SharePoint as a technology platform usually isn't problematic; the implementation of SharePoint is often where the problem lies.
The current budget climate means an investment in SharePoint may come under more scrutiny than ever to boost productivity. When SharePoint is locked down beyond being useful, and infrastructure such as file storage can't support users, SharePoint is bound for trouble.
I've observed SharePoint be a successful and integral business platform for collaboration and content management. I've also witnessed SharePoint implementations fail, even on teams that had knowledgeable SharePoint users onboard; these users had to give up on the platform or only use it at the behest of a management or process mandate.
Here are some ways to turn a failed SharePoint implementation into a success.
Migrate to Office 365
With budgets shrinking across the commercial and federal government sectors, on-premise SharePoint farms (especially if underutilized because of a failed implementation) are coming under the budget spotlight.
If your on-premise SharePoint implementation is failing and underutilized, it might be time for your organization to move to Office 365 (budget permitting). This can be an opportunity to start over on SharePoint, especially in areas of governance and site management. Moving to the cloud can also help save on infrastructure and security costs, while opening up SharePoint to mobile and remote users without the requirements of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or a mobile security solution.
Revise your SharePoint governance plan
SharePoint governance is a guideline on how an organization plans to use SharePoint. The process of creating a SharePoint governance plan varies from organization to organization. Bureaucracy, SharePoint misconceptions, and other related factors can further muddy SharePoint governance.
When reviewing a failed SharePoint implementation and the following complaints come to light, you need to revise your SharePoint governance so your organization can finally get a return on its SharePoint investment:
- Lack of storage;
- Lack of user training;
- Poor site navigation; and
- Lack of site control at the department/team level hampered user productivity.
Rally internal SharePoint champions
Even when I've been inside an organization where SharePoint was failing, there were still internal champions for the platform. These were users who had business interest in the platform to solve one of their pain points like document version control or SharePoint power users who had collaboration experience from previous jobs or contracts.
Rallying those internal champions (even the frustrated ones) into the turnaround of SharePoint is a necessity. You should include these people in the governance plan revision process and any restarts you attempt on the technology side. The reaffirmation of SharePoint by an internal champion who end users trust goes further than a management mandate, job aid, or user training ever could.
Decentralize SharePoint site management
A common theme I've seen in failed and floundering SharePoint implementations has been centralized management where the project teams (i.e., the internal customers) were little more than visitors to SharePoint.
Decentralizing SharePoint site management to the team level requires the following:
- Changing SharePoint governance policies;
- Establishing site administrator best practices; and
- Restructuring SharePoint site support policies for the help desk.
Once you decentralize SharePoint site management, don't forget to publicize and chat up successes that teams had with SharePoint on their own projects. The decentralized model isn't about "setting SharePoint free," it's about finding a balance that accounts for user/team productivity, infrastructure/storage, and support.
Playing the decentralized SharePoint card means you must have the power users out there to take a lead on SharePoint within the departments and the teams. If you don't have enough power users, you may have to grow your own through cross-pollination with other power users, on the job training, third-party training, or a combination of all three.
Introduce mobile access to SharePoint
I've tried most of the major iPad apps for accessing SharePoint and the harmon.ie Office 365 and SharePoint Mobile Client in particular could breathe new life into SharePoint access by providing a better (and touch screen) user experience.
Migrate away from the SharePoint platform
Being at the center of the Microsoft enterprise ecosystem and being available through enterprise licensing agreements helped SharePoint gain its dominant enterprise footprint; however, the collaboration platform market is maturing and growing right around the SharePoint platform due to the advent of the cloud.
Alastair Mitchell, CEO of Huddle, and Dan Schoenbaum of Teambox (both companies are SharePoint competitors) point to failed SharePoint implementations in their own career and company histories. In fact, Huddle unabashedly targets SharePoint while promoting itself as an alternative. (Read Huddle vs. SharePoint: A comparative analysis in three collaboration scenarios.)
When shopping for a SharePoint alternative, you should keep the migration of documents and other site content like calendar information and task lists at the top of your requirements list. Both Huddle and Teambox offer free test drives and a wealth of online content that can help you decide if either platform is a viable SharePoint alternative for your organization.
It makes poor financial and business sense to leave SharePoint to flounder in down economic times. Instead, you should make quick work of turning around a failed SharePoint implementation. This can have a positive effect across your organization in areas of collaboration, document management, and security.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.