Archive for October, 2011

How to deploy SharePoint successfully the first time

Let’s take a look at what history has taught us in the IT world. We build or buy an application, we install that application and then we roll the application out to the users. Our job is now done and we move on to the next application. If we are rolling out SharePoint we follow the same pattern and this is why SharePoint deployments fail!

First of all SharePoint is not a common single purpose application, it is an application for developing web site based applications. So here is the kicker: the web applications are not intended to be developed by the IT departments but rather by information workers and this is why the historical deployment model does not work. IT is not deploying an application; they are deploying a platform to create application and that is why you can’t just roll out SharePoint.

So if we follow IT’s traditional deployment model, they just deployed an application that allows users to create other applications (web sites) as easily as creating a new file folder. What issues will this cause?

  • Users will figure this out and create web sites. There will be no management of how many web sites are created and soon we will have the same mess in SharePoint as we had in the LAN drive. I thought SP was going to solve these issues?
  • Most users will see SharePoint as only the team site (the most commonly deployed template) and wonder, “This is SharePoint? What the big deal? My LAN drive and email work better.”

So how do fix this?

  • First of all DON’T let your IT department deploy SharePoint as if it is a traditional application. Have them build the server infrastructure and create a solid platform where users can build web sites.
  • Create a SharePoint deployment team that will come up with usage scenarios, information architecture and governance (guidance and enforcement) for how to use the SharePoint infrastructure IT has deployed.
  • Roll out SharePoint slowly to various departments, showing them how various sites (templates) can be created and customized to solve their business problems. Users who are used to working with email and LAN drives build procedures around the limitations of email and LAN drives, and don’t at first see the solutions that are available in SharePoint that are superior.
  • Identify power users that you can further train on other SharePoint features, so they sites they build can solve more departmental issues.

If you deploy SharePoint this way instead of following the traditional method you will find greater adoption, reduction of information silos and increased efficiently in the organization.

Gord Maric

SharePoint and Business Intelligence Consultant

Why SharePoint? Part II

I am amazed at the popularity and the comments I have received from my original blog post Why SharePoint? I seemed to have hit a nerve with a number of people and I appreciate your feedback. I want to continue my original thoughts and elaborate further.

At the risk of getting lynched, let me say that the majority of people responding and vehemently protesting SharePoint are developers and technical administrators (The IT Crowd). You guys are very smart and talented but I think your focus is wrong and that’s why you don’t like SharePoint.

The IT crowd is used to working with ultimate control. I can’t do this exactly the way I want so the product is no good.

The IT crowd gets bored easily and is not interested in the easy solution. A wizard? Real developers code applications by hand. Besides, a wizard does not give me ultimate control.

The IT crowd are engineers who focus on speed and performance and are obsessed with stats. If it is not perfect, they are not happy. We can run the query 200 milliseconds faster if….

The IT crowd has no business deploying SharePoint to users! Traditionally, deployment is done by the IT crowd, because traditional systems required talented engineers to deploy applications. SharePoint does not.

The IT crowd needs to focus on SharePoint as a platform. Set up the platform so it works fast, scales, is maintainable and searchable. SharePoint is a platform for developing business applications.

The application development can be done without the IT crowd. SharePoint wizards, ready-made templates, and out-of-the-box functionality can satisfy the majority of the most common business requirements. Here lies the reason why SharePoint sucks. The IT crowd still wants to develop applications. “That’s the way it’s always been done, and we can make it faster and better!” But that is not what we need! A new breed of developers evolves with SharePoint. This group–let’s call them site owners, site collection owners–builds applications on the platform using less flexible tools but achieve incredible speed to market due to the limited flexibility. Websites can be created in seconds or days without code. Gasp! No code development? What’s this world coming to?

Development done without code changes everything! Applications that can be built in seconds require development of practices for managing these applications. That is called Governance, and the IT crowd does not care about governance because it has nothing to do with technology. SharePoint ultimately is more about content management and less about technology after the platform is deployed.

Arguing that users don’t need to be trained because it’s just a web site is rubbish. Users are savvy people and will find ways to build their own “applications”. I have seen entire divisions run on email, and Excel spreadsheets. That is wrong, for so many reasons. The users and IT crowd both know this. However, the users don’t have time or knowledge to build the platform, and the IT crowd is complaining about the platform because they don’t like the way it was built and they believe they can do a better job.

Not enough attention is paid to the business application of SharePoint even before the platform is created as well as afterwards to measure whether the platform was created as per the business needs. You can’t give users a platform and wish them luck. You have to give them a solution to a problem they are experiencing. You can’t just tell them to stop using email and the LAN drive without giving them a compelling reason to change.

I have yet to meet a user who complains when I give them an application that solves a problem they are having. They don’t care which version of the browser we are using. All they can see is “Wow! I don’t have do manage this anymore; the application manages it for me.” If the users are using a bicycle to move product and we give them a car to do the same thing, they will be happy. The IT crowd is arguing over the engine efficiency between car 1 or car 2. The user is just happy to get a car!

The problem is that not enough attention is paid to the business application of SharePoint after the platform is created.

There. I said it. Now let the arrows fly.

Gord Maric

SharePoint and Business Intelligence consultant

Note: The IT Crowd is a hilarious comedy about IT and Business.

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