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Part 4: SharePoint Governance Best Practices for Adoption, Training and Measuring Success

In Part 3 of this blog series: Building your Governance Plan – A Deeper Dive we examined the details of building out your governance plan in a way that meets your business requirements while striking the balance that ensures a successful adoption.  In this installment, we will discuss additional adoption topics as well as training guidelines and measuring success.

Adoption Woes 

Getting users to adopt a new tool or way of doing their jobs can be very difficult, and SharePoint is certainly no exception.  SharePoint has historically been brought into organizations by IT professionals who understand the platform enough to believe it will add tremendous value.  Unfortunately this group often does not understand the business requirements enough to build the solutions most relevant to users across the organization.  The absence of the conversations needed to gather these requirements leads to many failed adoptions.

Once installed, tools like Microsoft Office experience almost instantaneous adoption because they are tools that can be used independently.  They aren’t tailored to how individual users work, and they usually aren’t tailored to how they work together. 

Successful adoption of a collaboration tool such as SharePoint requires an understanding of how users engage with each other currently, (“current state”) and how that could be made better (“desired future state”).  The people best suited to tell you this are the users themselves, or representatives thereof. 

If your SharePoint project is planned without input from your primary business units your adoption will fail.  Put a different way:  If you don’t fully understand how your users do their jobs, you can’t build them tools to improve how they do their jobs and they won’t use what you build them because it’s an irrelevant burden.   

Adoption Best Practices

A successful SharePoint adoption involves proper planning with key stakeholder involvement and a full understanding of your business requirements across the organization.  Because of this, adoption planning must start at the very beginning, during the solution design process.

During the discovery phase of your project, you will hold envisioning sessions with your leadership team (“executive stakeholders”), your department stakeholders and your information security team (“key stakeholders”).  These sessions allow you to capture a clear picture of the needs of your users and areas that will need to be governed.  During this process, you also begin grooming your “champions”.

Champions are the boots-on-the-ground that represent their constituents and spread the SharePoint excitement.  The thought process of their fellow workers goes something like this:  “Jake understands what we need and is excited about this change.  We are going to get what we need because Jake is involved.  We can learn from him, and though the change will be difficult, we feel properly represented so expect this to be a good thing.”  The first impression win in this game is a significant win, and keeping an “A” is a lot easier when you start with an “A”.

These champions are an integral part of all phases of the project and will continue to be hands on in the evolution of the solution; participating in design sessions, and periodic demonstrations of functionality as it is completed.  They will also be key players in the creation of training plans for their teams and often will play an active role in delivering that training, and follow-up support.

Keeping Momentum, Building Excitement

Throughout the project, regular team meetings should be held where your champions share project status and updates with their organizational units.  These sessions can include demonstrations as well.  It’s important during these sessions that the message is business solution-oriented and not techno-speak.  Technology discussions can be overwhelming when introducing new tools, but the business solutions are familiar ground and build excitement for the change that’s coming.

Corporate launch events or broadcasts and announcements, brown bag lunch sessions and other activities are a great way to build enthusiasm for what’s to come, especially when these activities include participation from the leadership team and champions of the project.  This shows corporate leadership “buy in”, validates the project and allows your users to become invested without fear that this is just an unsupported flash in the pan.

Targeted Training

Your training programs will include instruction on how to use the platform and solutions being built.  These programs will also include details around governance and the specific importance of each piece of your governance plan as it applies to that particular group of users.  A typical training plan would include at least the following types of training:

  • Administrator training.  Administering, configuring and maintaining the business solutions in your SharePoint portal, as well as the portal itself.  Topics from all three governance pillars will be covered in this training:  IT governance, information management, and application management governance.
  • Content Owner Training.  For users who will be responsible for updating content in the sites, sub-sites and pages.  Typically this training will include topics of information management and application management governance.
  • Power User Training.  For users who will expand the features for their organizational units based on a deeper understanding of the platform and how it can be leveraged to better serve business requirements.  Information and application management governance will be covered here, and depending on the level of customization, these users may also need to be fully educated on the IT governance policies of your organization as well.
  • Help Desk.  For employees who will support your end users.  The members of your help desk team also need to be instructed on the other project roles and their division of responsibility for the platform; administrators, content owners, power users.  A help desk request is often where the clock starts ticking on your SLA’s so be aware that this is an incredibly important role in your rollout, adoption and user satisfaction metrics.
  • End User Training.  Basics of how to use the applications in your sites.  This training can often be delivered by departmental champions.  Governance topics covered for these users are typically centered on your information management governance, but can include topics from the other pillars as well.

The format for your training sessions can be demonstration based, or presented as hands-on sessions where users perform a series of scenario-based instructions that give them the opportunity to learn by doing.  This hands-on approach is also a fantastic opportunity to identify areas of improvement in your user experience and your end user documentation. 

To supplement your group based training you can make use of training tools, FAQ’s, wikis and video tutorials for these different user groups and these elements can be factored into your information architecture.  You can also use SharePoint surveys and social features to gather important feedback from the consumers of your training to improve your delivery of these important topics.

In addition to the initial training that occurs as part of the solution development and rollout, periodic refresher training is important as you identify areas that are not gaining adoption or where governance is failing.

Gathering Feedback and Measuring Success

Providing channels for feedback increases engagement and expands your team of champions.  As adoption grows, so will the need for new features, solutions and governance improvements.  Providing channels for this communication will increase user engagement and timely response to those requests will increase adoption of SharePoint as a valuable business tool.

Adoption activities happen frequently during the planning, design, build and initial SharePoint deployment, but they should not stop there.  Once the solution has been delivered, it is important to hold regular sessions with your teams of end users to gather feedback, positive and negative and use this as a mechanism to improve your business solutions and your governance.  This end user interaction allows you to understand the items that are enabling or driving success, and the issues that are inhibiting or slowing your users down. 

Your help desk statistics are also a fantastic way to measure success and identify areas in need of improvement based on call volume.

Supporting Your Users

In Part 3 of this series, we discussed service level agreements and their importance in your governance plan.  Not surprisingly, these SLA’s play a large part in your adoption.  A system that is dependable, remediated in a timely fashion when there are issues, and a responsive help desk go a long way toward growing trust and adoption of your solution as an integral tool in the daily lives of your users.

Putting it All Together

In summary, SharePoint is a highly customizable and flexible platform, and with collaboration at its root, is highly individual.  Because of this, when building business solutions and forming policies for how SharePoint can be used it is important to expand the conversation to include key representatives from across the organization in all phases of the project.  These individuals are not only your governance committee, but they are your project champions and play an integral role in your adoption.

There is a very balanced relationship between governance and adoption.  Your governance committee, in understanding your business and your users is best suited to come up with a governance plan that meets the business requirements without inhibiting productivity.  Rollout activities that keep your users engaged in the project build ownership of the end solution and ensures successful adoption.  Proper initial training programs targeted to different user types, periodic refresher training and feedback sessions will help you evolve your governance plan and your platform in a way that ensures continued success. 

This wraps up our 4-part series on SharePoint Governance Best Practices. If you need help developing your governance plan, please contact us for assistance! 

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