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The 4 Stages of SharePoint Adoption

Written By: Joel Baglien
Posted: 7/25/2013

Over the years of consulting work with 5 versions of SharePoint, we've learned that there are four distinct stages of SharePoint adoption for organizations. These four stages are relentlessly consistent in how they show up in conversations with both prospective and current clients.

Here is the nutshell version of the four stages of SharePoint adoption:

1. "We're thinking about SharePoint and we have concerns."
2. "We've implemented SharePoint and it's out of control."
3. "We're running SharePoint, we have some rules in place, but we're not sure where we're headed."
4. "SharePoint is running great, we have governance in place, now we want to optimize our investment."

Let's take a look at each stage . . .

1. "We're thinking about SharePoint and we have concerns."

It's refreshing to hear a current or prospective client say these words.  The underlying message we hear is a sense of maturity about technology and some healthy skepticism about what SharePoint is and what it can do.  This person does not drink the marketing kool-aid of SharePoint and they are healthier for it.  Usually this person has enough understanding about SharePoint to realize that it can be many things for many people and that it has the potential to run wild without some planning and control.  Often this person has heard horror stories about SharePoint implementations that have gone terribly wrong.  When we work with a person at this stage of SharePoint adoption they are hungry for knowledge and a practical grounded approach to implementing SharePoint as a gradual and incremental process. Our clients at this stage also look to us for direction (which we provide) on how to configure SharePoint so they can support it and continue to build the type of business solution they need.

2. "We've implemented SharePoint and it's out of control."

Usually the next word we hear from this person is "HELP".  Often the underlying issue is that this person thinks of SharePoint as an application instead of a collaboration platform.  This person always has good intentions when they fire up SharePoint and often think or hope it would be easier than it actually is.  They are usually surprised at how, once SharePoint is live, people will start to use it, build on it, and configure it until SQL server is gasping for breath.  This person sometimes doesn't know for sure how many sites exist, how many documents are in SharePoint, or how large the whole mess is.  On occasion this person is the unwitting recipient of bad advice from someone who is a developer that knows how to spell SharePoint and leads them down the path of custom dev instead of sound planning and extensive out of the box configuration of SharePoint.  When we work with this type of client, it usually requires an extensive "triage" of what currently exists just to come up with a plan to bring things under control.  It's hard work, there is no way to avoid it, and we can fix it.

3. "We're running SharePoint, we have some rules in place, but we're not sure where we're headed."

We typically see two types of situations that lead up to Stage 3.  Some of our prospective clients went through Stage 2 and through sheer force of will or other means managed to get their SharePoint environment reigned in.  We have seen this situation result in projects getting defunded, professional reputations damaged, and SharePoint getting a black eye in the eyes of the executive sponsors and end users.  In the second lead up situation, our prospective clients that successfully implemented SharePoint and display the maturity about technology I talked about in Stage 1 realize that SharePoint can deliver much more than the way it is currently being used - they just don't know how to move forward in a planful manner.  In either situation, our prospective clients are ready to do some serious planning and prioritizing around SharePoint.  We often recommend a Requirements Workshop that both gathers key information for a SharePoint Business Roadmap as well as provides a base level of education and understanding about SharePoint's capabilities.  The planning process and the roadmap gives our clients a clear direction that will help them show that their investment in the SharePoint platform was a sound busniess decision.

4. "SharePoint is running great, we have governance in place, now we want to optimize our investment."

Our clients at Stage 4 deserve great praise for having navigated one or more of the first three stages of SharePoint.  At this point in an organization's SharePoint evolution, they are actively looking for ways to add value to line of business whether in the form of an Intranet, public website, secure extranet, project sites, workflow, business intelligence dashboards, or any myriad of ways to manage specific content within an organization.  There is a caveat - not all stakeholders and end users have fully embraced SharePoint even at this level.  The need for showing continuous value is front and center.  Often end users have to be shown why changing their behaviors and using a SharePoint business solution will make their jobs more efficient, easier, etc. One of the things we enjoy about working with clients at this stage is their openness to new approaches, third party tools, and ways to improve business processes that they had previously thought was not possible or economical to do.

We genuinely enjoy working with organizations at all four stages of SharePoint.  We are happy to report that more of our prospective and current clients are in Stages 3 and 4.  Stages 1 and 2 are unlikely to disappear any time soon.  The good news is that more of our clients are calling us before they head down the SharePoint path (Stage 1) - maybe word is getting out to avoid Stage 2.  The messages in all of this are:

  • Be a little (or a lot) skeptical in your approach to implementing SharePoint.
  • Take SharePoint on in bite size chunks.  This would be the analogy about how to eat an elephant.
  • Learn as much as you can but ask for help.  There are a lot of free SharePoint resources and events.
  • Plan, plan, plan before you implement, configure, or build in SharePoint.
  • Make SharePoint friendly for your fellow human beings.  Usability testing is a good thing.
  • Never assume that people will like SharePoint (or want to use it) as much as you.

Best of luck to you but don't forget to call us if you need help.

Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 7/25/2013 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments
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