Blog post

Getting to the Second Value Tier for SharePoint

By Craig Roth | June 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

Microsoft SharePoint

Since publishing my document “ITIL for SharePoint: Defining SharePoint as a Service Using ITIL Service Strategy”, I’ve been advocating deploying SharePoint as a set of business-focused services instead of a dump of capabilities (which is what you get with SharePoint out-of-the-box “OOTB” or lightly customized).  Unfortunately, the capability dump is a more common approach due to its simplicity, vague expectations (you can’t be blamed for not delivering if you never said what they’d get!), and quick time-to-value.  But what is that value?

I see two tiers of value that organizations can get from SharePoint.  The first tier is what you get with OOTB SharePoint: the low hanging fruit.  Deployed right out of the box, with simple, end-user-driven customizations, SharePoint cleans up myriad inefficient processes.  Compared to the awkward e-mail processes, spreadsheets, shared drives, or overblown/outdated systems it is replacing, SharePoint looks pretty good!  Instant hero!

But once you clear the brush of these quick hit applications and map out the hot and cool spots of SharePoint usage in the organization, it looks pretty spotty and random.  You find the hot spots are due to luck rather than prioritization of where SharePoint could have the most impact.  Maybe one out of the contact centers has a closet techie working there who develops a great SharePoint site to help his team track challenge contests that becomes broadly used.  Maybe you got lucky and did a lunch-and-learn session to a bunch of business folks that just got done talking about a collaboration problem they’re having.  Maybe a new employee in HR brings knowledge of how they used SharePoint at her last company to track college recruiting visits.  Real hassles have been cleaned up and new collaborative processes have been enabled, but they are not usually the top processes that would return the most value if improved. This kind of application of SharePoint is based on serendipity, not priority.

The second tier requires a different approach that puts the focus back on prioritization.  A SharePoint-savvy business analyst or internal strategic consultant can find value from the top down, starting with published organizational objectives for the year.  Then talking to the business about what is most important to them (cash flow, largest processes, largest projects, etc.) and taking the time to determine which depend on unstructured content and collaboration can show where solutions are needed.  Applying an enterprise architecture mindset to understand what other tools exist in the organization that could be used with or instead of SharePoint ensures a neutral approach to problem solving rather than seeing everything as a SharePoint nail to hit with the SharePoint hammer. 

Clients that have had SharePoint for a few years are beginning to wonder what more they can do with it to get more value.  And I think they see that getting a larger megaphone to evangelize its benefits will just perpetuate the random application of the technology.  That’s why I’m starting to find organizations that are creating business-focused services out of SharePoint.   In those organizations, SharePoint is seen as a valuable, mature business contributor rather than a precocious, energetic kid who notices problems old-timers haven’t noticed and rushes in to be useful.

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