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10 Practical Tips to Boost SharePoint User Adoption

Posted on March 5, 2015

“SharePoint User Adoption is like marriage – You need to invest time and energy to make it work”

We all learn by analyzing mistakes we or others made and when it comes to SharePoint implementations, believe me, I have seen my share. SharePoint User Adoption is one of the most critical aspects of SharePoint success. So I decided to compile a list of tips from my experience with SharePoint & Office 365 roll-outs. These tips are true for any size organization, small or large as well as any type, from nonprofits to commercial ones.

Tips are all of the equal importance and are listed in random order. Enjoy!

1. Identify and Involve (power) users and SharePoint advocates during the course of SharePoint customization/roll-out. Can you implement SharePoint without business user involvement? Yes, you can. Will it be successful? Absolutely NOT. You might be a SharePoint geek who lives and breathes by SharePoint, but you can’t be a lone soldier out there on a battlefield. You need help. In every organization, there are users who are a bit more techy or excited about the change. Take advantage of them! Don’t ignore them, involve them every step of the way, organize a “SharePoint Power Users Team” – meet regularly – solicit feedback. Also, use power users as a funnel to other members of your organization.

2. Conduct Training (lots of it). You can google this topic and come up with thousands of articles and discussions on whether or not you need training in SharePoint. I have written one myself. My stance on it is: If you ignore training – your SharePoint implementation will fail. Training does not have to be expensive. Depending on how your organization is set up you can do lunch & learns, quick 30-min workshops during the week, or better, online live training (my favorite) if your users are remote. You don’t need to get fancy either – a quick overview with some basic functionality goes a long way.

Also, remember, it is not just a technology change, it is a business process change as well. Make sure when you do training, you align it within the context of the users’ work scenarios/use cases, rather than just explaining what different buttons do.

This subject is so near and dear to my heart that when I work with clients, training is something I mandate and include for free as part of my SharePoint implementation service. It is that important.

3. Implement SharePoint in phases. Users are very resistant to change. Specifically, if they used folders to organize documents for the last 20 years and one day you tell them to forget whatever they did and switch to SharePoint metadata – you are setting yourself up for a failure. Don’t implement it all at once. Split your SharePoint migration into smaller/manageable projects/phases/sites. Prioritize them and roll them out one by one. Make it easy for your users.

4. Get organizational/senior leadership buy-in. I know this is trivial and true for every project, not just SharePoint, but I needed to mention this. SharePoint is not just another tool. It is a new way to do things. It is a business collaboration platform.

5. Do the Demo first. Always start your implementation with a demo! Don’t assume your users know what SharePoint is. For many, it is a foreign word that does not mean much. Prepare a short demo that shows some out-of-the-box functionality. Try to stay relevant to your organization’s needs/pain points. For example, if users complain about finding documents and current folders being a mess, showing them some metadata examples might be a good idea.

6. Use email/social media to get the point across, communicate often. Everyone is busy these days and here you come along with your SharePoint project. Use electronic means of communication to get your point across. Send regular emails with project updates, create a private group on Social Media for employees. Try to engage with your colleagues, respond to user queries. Depending on the size of the organization, you might want to create a 1-2 page monthly newsletter that would contain formal project updates, next steps, etc.

7. Build SIMPLE and AWESOME sites! Simplicity is key. Nothing frustrates the user more than trying to choose from 25 links available on the Quick Launch or Global menu of SharePoint and choosing the right one. Build your navigation with users in mind. For example, Out of the Box, SharePoint “throws in” some junk links to site web parts. If you are not using them – delete them. Cleanup your navigation and assign proper names to navigation items so it all makes sense.

8. Build an easy feedback mechanism…in SharePoint. If you are beginning to roll out your SharePoint sites, it is guaranteed that you will have all sorts of “technical” issues and “How do I” queries from the users. Give them an easy way to “vent” and provide feedback. And do this right in… SharePoint. Let’s say you just rolled out a Department Site or new Library that contains your company’s manuals, policies & procedures. Build an Issues Log using Issues Web Part right on the site and use the alert feature to email new entries to yourself (or your SharePoint Admin). Or, you can include a discussion forum (also out of the box) so your users can discuss features and potential improvements. Your users will feel engaged and not ignored and you will get an accurate and organized list of issues “what users think and want”.

9. Make it cool for them. Kind of related to Item 7 above – don’t recreate the mess the users currently have on their hands. If you thought you could just move the messy folder structure from file share to the site and be done with it – you are wrong. Set up a library with metadata in it, organize the files, and build a metadata-driven navigation structure. In other words, there has to be a “WOW” factor, otherwise, it will be the same old stuff.

10. Monitor regularly – stay in touch with users. Even after a successful SharePoint roll-out, make sure you stay on top of things. Email your users, inquire about any issues, ask about new functionality they would like to see. In other words, be proactive. SharePoint can be configured so many different ways, you can create workflows, share externally, roll-up data into dashboards. SharePoint Implementation is not the end of the project – it is the beginning of a new era and you hold the keys to its success.

About Me

I’m Greg Zelfond, a U.S. based SharePoint consultant, and I provide affordable out-of-the-box SharePoint consulting, training, and configuration assistance to small and medium-sized businesses all over the world.

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