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Eric Shupps eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy is the founder and President of BinaryWave, a leading provider of operational intelligence solutions for Microsoft SharePoint. Eric Shupps eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy has worked with SharePoint Products and Technologies since 2001 as a consultant, administrator, architect, developer and trainer. he is an advisory committee member of the Dallas/Ft. Worth SharePoint Community group and participating member of user groups throughout the United Kingdom. Eric Shupps eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy has authored numerous articles on SharePoint, speaks at user group meetings and conferences around the world, and publishes a popular SharePoint blog at http://www.sharepointcowboy.com. Presentations by Eric Shupps eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy Webinar - Migrating Legacy On Premise Solutions to SharePoint Online and Windows Azure featuring Eric Shupps Who are you and what do you want - Working with OAuth in SharePoint 2013 SharePoint is Talking Are You Listening? Eric Shupps SharePoint 2013 Performance Enhancements Taking Advantage of the SharePoint 2013 REST API Eric Shupps on Improving Performance with New Features in SharePoint 2013 SharePoint 2013 New and Improved Migrating Legacy On Premise Solutions to SharePoint Online and Windows Azure Eric Shupps Presents SharePoint 2013 Real World Help Desk App End to End Windows Azure Apps for SharePoint 2013 Eric Shupps Demonstrates Customizing the Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Deployment Process Introduction to SharePoint Development SharePoint 2010 Unit and Integration Testing with Eric Shupps Building Enterprise Records Management Solutions for SharePoint 2010 Taming Information Chaos in SharePoint 2010 SharePoint 2010 Performance and Capacity Planning Best Practices Building Dynamic Applications with the SharePoint Client Object Model Articles by Eric Shupps eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy Eric Shupps' Ten Steps to Optimize SharePoint Performance Webcasts by Eric Shupps eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy Secrets of SharePoint Part 5: Configuring Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Optimal Performance Creating End User SharePoint Solutions for Performance and Scalability SharePoint 2010 Performance Enhancements for Administrators by Eric Shupps Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for the ASP.NET Developer Eric Shupps on Following Best Practices and Avoiding Common Errors with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Development Eric Shupps - SharePoint Performance and Capacity Planning Essentials Troubleshooting Common Performance Problems in SharePoint 2010 Videos by Eric Shupps eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy Channel 9 Interview with Eric Shupps SharePoint TechTalk with Eric Shupps - Different Views on Social Computing SharePoint Post-Deployment Planning and Management with Eric Shupps SmartTrack for SharePoint Feature Overview SmartTrack for SharePoint Podcasts by Eric Shupps eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy SharePoint Pod Show - Design for Performance (Eric Shupps) SharePoint Pod Show - Test Driven Development with Andrew Woodward and Eric Shupps eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy Run As Radio - Eric Shupps Improves SharePoint Performance
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January 20
Driving SharePoint Adoption in the Enterprise

Reading over Alex Pearce's post regarding the BETT '09 conference in London this week reminded me of something that's been on my mind for a while. One of the most common complaints that I hear after an organization has adopted SharePoint is "We built it but nobody is using it". This can be a big problem if a large investment was made to deploy MOSS/WSS and the user base doesn't adopt it - the ROI in this situation is terrible, the consultant often gets unfairly blamed and it can cause the project sponsors to lose credibility with regards to future projects.

I struggled with this on some early deployments way back in the Portal Server 2003 days until I realized that people weren't deliberately avoiding my shiny new creation, they simply didn't have any driving need to learn something new. After all, what they had been doing for all those years was working just fine (whether it really was or not is debatable - they thought it was working and didn't see any need to change it). Even in cases where we had a defined business need for a new portal deployment, we still had to do a lot of work to get people to use it.

The fact is, people are busy and believe they don't have the time or mental bandwidth to learn a new way of doing things, even when the new method promises to deliver great benefits. We all fall into certain patterns of behavior and getting us to change is very difficult; even more so when we don't immediately recognize the potential benefits. Worse, if the new way of doing things is drastically different from the old way of doing things (such as automating previously manual processes) our natural passive apathy can turn into active resistance - we just refuse to do it on principle alone. This doesn't bode well for a fancy new system that the company has invested big money into and has high hopes for its success.

To combat this situation, I developed a few simple guidelines that I discuss with clients as early in the planning stage as possible. Once I started doing this, the adoption rates skyrocketed and user satisfaction improved accordingly. So here they are, in no particular order:

1. The Portal Giveth and the Portal Taketh Away

This is by far my favorite strategy for driving user adoption. Suppose you have a small application that isn't quite mission critical but is used by just about everyone in the company - perhaps a utility that allows employees to track their used and remaining vacation time or a form to request paid time off. Make this application a centerpiece of the new portal and when it goes live TAKE THE OLD ONE AWAY. That's right, you either go to the portal to use it or you don't use it at all. And don't link to it directly - make users go to the home page and select it from a list of options or a menu. That way, people have to visit the portal and get used to how it works - at least enough to use the application that they're interested in. Keep giving and taking away applications for the first six months until people get used to going to the portal first to find what they're after.

It sounds a bit heavy-handed but in my experience it is extremely effective in getting users to adopt the new platform. In one large corporate deployment we maintained over 80% daily usability throughout the company well into the first year of the deployment by using this technique. Sure, some people will grumble and complain, but stick with it and you'll see the payoff in short order.

2. Promote, Promote, Promote

When a company makes a significant investment in a new product they almost universally combine the launch with a big marketing push. It doesn't do any good to have the cure to cancer if nobody knows about it. Movie studios and record labels have this down cold - heck, for years they've been able to convince us to buy bad products just by drowning us in positive press. Why should the launch of an internal product be any different?

It usually takes months to get a new SharePoint deployment off the ground. If you give yourself enough of a head start, you can begin promoting the portal before the software is even installed. Devise a marketing campaign just as if you were launching a new product to your external customers - send out emails, print flyers, put up a snazzy "Coming Soon" landing page, whatever you can come up with. Give the users a sneak peek into the functionality of the portal with weekly updates and targeted communications. The level of user enthusiasm is directly proportional to the amount of time and effort you invest in generating excitement and anticipation.

When the portal does go live, keep people engaged by offering contests and prizes. Yes, I know it sounds silly but it works. One thing that is often overlooked is the human component; put up a weekly profile of a random employee with their picture and brief bio and you'll be amazed how many people hit the server on Monday morning to see if their name is up in lights (or pixels, in this case) that week. The best part is, this sort of thing doesn't cost much and you can do it anytime, even if the portal has been up for a while. Breathe some new life into it by getting creative and connecting with your users in new ways.

3. Listen to the Users

I know, this sounds obvious but I'm always amazed when I encounter a project team who has put all their effort and energy into designing a solution to meet vaguely defined executive goals without ever engaging the people who have to use the product on a day-to-day basis. In fact, if you really want to get people involved, don't just solicit ideas for features - select a representative from each affected department and give them a voice on the planning committee. That gives them skin in the game and makes them accountable for selling the portal to their constituents. You'll be amazed how much free promotion comes from Suzy in Accounting who insists on telling everybody who will listen that it was her idea to use a purple instead of blue on the home page. Be careful to balance expectations when users get involved, as they often have no idea the scope of work required to fulfill their desires and, when given a bit of free reign, will soon have the portal brewing coffee, parking cars and delivering lunch to everyone's desk. Noble goals, to be sure, but not really key business objectives.

Of course, every deployment is different and what has worked for me might not work for you. But if you follow the basic guidelines above and make a sincere effort to engage users in a new portal deployment you might be surprised how much better the adoption rate will be. If nothing else, it sure beats the "Build it and they might come" approach.

Happy SharePointing!

Comments

Sharepoint

Have you considered the possibility that the MOSS platform is of low quality, offering poor user and developer experiences? It seems odd that the one thing missing from your list is, to many developers, the most important factor driving adoption: a good product.
System Account on 1/21/2009 6:59 AM

Re: SharePoint

George,

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this ridiculous argument.  If SharePoint is so bad, why is it outselling every other competitor in the portal space?  Why is it #1 in Gartner's Magic Quadrant?  Why is it the fastest selling product in Microsoft's history?  You can argue all day long about the shortcomings of the product - and there are many - but to say it's a 'low quality' product is to completely ignore reality.  The market is impartial, fair, and completely unbiased  - and it has decided that you are dead wrong.

Secondly, and more to the point, I dare you to show me a portal product with a better developer experience.  Websphere?  Peachtree?  Oracle?  Peoplesoft?  Are you kidding me?  Those are all a complete joke when it comes to developer integration, tooling, and richness of the underlying API.  The SharePoint OM runs rings around anything the competition can offer.  And, before you say it, Java is *not* an API.  I've seen what the poor Websphere and Oracle developers have to go through to accomplish even the simplest of tasks (or even to emulate any of the built-in functionality that comes with SharePoint) - they gape in wonder at how easy it is for us to write, deploy and manage our custom solutions in SharePoint.  The only thing that comes close is Dot Net Nuke and it shares the same underlying framework as SharePoint but without the rich API layers.  A good platform, to be sure, but not the same developer experience.

So please, if you're going to make ignorant statements like that, make them to someone who isn't knowledgeable enough to call your bluff but don't try that nonsense here.  We all know SharePoint isn't perfect and there's tons of stuff I'd like to change about it but it's still a good product and I'll take SharePoint dev over all that other garbage any day of the week. 


Eric Shupps on 1/21/2009 9:27 PM

Re: SharePoint

George,

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this ridiculous argument.  If SharePoint is so bad, why is it outselling every other competitor in the portal space?  Why is it #1 in Gartner's Magic Quadrant?  Why is it the fastest selling product in Microsoft's history?  You can argue all day long about the shortcomings of the product - and there are many - but to say it's a 'low quality' product is to completely ignore reality.  The market is impartial, fair, and completely unbiased  - and it has decided that you are dead wrong.

Secondly, and more to the point, I dare you to show me a portal product with a better developer experience.  Websphere?  Peachtree?  Oracle?  Peoplesoft?  Are you kidding me?  Those are all a complete joke when it comes to developer integration, tooling, and richness of the underlying API.  The SharePoint OM runs rings around anything the competition can offer.  And, before you say it, Java is *not* an API.  I've seen what the poor Websphere and Oracle developers have to go through to accomplish even the simplest of tasks (or even to emulate any of the built-in functionality that comes with SharePoint) - they gape in wonder at how easy it is for us to write, deploy and manage our custom solutions in SharePoint.  The only thing that comes close is Dot Net Nuke and it shares the same underlying framework as SharePoint but without the rich API layers.  A good platform, to be sure, but not the same developer experience.

So please, if you're going to make ignorant statements like that, make them to someone who isn't knowledgeable enough to call your bluff but don't try that nonsense here.  We all know SharePoint isn't perfect and there's tons of stuff I'd like to change about it but it's still a good product and I'll take SharePoint dev over all that other garbage any day of the week. 


Eric Shupps on 1/21/2009 9:27 PM

Re: Driving SharePoint Adoption in the Enterprise

I’ve read some good stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting.
http://www.nikeairjordan.cc/jordan-jumpman-59/
System Account on 8/10/2010 3:03 AM

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This site is brought to you by BinaryWave in cooperation with Eric Shupps Eric Alan Shupps eshupps @eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy. We hope you enjoy the SharePoint-related content on topics such as performance, monitoring, administration, operations, support, business intelligence and more for SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 created by Eric Shupps The SharePoint Cowboy. We also hope you will visit our product pages to learn more about SmartTrack, Operational Analytics for SharePoint, SharePoint monitoring, and SharePoint administration, while also discovering great offers from our partners. Please visit the blog of Eric Alan Shupps, Twitter handle @eshupps, for more information on application development, the SharePoint community, SharePoint performance, and general technology topics. Eric Shupps Eric Alan Shupps eshupps @eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy is the founder and President of BinaryWave, a leading provider of operational support solutions for SharePoint. Eric Shupps Eric Alan Shupps eshupps @eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy has worked with SharePoint Products and Technologies since 2001 as a consultant, administrator, architect, developer and trainer. He is an advisory committee member of the Dallas/Ft. Worth SharePoint Community group and participating member of user groups throughout the United Kingdom. Eric Shupps Eric Alan Shupps eshupps @eshupps The SharePoint Cowboy has authored numerous articles on SharePoint, speaks at user group meetings and conferences around the world, and publishes a popular SharePoint blog at http://www.binarywave.com/blogs/eshupps.