Business Magazine

7 Pregame Questions Executives Must Ask to Win at SharePoint

Posted on the 10 October 2012 by Litcom

SharePoint Solutions 150x150 7 Pregame Questions Executives Must Ask to Win at SharePointYou have seen charts and graphs that assure you SharePoint will score a big win for your organization, but how can you be sure? After all, in addition to case studies that point to successful rollouts, you've also heard of the numerous SharePoint implementation failures. SharePoint can change the way you do business by increasing productivity, streamlining processes, and increasing collaboration, but if it is not properly implemented, a failed SharePoint rollout can become a costly mistake.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the job of implementing a new organization-wide technology should not be in the hands of the IT department alone; it belongs under the umbrella of "overall business goals and objectives" with the backing of executive decision makers. So often a SharePoint rollout is delegated to the IT department, without executive buy-in or executive leadership.

Time and time again systems administrators have had a boss come to them and say, "You're the Windows administrator? OK, starting tomorrow, you're also the SharePoint administrator! Your job is to roll it out to the whole company by next week." This creates a disastrous situation for the IT department, for the end users, and for the organization as a whole.

Before you jump in the game and implement SharePoint enterprise-wide, consider the following seven pregame questions that you, as an executive, need to ask to win big at SharePoint.

1) How Does SharePoint Help Us Meet Our Business Objectives?

A SharePoint rollout is as much an executive-level management responsibility as it is an IT function. Any technology rollout must be accompanied by a business case that clearly outlines how the technology will provide quantifiable organizational benefits by solving a problem or helping the organization reach specific goals, SharePoint included.

Instead of starting with "What can SharePoint do for me?" uncover your organization's true business needs and goals by first asking "What is the problem or business opportunity we want to address?" Then determine how specific SharePoint capabilities will help you reach your measurable business objectives.

Avoid falling victim to vague goals, such as "increase productivity," "improve collaboration," or "streamline document management." These business objectives may sound good on the surface but will result in few measurable gains if they are not further defined. Better collaboration is a great goal, but what does that mean in terms of dollars and cents?

Start by finding your organization's pain points, and determine what technology will address them directly. For example, if you find that relying on email to manage projects is inefficient and costly in terms of productivity, define how SharePoint can provide a centralized, collaborative, web-based project management platform to help project stakeholders share project artifacts, such as schedules and status.

Technology fails to provide a return on investment when it does not directly address specified business objectives, as defined by the executive leadership of an organization. However, if the IT department is unaware of these objectives, they cannot partner with the executive team to implement the appropriate technology.

Many executives treat their IT department as a separate entity that just handles technology issues, instead of using it as an organizational pillar that can provide the framework for growth, development, innovation, and the achievement of business goals. Consider sitting down with your IT department to clue them in on what you are trying to achieve as a company and your specific plan for getting there. Open up a dialog to discuss how IT initiatives can help your organization reach its measurable business objectives.

2) What's Missing from Our Current Technology?

Technology, as well as business objectives, change and evolve over time, which is why it is important to evaluate your current technology before implementing a SharePoint rollout or upgrade.

This doesn't just mean evaluating the performance of your current technology; it also means evaluating how your organization uses the technology. Consider these questions:

•Are there tools that your organization does not use?

•Are there other tools that you need but do not have?

•What manual processes can you automate?

•What are your existing business processes, and how will the new technology support them?

•Are there individual tools and programs that could be replaced with SharePoint, such as email applications and spreadsheets?

•Are there any features that are not used but should be?

•Are there features that are activated but do not serve a purpose?

•If you are implementing SharePoint for the first time or initiating an upgrade, what new features are available that will help you reach your business objectives?

It is tempting to set up every feature available on SharePoint, but this is not always the best strategy. Instead, find out which features your organization needs now, which features may need to be phased in sometime in the future, and which features do not need to be implemented at all. Take a hard look at your true business needs and prioritize features by limiting the scope of your rollout to only the features that will address your needs.

A thorough evaluation of your current technology may reveal that you already have the tools in place to address a business need, or you may find a new feature in an upgraded version of SharePoint that fixes an age-old problem. Whatever the case, create a list of must-have features that directly address your business objectives.

 3) Are We Ready for SharePoint?

Before you begin making plans to implement SharePoint, examine the collaboration culture and business process maturity of your organization. These processes must be in place in order to make an informed decision regarding how SharePoint will be used. Resist the temptation to create a tool-centric growth strategy, which ignores the important role that people (stakeholders and end users) and processes play.

4) How Will SharePoint Be Supported by a Change Management Strategy?

An enterprise-wide technology rollout is just as much about people as it is about technology. For a SharePoint rollout to be successful, a change management strategy must be put in place.

This strategy should include a governance definition, adoption plan, training plan, and, most importantly, an understanding of the culture of your organization and what gaps need to be filled. Both the IT department and the executive team need to work together to help end users see the technology as an enabler versus seeing it as another tool mandated by IT.

If they can see how SharePoint solves a pain point, they will see the value of leveraging the technology, but this revelation doesn't come without a change management strategy or without support from the executive team.

5) What Does Your SharePoint Implementation Road Map Look Like?

Once you and your IT department have established a prioritized list of business needs, it is important to ask your IT department to define the implementation road map. A technology implementation road map can help you quantify the budget, allocate resources, and provide accountability. It also allows priorities to be set and specifies which solutions are going to be deployed. An implementation road map should include action points and a timeline.

The following is a list of the most critical areas of focus for your implementation roadmap:

•Properly identifying requirements

•Implementing a proof of concept or pilot

•Designing and architecting the relevant solution

•Developing a plan for migrating data to the new technology

•Defining governance strategies

•Creating an adoption plan

•Installing the software

•Configuring and customizing the software

•Training end users

•Developing a schedule for maintaining the software

6) Who Is Accountable for the Success or Failure of the SharePoint Rollout?

Whether it is fair or not, the blame for a failed IT rollout usually falls on the IT department, but that doesn't mean that as an executive, you are off the hook. A wise man once said, "With great power, comes great responsibility." For decision makers who intend to reap the benefits of a new technology, they should be responsible for investing time in understanding the business value it brings and engaging with the IT department to properly implement it.

To make any initiative successful, the responsibility should be shared by a steering (or governance) committee that is headed by an executive level individual and represented by key business decision makers and IT. This ensures that the business objectives are met, while all of the technical requirements are fulfilled, on time and on budget.

7) What Resources Do We Need for a Successful SharePoint Implementation?

Many technology rollouts live and die by the numbers, but often the executive team is looking at only half the numbers. Yes, the cost of licensing, hardware, storage, and bandwidth are all important, but so is the size of the team implementing the rollout. What makes it even more challenging is that deploying these large enterprise-wide technologies is often thrown on top of your IT department's already busy schedule.

The executive who believes that successfully rolling out enterprise-wide software only entails installing it on a server and sending a mass email telling the organization that they can start using it is pure fallacy. In fact, this is a perfect formula for disaster. To be successful at a SharePoint rollout, you have to do more than just install the software.

Proper planning, engaging the business to properly identify requirements; designing and architecting the relevant solution; defining governance strategies, creating an adoption plan; installing, configuring, customizing and maintaining the software; and managing the entire implementation are all necessary to winning the technology rollout game.

At Litcom, we know that an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of Microsoft SharePoint Server is only one of the keys to a successful implementation and improved communication within an organization. Our SharePoint implementation experience is the foundation for our work. We combine this knowledge with our understanding of the vital roles that project management, business analysis and training play. We bring this knowledge to all client engagements where they quickly recognize the benefits in working with our team of experts.

Let us help your organization avoid the pitfalls of a technology-only SharePoint rollout, preventing your SharePoint site(s) from becoming unused repositories of corporate information. Litcom can assist in implementing Microsoft technologies such as InfoPath or your existing Microsoft Office environment to enable your employees and business partners to develop a seamless workflow.

Contact Litcom: [email protected]


(Source: SharePoint Magazine)

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