For organizations who are new to Office 365, one of the challenges to getting to the full potential of the platform is getting employees to use SharePoint Online. As with any productivity / collaboration solution, it is only effective if it actually gets used. As part of the discovery process we have with clients (aka sales process) we hear over and over again the IT person's frustration over not being able to get their users to use SharePoint. Often it is part of the reason they are looking at our business application templates (www.spmarketplace.com). After
further questioning of the client we discover some common things:
This situation often occurs because SharePoint Online happens to come with Office 365, and while there is clear use of email (Exchange), Office, and in some cases Lync all because they were used before on-premise, SharePoint is the new kid on the block to the organization. Also, it does not help that many Microsoft 365 implementation partners also don't have a lot of SharePoint experience, so they do not position it correctly. So given this reality, how can you successfully bring SharePoint to your organization?
1. Define what SharePoint's role is in the organization.
In most cases we see successful positioning of SharePoint in the role of an Intranet Portal, or central website that employees can go to for the latest news, collaboration, and as a central point to access internal services and business processes. In this role SharePoint brings some much needed structure to the way the organization communicates and conducts business. You may need to do some education on the portal concept and its benefits.
2. Get Management and Departments buy in / support
In moving to Office 365, obviously your management has bought into the concept of the cloud and the potential cost savings and productivity gains. They already have made the investment, why not get more out of that existing investment. Educate them on the Portal concept, and how it can make employees more productive. Show them that allowing employees to collaborate will increase competiveness and effectiveness. Literally this is an infrastructure freebie because the investment in the platform has been made.
3. Setup easy to access SharePoint training
Once management is onboard, now it is time to bring in the workforce. Don't assume you will get everyone to attend a week long course, it won't happen. Setup links to quick video courses, and print off reference cards. The training needed is very much like the training to use Word or Outlook. We have an example of an end-user training curriculum on our site: www.-www.spmarketplace.com/sharepoint-end-user-training.html. Here you will find short videos and links to quick reference cards. You can even add online contextual help systems to SharePoint itself like we offer as an add-in to our applications called ShowMe. Of course make sure you have your portal or site up and ready to use before offering training.
4. Structure Your SharePoint Sites in the Context of the Organization
One of the biggest requirements for successful user acceptance is to put the site structure into something that is familiar to them. For instance make the top site (often called Home) your Intranet page. Then have sub sites that are organized by actual departments in your organization. If you have special sites like Employee Self Service, name it something that clearly describes its purpose. To often organizations just put a bunch of document libraries up scattered across Team Sites. There is little context to that.
5. Brand Your Intranet Portal with familiar Colors and Graphics
Your users are like your customers, they are influenced by the look and feel of the site. So like your company's Internet site, your Intranet site should be attractive also. This does not mean you need to hire expensive graphics artists to design it. It just needs to look good. We at SP Marketplace use branding templates to easily make the site look good and apply our clients branding colors, logo, and relevant graphics to do the job. One note: don't put the marketing department solely in charge of your intranet deployment. They will overdo the look and feel and underdo the actual functionality which is key to productivity improvements. It truly needs to be a team effort across departments.
Where do you go from here?
As you can see there is some thoughtful planning and work around getting the most out of SharePoint Online. If you are building from scratch, you could be looking at months or more, but there is ways to quickly realize the potential of SharePoint Online. Instead of building look into buying apps available on the SharePoint Apps Store to compile solutions. Or look at out of the box applications and suites which can install right on your existing SharePoint Online. These allow you to quick-launch organization context, and give your users something to start with.
Which ever way you decide to go, there is transformational productivity gains awaiting your Office 365 deployment!