SharePoint Online Case Study – Part One

As a SharePoint professional with over five years of information architecture experience, I have become familiar with usability and adoption issues that accompany the product. It is my experience that companies will spend money and man-power on building information architecture and governance for SharePoint, yet they will ignore the user experience at the cost of adoption. I wish to look into my co-workers’ current use and pain points of SharePoint.


The objective is to gain a deeper understanding of how SharePoint is used throughout the company. I gathered data over several months; user research is just one aspect of my role as SharePoint Designer. I divided my research into two phases. Phase one includes the creation of a user survey to uncover themes in SharePoint use and experience. Phase two tackles producing insights on the functionality identified in the surveys and sharing this with upper management. 

Phase 1 – User Survey

I created a user survey that combines twelve quantitative and qualitative questions. I used Microsoft Forms to host the survey in order to stay within the Microsoft ecosystem. The questions touch on the user’s experience level with SharePoint, how long they have worked at their current company, their role within the company and how they interact with SharePoint during an average workday. The participants are all employees of a government organization, working within either the IT or Project Management department. Twenty five surveys were completed. All of the surveyed users have access to SharePoint Online via the company document management system.


Insights are general observations I discovered across all users surveyed.

Users don’t understand that SharePoint is both a Document Management System and the intranet platform.

  • Less than 10% of users surveyed selected that they used SharePoint to access the corporate home page. Users are mentally separating the intranet from the SharePoint team sites into different platforms.

Users want to learn more.

  • Twenty one out of twenty five people rated the statement “I wish I had the opportunity to use more SharePoint functionality” Mostly True or Very True. Users want to grow their SharePoint acumen and learn more about SharePoint functionality. 
    • One user wrote I know that SharePoint has a lot of impressive functionality. I don’t know where to start with my requests. It seems like there is a bunch more functionality than we are currently using. 

Project Managers are the most likely to use higher-level functionality.

  • Project Manager and SCRUM leader were the most common job titles to provide feedback. Compared to other job titles, Project Mangers and SCRUM leaders were significantly more likely to select more than two tasks that they use SharePoint to complete. 

Functionality Discoveries

Functionality Discovery covers use patterns and other behavioral insights.

Users prefer uploading as opposed to creating documents within SharePoint.

  • SharePoint Online pushes users to work within the cloud as much as possible. For example, users are encouraged to create documents within the browser as opposed to within the desktop program. The survey acknowledged that users prefer to work locally first, often only using SharePoint Online as a repository. Over 80% of surveys select “In its native program” for the answer to “How do you prefer to edit documents in SharePoint?”
    • One survey participant mentioned Documents should always open in the program. The in-browser versions lack basic functionality. 

Users report confidence using SharePoint as a single source of truth. 

  • When asked “What do you see as the main function of SharePoint?”, user responses touch on SharePoint as a common document repository. Survey partakers give positive feedback about project team members having one place to access all documents. Responses similar to “It’s commonplace for project members to go there for information pertaining to their jobs” were popular.

Users request more functionality than out-of-the-box SharePoint can provide. 

  • One of the questionnaire questions was “Is there any way the SharePoint environment isn’t supporting your needs currently?” Responses varied from the general—automated workflows—to hyperspecific—SharePoint isn’t able to create the animated onboarding dashboard we requested. Users want more than the program is designed to do.