Many areas of SharePoint planning suffer from SharePoint centricity – in other words focusing on SharePoint alone rather than the broader collaboration environment. This centricity shows up in developing collaboration processes, business cases, ROI, and governance. But perhaps the most notable case of SharePoint centricity is in end user training for a SharePoint rollout.
Clearly it is beneficial to provide some end user training when SharePoint is being rolled out for the first time, during a reboot driven by an upgrade, or as part of new hire training. This training can be a formal classroom setting, through a self-guided workbook, or videos. There is no shortage of private trainers, public training classes, and books to do this and some materials are even free from Microsoft.
But most of those SharePoint training materials and classes draw a thick black line around the topic “SharePoint.” 90+% of the content is SharePoint-specific, mostly focusing on what to click on to get things done.
That’s too bad since proper SharePoint usage can only be understood in the context of the full set of communication and collaboration options, which differ for every organization. Communication and collaboration patterns and practices also differ due to cultural and industry factors.
SharePoint is not an island – it is always in competition with other collaboration mechanisms such as email, instant messaging, social networks, shared drives, and document management systems. For example, knowing what buttons to click to create a SharePoint document library is different than knowing whether you should create that document library in SharePoint rather than the records management system. In fact, users are more likely to figure out SharePoint’s user interface on their own (or by perusing the help files or a book) than figure out whether a document is a business record (thereby subject to e-discovery) or not.
So the best training is not just about every menu item in SharePoint. It is about being productive and proper with communications, collaboration, and content. The training should cover the UI (how to do tasks), productivity guidance (best practices for getting things done), and rules about what you can and can’t do in the tools (usage policies, knowing which tool to use).
Ideally the training class wouldn’t have “SharePoint” in the title. It should cover whatever full set of tools you provide information workers: email, IM, SharePoint, web conferencing, and other collaboration, content, and social tools. Maybe SharePoint takes up the bulk of the UI training since it’s more complex, but you’d be surprised how much there is to say about email that users don’t figure out on their own (how to create rules and filters, folders, archives, group lists, etc).
SharePoint training is email training, since it will effect how they use email as well as how they use SharePoint. And SharePoint training is IM training. It’s intranet training. It soon becomes clear that a hard line around “SharePoint” in the training materials is counterproductive when all these other tools are affected.