Setting Expectations for SharePoint Portals

Yesterday I viewed the web presentation from our friends over at Global360 and Gartner and noticed that over 50 percent of companies now use some form of SharePoint. To me, this is an amazing statistic which not only reflects Microsoft’s successful penetration into the collaboration space but points to a huge demand by all types of businesses for effective collaboration. Why do so many companies deploy SharePoint? Initially, I think it was due to the opportunity for users and IT folks to grow their communication levels both inside and outside the organization. Most people understand from experience (often painful) that effective communication and information is the key to performance, as well as a key to their own personal satisfaction in the workplace.

However, one of the greatest challenges faced by companies is the ability to meet these lofty expectations when tools such as SharePoint are deployed. With SharePoint 2010, there is now even more capability around business process management, easier collaboration, and other enhanced features. I recently attended the SharePoint TechFest in Irving, Texas and it was obvious both IT and business users are genuinely excited about these new possibilities. So, if you are the company “owner” of a collaboration initiative (such as SharePoint), how do you effectively set expectations? How do we move forward with a deployment plan that fully leverages the promise of SharePoint and is aligned with the business objectives? From our experience, some basic steps that come to mind are:

  • Explaining the compelling portal features in a fashion that is clear to users with realistic benefits
  • Explaining the limitations of portal features, especially if not executed correctly
  • Explaining that participation is required by users to be successful; and secure this user involvement
  • Establishing basic roadmaps and project plans for feature roll-out based on business priorities
  • Execution of the plan in accordance with the roadmap
  • Solicit and share feedback from the user community as the feature set is deployed – incorporate as needed
  • Establish ongoing enhancement plans through a cross-functional portal team

I’m interested in how others communicate the potential of SharePoint portals and other portal solutions. How do you set proper expectations throughout the enterprise and truly leverage the promise of portals through excellent execution?



3 replies
  1. Doug Barton
    Doug Barton says:

    Great points concerning SharePoint. I would just add a couple of things. First, ensuring company management that the site is secure. Having the Microsoft name goes a long way in doing that.

    Second, managing expectations across age segments. Younger employees are going to be more comfortable with SharePoint or similar tools simple because they have grown up in the Internet age and potentially have multiple personal sites so an additional work site, even multiple sites for different clients is not a big leap. To get the older employees comfortable with the concept you need to temper the enthusiasm of the younger employees (which could be intimidating to others) with a couple of killer features that everyone will understand, for example the shared calendar.

    Thanks for the post,


  2. Kristina
    Kristina says:

    I’ve been working with several groups lately that are using SharePoint for various collaborative projects. As with most tools I find some companies spending a bit of energy launching the tool without understanding it’s true purpose and then it doesn’t get the use intended. A few groups clearly establish the purpose and they seem fairly successful. I’m used to online tools that have more flexible capabilities post-deployment, but I imagine that doesn’t make sense for a lot of larger groups.

  3. Quentin Owen
    Quentin Owen says:

    Value must outweigh the costs of implementation, training, and ongoing monitoring required (though so often neglected) to ensure this tool is being used as needed by stakeholders. Value is difficult to measure, and often costly. For those considering collaborative implementation, there is frequently a rudimentary violation of good business practices by making decisions based on sunk costs, which impedes the implementation of effective collaboration systems or prevents them from migrating to newer platforms due to previous enterprise systems investments. For those with collaborative systems in place, there is often failure to maintain vitality in the content and ease of use.

    So often, I see collaborative systems fail to bring value due to ineffective implementation or poor communication of the value proposition. It is critical that the interface be transparent and the value proposition obvious, with a clear path for completing whatever value transaction is needed, whether it be an information or economic exchange. Too often, corporations fall in love with their IT tools but fail to understand or implement true value expected and needed by stakeholders.


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