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Office 365 & SharePoint Intranet: The Basics for Successful Adoption

If you’re like the majority of companies, you’ve probably witnessed it first-hand: great business solutions — namely, Intranets and collaboration tools — that are difficult to adopt among employees. It’s a scenario that’s all too common — and worse, many companies don’t even realize there is a problem until it’s too late. So why the disconnect? 

The truth is, many companies embrace what I’ll call the “Field of Dreams” mentality. They believe if they build a great solution, users will come. But this couldn’t be further from the truth; in fact, without the right strategies in place for planning, building and supporting your solution, you’ll find yourself in a Field of Dreams — where no one is playing ball.  

But the good news is, that by putting the right strategies in place from the start, you avoid this scenario altogether. In this two-part blog series, I’ll surface the specific methods and strategies you can use to increase your adoption and make your Intranet or collaboration tool a homerun for everyone. In Part 1, we’ll look at the essentials and discuss some must-know planning principles. Then, in Part 2, we’ll go through some more specific and actionable strategies and ideas to get that plan moving in the right direction. 

The Essentials 

First, let’s discuss the must-haves. These are the building blocks upon which you should build your plan for adoption. Set yourself up for success by following these guidelines: 

  • Have a Vision:  What company goals and objectives are you meeting by implementing this solution? When people ask the question, “What do you hope to accomplish?”, do you have a good reason? A surprising number of companies do not — so be sure you don’t move forward until you have your answer. And throughout the implementation process, keep this vision to of mind to ensure its meets your intended goals.  
  • Get Stakeholder Support:  Executive buy-in, appropriate resources and a shared vision are critical. It’s only natural that employees care a lot more when their executives are putting their own time and resources into a project.  Plus, it’s key to have the support and assistance from an executive sponsor along the way.  
  • Know Your Value Proposition: Make sure employees understand, “What’s in it for me?”  While a good vision statement is nice at a high level, you’ll want to show demonstrable ways that this solution positively and tangibly benefits the daily working environment for the people using it. 
  • Communicate & Manage Expectations:  The more involved and informed people are, the more connected they feel to a project – and the more they care about its success. Be sure you have a communication strategy, and throughout the implementation, make sure people understand what is happening and when. 
  • Lead by Example. Champions for a solution can come from all levels, across all departments – so give them the chance to demonstrate leadership by visibly contributing to the success of the project. Designate employees to take an active role, and provide them with incentives to make it worthwhile. 

Barriers to Success

Second, let’s discuss some of the common roadblocks that prevent you from a successful adoption. Keep an eye out for them so you can see them coming – and if they happen, here are some ways to work through them.    

  • Lack of available time to work on the project. If someone doesn’t make an Intranet/Collaboration solution a priority, then there is a bigger problem.  Did that person’s manager effectively allocate the time needed for this project to succeed? And what about that manager’s manager? It continues up the hierarchy until someone re-evaluates whether or not this project is important or not.  If it’s not important, then what’s the point of a successful adoption?  This happens a lot:  team leaders want an Intranet, but they keep it so low on the priority list that it yields a poor result. Bottom line: if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing right.  
  • Lack of resources assigned to see it through. This is the exact scenario as “time” but can be replaced with “budget.” It costs time and money to create solutions of any kind. If you set the expectation that you can complete it for less than it actually costs, you will be faced with some difficult decisions at some point.  Face those decisions at the beginning of the project — so can ensure your budget aligns with your requirements.  Do not expect to get a Cadillac for the price of a Toyota.  All too often, people underestimate what it will take to truly meet their needs.  
  • Avoid the “I don’t see the value, so I’m going to phone it in” mentality. This is where vision and executive support play a huge role. When explaining the value of the solution, it’s good to have a key executive do it – so he or she can lend credence to it and explain how it aligns with corporate goals.  If you are building this solution for the right reasons, you should have a compelling argument to provide value to the end user. Ideally, employees care about their company – so by simply explaining to them the solution’s value to the organization, they’ll have a good reason to use it. 
  • Failure to provide sufficient training. “I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.” Planning the training and support is one of the most critical factors in the long-term success of a solution; yet this statement is an all-too-common pain point when it comes to adoption. We’ll cover this in more detail later– but in short, your employees should know who to talk to when questions come up. This requires active and passive support from a specific team, in addition to the helpdesk. 


Now that you know the essentials, and various barriers to success, here are some basic planning principles to help ensure your SharePoint Intranet & Collaboration project is moving in the right direction from the get-go: 

  • Perform discovery and (some) design as a first step. Get employee input from different organizational areas – and avoid coming up with a budget until you complete this step.  How do you know how much it will cost unless you know what you want to create? Reduce risk by evaluating, not guessing. 
  • Use someone with like experience to perform a budgetary analysis and estimates. Individuals who have built SharePoint intranets correctly have project plans from past successful implementations — and can easily show you the steps and talk about how to apply your solution to your specific needs.  (Note: Include these individuals in the Discovery and Design phase mentioned above.) 
  • Promote open feedback from all parties during the planning phase.  This gets everyone involved as stakeholders from the beginning 
  • Form specialized teams: such as a project team, adoption team, or governance committee.  Staff these teams from various facets of your organization, and ensure everyone has a shared vision of long-term success. 
  • Create a road map to help you determine when certain features or elements will be implemented. It prevents scope creep, and can help avoid a common problem: trying to implement every desired feature to appeal to the widest audience. Instead, implement in smaller, precise phases.  This creates less risk and creates more opportunity and helps you ride on the success of the next bullet… 
  • Showcase your wins. When you reach project milestones and road map phases, be sure to communicate that victory along with specific examples of how a particular feature or capability helped achieve a goal. Promote your victories internally, and others are sure to take notice.  This tactic may also get you more resources and commitments to drive additional features, creating more opportunities for internal success. 
  • Recognize your Intranet or Collaboration tool as an organizational undertaking — NOT an IT project.  Asking your IT department to “build an Intranet” is a relatively unfair request, and chances are, IT will not have the time or know-how to perform company-wide discovery and business analysis. Naturally, they may build and pilot with their own departmental needs in mind; which, in terms of adoption, is a backward approach. 

Knowing the basics – and laying the groundwork for your plan – is a great first step in increasing the adoption of your Intranet. Next, it’s time to put those ideas into action with the right strategies. We’ll take you through some critical checklists in Part 2 to help you accomplish this. If you have any questions so far, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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