SharePoint – Just for Documents?

Whiteboard of request process

Typical Reactions to SharePoint

Whenever I tell someone that I help people learn about and use SharePoint I generally get one of three responses:

  1. What is SharePoint?
  2. I HATE SharePoint.
  3. Why do people need training in SharePoint? Isn’t it just for document storage.

For the first one, I tell them that SharePoint is from Microsoft and helps other Microsoft tools work more seamlessly.  Then, I ask them what they do.

For the second & third response, I usually smile and say “ahh, I can help you with that” or “oh there is so much more that SharePoint can do.”

Many companies introduce SharePoint without thinking about adoption. The terms organic growth and user driven adoption are often used to describe the plan for a corporate implementation of SharePoint. I think either of these plans usually ends up spelling frustration for most people. There will be the few that see this as an opportunity to jump in and learn a new tool, but most will become irritated. They will avoid using SharePoint and the Office365 suite and stay with their current process and tools.

First, Learn the Basics

Learning the basics of working with SharePoint can help eliminate some of the frustrations new users have. How do I find something, where do I put documents and how do I share them, can I track things like action items? Answering these questions early can start turning the tide from seeing SharePoint as an out of touch IT decision into seeing it as a tool to collaborate and streamline business practices. The basics of working with SharePoint need to be shared with everyone in the company. This can usually be done with a short 20-minute video for current employees and added to the on-boarding process. Assuming staff will pick up the skills they need without providing some type of coaching leads to the “I hate SharePoint” response.

As I talk with people who have SharePoint as a tool in their business, I am always listening for the things that they do regularly but find repetitive or discouraging.  Do they work in a department that provides some type of service or product to another department and how is that request handled? Are they constantly asked for updates on projects or when a scheduled event is taking place?

Easy Wins for SharePoint Beyond Document Storage

Over the years I have found one of the easiest wins for SharePoint is optimizing a request process within a company. I worked with one department that was always being asked to ship samples out to other departments within the company. They had been dinged a few times because the requests (which came in via email, instant message, phone call or a sticky note left on a desk) had been received late.

We developed a simple request form using a SharePoint list and an email alert. Included in the form was information about how much lead time they would need and all the other information to make sure that the samples would be correct. The list automatically emailed 2 people in the department anytime someone submitted the form. The team presented this solution to management and then socialized it around to their customers. They did have to help people find the form at first, but we fixed that with a link on their department page and an email that could be sent out to remind folks how to submit requests.

Very quickly they saw the benefits of this request process. They were not only able to eliminate late samples due to lost requests, but also easily report to management how much work they had done each month. The team could identify trends on what was being requested and started being able to predict sample requests.

Increasing Adoption, One Power User at a Time

Now, if I know what information is needed on a request form like this and what the possible answers are, I can usually put this type of form/list together in under an hour. However, what I generally do is sit down with the person who will be the owner of the list and teach them how to create the list, how to edit the fields, change the values and set up the alerts. Yes, this takes more time, but this accomplishes a few things.

  1. Change the “I hate SharePoint” into “this is so great, I didn’t know it could do this”.”
  2. There is now a person who can look around their department and start thinking, “I wonder if SharePoint could help me here?”
  3. I don’t have to worry about supporting the form/list long term because there is a trained, engaged owner in the department – and that usually makes management happy.

Here at Auptimal, we have worked in the business for years, we know the kinds of things SharePoint and Office 365 can offer that will make a difference in everyday business life and we love sharing that with our clients. Check our our upcoming Power User Class