The Itch that Must be Scratched
Have you ever had that itch somewhere while going about your daily business, but rather than scratching it you leave it. But the irritation doesn’t stop, and soon you find yourself furiously damaging your own skin just to be relieved from it? Just think on that for a moment while we talk about SharePoint.
While there are many itches that should be scratched in your environment, there is one particular one that typically does not get scratched, or if it does, it tends to happen quite late and soon there’s less relief but certainly awareness of the irritation, and I’m talking about training your staff on SharePoint. Now this of course comes from someone working with a training company, but this is less about sales and more about making your organization more efficient and productive.
I once had a student who worked for a large manufacturing firm who was in desperate need of training. It seemed that SharePoint had not been officially sanctioned by the firm, but it was allowed in the environment without much governance, compliance or even planning. Essentially, SharePoint was implemented haphazardly, by the Information Worker staff on spare servers under people’s desks, and had a broad spectrum of both adoption and customization. The student came to me with this situation; he now needed to find a way to make SharePoint the company collaboration system and somehow unite these little fiefdoms of SharePoint all over the company, and thus he was here for training, of which no one at the organization had any.
While this would be a nightmare for any consultant to walk into, it unfortunately isn’t far from the truth of most implementations. I call them “grassroots movements”, where SharePoint is not only uncontrolled but unplanned and left to thrive on its own. And if you’ve ever seen the Star Trek episode with the little balls of fur, you know it’s quite possible that some things left on their own can become brobdingnagian problems in your environment. But the real question is, “Could this have been managed early on?” Indeed it could have, and not merely by discovery processes and planning teams, but by simple knowledge from training.
Microsoft has often tried to make their products simple to deploy for the small shop, but complex enough for an enterprise, and SharePoint is certainly no slouch. Considering it touts itself as the business productivity platform for the web and the enterprise, you can imagine that it will, at the very least, attempt to touch the lives of everyone who uses electronic information. Imagine, then, that you unleash this powerful force into your work environment without really understanding it, and suddenly…. Well, now you have furballs in your vents, so to speak.
Because of the ease at which SharePoint can be deployed, and because of the intuitiveness of the application itself, it can often be deployed with minimal fuss and its users can start to reap the benefits of it almost immediately. And aside from a little search engine help, most users can figure it out or at least find out what they need to figure out. However, this completely ignores the fact that SharePoint needs a little love and care before, during, and after its implementation, or you could have a very unhappy user base and a very overtaxed IT staff.
Training can do wonders for an implementation of SharePoint, primarily because it informs the group who will deploy it of the possible pitfalls, the gotchas and the unknowns that would have been completely absent from their efforts. In short, if they have the awareness, they can start planning. And if they can plan, they can do amazing things, both for their users and their support teams. I’m not saying that they can meet and defeat everything, but they certainly can go forward with the right tools and an effective strategy for deployment. Just like that old 80’s military-based cartoon says, knowing is half the battle. And when properly trained, the battle is truly theirs.
Personally, I believe everyone should know about SharePoint, but moreso I believe everyone should be properly trained as well. And this isn’t limited to Business Decision Makers and IT Managers, but even developers and Information Workers. The more they know and understand, the better they can manage this tool, and better management will mean better adoption and better efficiency when it comes to using SharePoint. But never fear, if you are of the grassroots movement folk who didn’t get their training before their implementation, there is still hope. But consider it carefully and plan accordingly, so that you aren’t overrun by furballs when you need to summon heavy demand from your infrastructure. Don’t let that itch go without scratching. Get trained, and then you can really get busy.
Technology Lead: SharePoint, Windows 7