SharePoint Online Case Study – Part Two

Issues and Recommendations

What do you see as the main function of SharePoint?
“Organizing and archiving of enterprise data for retrieval and reviews. A ‘Hub’ of information and resources”

C.M – Risk Analyst

Issue – Lack of Clarity 

SharePoint suffers from a lack of user clarity. When asked, users were mostly unable to determine what the product is designed to do. While many users identified SharePoint as where they could find communal documents, other uses of the product weren’t mentioned. Many interviewees don’t see SharePoint as a collaboration space, instead seeing it as a browser-based file share. This is a big issue. Microsoft defines SharePoint as “a cloud-based service that helps organizations share and manage content, knowledge, and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information…(and) seamlessly collaborate across the organization”. By ignoring the collaborative uses of SharePoint, users are handicapping the system. User adoption will not increase unless SharePoint is seen as a tool that increases work efficiency more than an attachment on an email. 

Suggested Processes

  • Education
    • This corporate organization lacks formal SharePoint education. When new employees arrive they are given little more than a link to the intranet. I recommend that all incoming employees receive one hour of SharePoint training as part of their onboarding. This will not only serve as an introduction to SharePoint for new users but can educate experienced SharePoint users on the corporate architecture, permissions and capabilities. 
  • Focus on the “hits”
    • When asked to identify what aspects of SharePoint are easy to use, respondents replied viewing, creating and searching for documents. I recommended that stakeholders move entirely to a SharePoint document management solution to increase SharePoint engagement. While users will fall back on old habits like using email as a repository, decommissioning old shared drives and other legacy operations will move users to SharePoint for the majority of their document management functionality.
  • Find your advocates and build them a showpiece
    • Every organization has its a mix of Luddites and early adopters. Throughout my research, I learned which of the Product Managers couldn’t wait to speak with me about new ideas they had for the platform and which hid from me in the halls. Don’t force users against their will. Instead, seek out your interested super users and build them a tool that will set a new standard. Positive word of mouth will help convert reticent users. 

Outcome Hypothesis 

Educating users about SharePoint functionality will teach not only what SharePoint can do but what it is already doing successfully. It is unrealistic to provide training materials in a bubble and hope users learn. Instead, training and education should take a carrot approach. Users will learn about the product from existing successes within or outside their team.

What do you see as the main function of SharePoint?

“Deployment approvals and tracking, deliverables approvals and storage, and capturing metrics on deliverables”

M.J. – Software Configuration Manager

Issue – Users Prefer Familiar Applications

Microsoft Office 365 is optimally designed for users to work within the cloud. Workspaces are anywhere with internet access and users expect their information to be accessible from any device. The results of this survey revealed that Government users of SharePoint preferred to work offline, seeing SharePoint as an online shared drive instead of part of a cloud-based OS.

When asked “How do you share documents with your team members?”, eighteen responded “Attach the documents to an email“, four replied “Send a link to SharePoint in an Email” yet no one selected “Use the Share functionality within SharePoint”. This wasn’t the only question that touched upon the participants’ reticence to use cloud features. When asked, “How do you prefer to edit documents within SharePoint? twelve users answered “In its native program (word, excel, etc) “, then eight users with “I do not use SharePoint to edit documents. I only upload documents to SharePoint after they are completed”. Only one user said they used the in-browser functionality to update documents. Both of these research questions confirm my suspicions that users are ignoring the cloud functionality essential to SharePoint and favoring workarounds.

Suggested Processes

  • Force users to adapt
  • Force most users to adapt
    • The desktop versions of Microsoft applications have a larger range of features than their online counterparts. Employees working within publishing should have the desktop version of Word, finance should have the desktop version of Excel and other departments will need the most robust version available. My recommendation is that these exceptions be standardized and users should share and store their work via SharePoint. 

Outcome Hypothesis 

According to Moe Abdula the VP of Cloud Architecture and Solution Engineering at IBM, “If an organization values cooperation, growth, and empowerment, it can more easily embrace change, making it more likely to succeed in digital transformation.” Current office culture is open to process changes, such as the recent move to SAFe Agile. If the majority of employees were moved to a cloud-only work environment, there would be increased use of SharePoint’s collaboration features. This would reduce document redundancies, confusion about storage location and, with corporate training effort, grow user knowledge of Office 365 tools. According to Microsoft, over 90% of Fortune 500 companies use a cloud service. It’s time for users to adapt and thrive in the office of today, not yesteryear.