Leverage SharePoint to Foster the Culture of Collaboration

Dave Long, Director in the Velocity Solutions Practice, Tribridge

 Microsoft's SharePoint product is in use by over 200,000 organizations to provide content management, social collaboration, and business solutions. Mirroring the overall ovement to cloud-based solutions, Microsoft has been focusing on making cloud and mobile experiences with SharePoint  first-class. The adoption of SharePoint in Office 365 was initially slow, but over the last two years, it has grown steadily from around 15 percent to over 40 percent of organizations using Microsoft's cloud version. We only see that growing even more over the next few years. Microsoft's 2016 release of the new on-premise SharePoint Server was a key piece to allow the continued migration to their cloud solution as it provided enhanced hybrid support.

Rededication to SharePoint

SharePoint has been the leading collaboration tool in the market for some time. That said, there are many organizations that found the technology to be difficult to work with and may have set it aside. Microsoft has been very focused on improving the collaborative experience with SharePoint while pushing into the cloud with Office 365. The improvements will be exciting for existing users of SharePoint and may provide the impetus for those that have been less enthusiastic about the offering to come back and give it another shot. This year we have seen a rededication to SharePoint by Microsoft that should see a host of new capabilities come to market over the next 18 months.

Solidifying Collaboration

Organizations that are moving to SharePoint are faced with some significant challenges. The first of these challenges is to decide where they are going to host the environment. On premise, private cloud, Office 365 - each has its own advantages and disadvantages. In most cases, Office 365 will be your best choice unless you have some very specific customization needs or third party integrations. The next challenge will be to design a collaboration environment that improve the communication between teams. Too often, technology and its governance inhibits a team's ability to collaborate. Also, realize that governance needs vary based on where you may be in the portal. It will also be important to establish a roadmap for the organization. SharePoint has a significant footprint of capabilities. Having a long-term roadmap with milestones and checkpoints will allow you to phase the advanced capabilities at a pace your employees can absorb without being over whelmed.

Well-planned Innovation

The business technology highway is littered with failed experiments, wasted time and money. There have been many "technologies in search of a problem' over the years. And while there are times we mourn the loss of time and money from our failures, it's all worth while when we find that transformational technology. The key is balance. Every business is different with their own tolerances for risk driven by the vision of the leadership team. Always keeping an eye open for the next "killer app" is something even the most conservative organization should be doing. Otherwise, the next technological breakthrough could be your last!

Understanding Business Requirements and Your Team

The exponential pace of change in technology continues to march forward making our lives both exciting and frustrating. SharePoint has entered a stage where it seems nothing is what it once was. Microsoft rolls out new SharePoint based solutions seemingly every day. It's enough to make your head spin. So, where does this leave the technology executive in providing direction for the organization? If you understand your organization's needs and capabilities, you may just find your answer. If needs are basic, you may need to be a benevolent dictator, decide on the most beneficial collaboration solution and stick with that. But, if you work with more forward thinking, creative types you will need to become a technology advocate and enabler that provides the organization with choices. I believe this is where Microsoft has brought their SharePoint collaboration technologies and specifically the Office 365 Groups feature. Some teams may simply use e-mail, while others build their work around the Planner app. Even more teams may use Yammer with others using the new Microsoft Teams. Of course, we still have SharePoint as your core Intranet solution. While this seems like a very disjointed approach, we have the magic of the incredible Office Graph indexing content, finding relationships between content and activities from e-mail, social interactions, documents, and other information. Much like the playgrounds of our youth - every one had their favorite things they spent time on, but we were all still together. And the same is true in our Office 365 environment.

Keeping Up-to-date

More and more, staying current on technology is table stakes for companies hoping to remain competitive. Milking a few more years out of your technology investments could negatively impact your organization's ability to be responsive. This is a key driver for considering cloud based solutions. You can scale up or down as necessary while eliminating hardware costs. But one of the best features of moving to the cloud is the ability to keep your software up to date. No more massive upgrades to plan for and agonize over. The latest capabilities are never far away.

Training and Communications

If you are considering implementing SharePoint, remember this: it's not just about the technology. This is as much a marketing effort as it is a technology effort. You need to create a culture of collaboration. That culture starts with the leadership team who has to be onboard and supportive of the changes. Then find champions within the business and leverage their enthusiasm. Pick low cost/high impact solutions to roll out first to show some quick wins. And most importantly, training and communications will be the difference between a successful outcome and another failed technology initiative.