is an interesting dynamic – the lovers and haters of SharePoint.  As the AIIM study suggests, some organizations do not even consider SharePoint, which demonstrates a “marked lack of awareness within the user community regarding the capabilities of SharePoint, both in stock capabilities and extended potential with add-on products.”

What is really going on?  We thought we’d take a look at a few elements that make up the love/hate relationship.

1. Lack of knowledge on stock capabilities

  • Communication (there’s a mobile app)
  • Collaboration (version control)
  • SharePoint Groups (DIY-don’t need it)
  • Integration (platform integrates with third-party solutions for, e.g., workflow)

The key thing here is you don’t know what you don’t know.  Those SPS not only have users attending to find out about specific capabilities, but also they get an “aha” moment when they see something they do not realize is possible.

2. Lack of knowledge on add-on products

Much of the potential for extending the use of the SharePoint platform comes with enlisting your IT department or external consultants for SharePoint services to help deliver the functionality you want with the proper third-party solution. 

But, if your IT department is already focused on managing your organization’s networks, CRM, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) , etc., tackling a SharePoint project is best done with the help of external experts who have SharePoint services as their sole focus.

What does that mean exactly – SharePoint services? Here’s a short list:

  • Content migration
  • Office 365 – fast track
  • Information architecture and taxonomy design
  • ECM and records management
  • Collaboration and portals
  • Workflow and online forms
  • Custom development and branding

3. Lack of timely execution for expansion projects

We hear complaints, like, “It was a great idea to use SharePoint as the platform for content management and workflow, but the project stalled leaving an air of dissatisfaction.” It is the lack of knowledge that leads to a slow pace – even as the developer learns as he goes.  It makes the case for seeking out a SharePoint services specialist – which coincidentally, the attendees of the SPS are doing, albeit on an informal basis.

“… despite its intuitiveness, SharePoint implementation is a process — a journey. Like many IT projects, end users must develop a strategy and plan of action to resolve bumps in the road along the way.”

--AIIM Article: “Where are you on the SharePoint spectrum?

4. Lack of adoption for new capabilities

“We tried with SharePoint, but it just didn’t work out.” 

This sounds rather innocuous, but somewhere from the exciting start of the plan to the endpoint, the enthusiasm and interest died out.  You don’t necessarily need an evangelist for the project development, but clearly, there is an expectation of what your SharePoint development is going to do for the user.  The rather lackluster interest for the SharePoint expansion suggests something went wrong in the planning, timeframe for development, outcome or training for users.  That missing passion will taint SharePoint for immediate user engagement and future expansion.

5. Lack of a true understanding

You thought you were going to get something and you didn’t because you really did not understand the limitations of the platform, or the integration to the platform. 

Here, the lack of knowledge falls to the communication during the assessment stage. You outline what you want the extension to do – and truly, you need to get a robust, dedicated solution for all the functionality that you want. Put simply, you want a content management system for the enterprise with not only workflow, but mobile access to your centralized repository that allows for case management for building inspectors or field engineers. But you try to make it work with SharePoint, and you learn that a jack of all trades still has limitations.

While there is interest in using SharePoint for more than collaboration, there have been missteps in the planning and execution that has made organizations abandon SharePoint for more than its core functions.  But, as we have seen, it is an internal lack of knowledge and expertise that perpetuates the “haters,” prompting your organization to put experts in place to lead the way to a more satisfying outcome.

Here lies the true value of the SPS.  The lovers are engaged and eager to learn more from their similar-minded peers at the SPS.  It is an interesting phenomenon considering that it is a total volunteer effort for the givers and attendees of the sessions.  Presenters hope to nudge that knowledge window open further in terms of how to use SharePoint, demonstrating solutions for that “aha” moment.  And, providers of SharePoint Services can learn more about the needs of the community and expand or focus their services to be the trusted advisor and consultant. They can take the lead to help the businesses that want to expand their SharePoint services and continue to leverage the platform.  As AIIM notes, it is the “leaders in the space who are experts in getting the most out of their SharePoint solution … .” Some great knowledge to learn and live by.

Joanne E. Novak
Joanne E. Novak

is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for ECM.