Category Archives: SharePoint

Part 2 of 3: A SharePoint Roadmap: Implementing SharePoint

-Dany Charland, Partner

This is the second post in a three-part series that outlines best practices for planning, implementing and using Microsoft SharePoint in an SMB environment.

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Part 1 of 3: A SharePoint Roadmap: Planning your SharePoint Implementation

–          Dany Charland, Partner

This is the first post in a three-part series in which I will outline best practices for planning, implementing and using Microsoft SharePoint in an SMB environment.

Like any good tool, SharePoint is invaluable when properly deployed and knowledgably used. In uncertain hands, however, it can become unwieldy and can even reduce productivity. Our SharePoint Ottawa experts have helped many organizations realize the potential of their SharePoint implementations. We’ve developed a roadmap that enables organizations to turn SharePoint into a strategic platform – one that consolidates information, automates existing manual processes, and supplements their existing line of business solutions.

In this blog series, I’ll share some of the most important steps I believe that businesses, associations and not-for-profit organizations should take when implementing or updating a SharePoint solution.

1)      Step back and assess

When we work with clients on a SharePoint implementation, we always start by meeting with executives, managers and lead users to get a clear picture of their business goals and expectations for a SharePoint platform.

Before diving into any technical discussions, gather representatives from each business unit and ask them to put their high-level business goals and top expectations of organizational information on the table. This information will be extremely valuable when architecting the solution and will help to ensure user uptake and satisfaction.

2)      List your unmet information needs

Each organization will have a unique set of information needs. Think about which aren’t currently met within your business. Do you need better document management? Is your information secure enough? Do your processes need to be more standardized? Do you need to improve internal or external information sharing? Is version control a problem?

Answering these questions before implementing your solution will save extra customization down the road and will increase your chances of a successful launch.

3)      Identify your unstructured data

SharePoint differs from a typical line of business application because it’s intended to manage unstructured data – such as spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, intranets and emails. A solid SharePoint implementation will help your users to manage versions, manage access, and manage processes around documents like these. Its content management capabilities will also help your organization manage content editing, revision, approval, and publishing.

To truly leverage these capabilities, however, you will first need to identify the types of unstructured data found within your organization. What is the most important data that your users need to find, retain, and secure? Where does it reside? How is it currently managed and shared?

4)      Identify the target audiences (not just the users)

Many different groups will either need or want to interact with your SharePoint implementation. Be sure to identify not only your user community but also those members of the IT department that will need to actively participate in the implementation, rollout and maintenance process to provide technology insight and experience into potential risks, roadblocks and opportunities.

At Tango, we conduct user intake sessions to ensure that we accurately define the functionality, security model, access permissions, publishing processes, and workflows needed by users.

5)      Make a list of your top objectives

SharePoint is an extremely powerful tool that can help businesses achieve a number of goals. It’s important, however, to prioritize your goals to ensure that the most important needs and expectations are met at the outset. This is critical to a successful implementation, organizational buy-in and user uptake.

Identify four or five functions that your implementation must manage above all else.  For example, these could include:

  • Offering document management, workflow and collaboration tools that make it easier/more efficient to do one’s work.
  • Supplementing the existing line of business applications.
  • Providing a means of securely sharing content with outside stakeholders.
  • Offering search tools that help users find and share content.
  • Support a sense of belonging and community building among staff, through a shared collaboration space.

In my next blog post on this topic, I’ll explore how to use the answers to the above topics to identify the architecture and tactics needed to make your SharePoint implementation a success.

Continue to next post in series >>

 

How to Make or Break a SharePoint Collaboration Implementation

At Tango, we’re sometimes (too often) reminded of the costs of getting a SharePoint implementation wrong. It goes beyond the cost of the technology investment. When an intranet or collaboration project goes awry, there are a more damaging costs to corporate culture and productivity. And yet, it is not difficult to avoid. But it does require planning, and an effective bridge between IT and the business.

In the end, it’s about the users. Because if you build it, they might not use it. If you try to force a new technology or tool onto users, they may use it incompletely (deliberately), or badly (inadvertently), or not at all.

We recently revived a SharePoint collaboration environment that was all but dead due to disuse. Our method wasn’t rocket science – it was best practice. We provided a missing link: a bridge across the gulf that had formed between the business and the technology. To build that bridge, we engaged in a thorough consultation with users and established a change management process.

We are strong believers in the potential value and power that SharePoint holds to bring diverse organizations together into a shared virtual space; to effect significant improvements in productivity through effective document sharing and information management. But it doesn’t happen by magic. It doesn’t happen through great technical prowess. It happens by talking to users and configuring the technology to fit, then talking some more and adjusting where needed.

It happens through people. Read about how we made that very connection at a mid-sized organization in this case study >>

A New Paradigm for Critical Document Management & Records Management

– by Dany Charland

Document and records management (DM/RM) has traditionally followed a strict file plan, with profile forms used to create and maintain records. These are important best practices; and, for regulated industries such as accounting firms, healthcare, IT, food safety etc., they are necessary to provide evidence of document controls.

However, a common complaint about document management is that its file structure is too rigid and its forms too cumbersome to effectively support users. These systems rely on the carefulness and attention of users to retain, dispose and secure records. The combination of inconvenience and user dependency make many traditional DM/RM systems error prone on the best of days.

“It’s too hard to find what I need” is a common user complaint about traditional rigid records management systems. Part of the challenge is that no single file storage structure can account for the myriad organizational structures represented by human brains. From a business perspective, frustrated users are a risk because they are prone to take shortcuts, make errors or simply avoid using critical systems.

Microsoft SharePoint gives businesses the opportunity to manage records and documents with appropriate protocols in place while also delivering a more flexible user experience. They key to unlocking these capabilities is to establish a properly structured, standards-based and controlled vocabulary for meta-data management. This enables document management and records management developers to build virtual entity structures – also called virtual file plans – that provide users with multi-faceted browsing experiences.

In short, SharePoint offers a user-driven records search and browsing experience while maintaining the necessary file structures by making the storage structure invisible to the user.

At Tango Technology Group, we use SharePoint and Silverlight, combined with DM/RM best practices and principles, to deliver records management solutions that meet both business and usability needs.

For more information:
• Visit our SharePoint Practice web page
• Learn more about SharePoint from Microsoft
Contact me, Dany Charland – I’m Tango Technology Group’s SharePoint business expert
• Attend my SharePoint DM/RM presentation at SharePoint Summit 2012 in Quebec City

SharePoint Collaboration vs. Governance: Not Necessarily Mortal Enemies

– by Dany Charland

Virtual/online collaboration is an absolute necessity for many small- and mid-sized organizations today. It may be required to support ad hoc project teams; to facilitate geographically dispersed teams to work together; or, to increase the efficiency of internal communication in any organization.

Virtual collaboration environments – such as SharePoint intranets or SharePoint collaboration environments – can certainly add significant value to a business. But they can also become liabilities. Common causes of collaboration environment break-down include:

  • Rapid growth of the organization and/or the collaboration environment – unfettered growth can make collaboration environments unruly and difficult to use
  • Increasing proliferation of information shared in the environment – rapid increases in information can make the environment overwhelming and discourage use
  • Duplication of information in the environment – this can lead to version control problems (also regulatory/compliance breaches) as users unwittingly interact with multiple versions of the same document
  • Loss of relevance or timeliness of the information shared – this discourages use and can lower morale as the environment seems neglected

This is where a Collaboration Governance Strategy is invaluable. It is the tool that brings structure to the free-spirited collaboration environment, by governing growth, content management, information management and versioning/aging. When combined with a Change Management process, the governance strategy comes to drive ongoing decisions about the management and use of the system.

Rather than discouraging users with complex rules and controls, an effective collaboration Governance and Change strategy increases user satisfaction by creating alignment between the business/business goals and the various content producers; content managers; collaboration collections and properties (sites and sub-sites).

Tango Technology Group’s information management experts are seasoned in delivering governance strategies and related processes for intranets, SharePoint intranets, and SharePoint collaboration environments. We are experienced in the development and implementation of strong governance structures that encourage creative, free-spirited collaboration.

If you have an existing or planned collaboration or intranet project in the works, I hope you’ll contact me to ensure that your investment in the new environment will be a success: dcharland(at)tangotechnologygroup.com

For more information: