“SharePoint – the operating system for the enterprise”
The breadth of features and functions available in SharePoint today is vast, everything from simple discussion boards, records management, search, web content management, business intelligence, the list goes on.
The challenge is often not what SharePoint can do, but what do you as a business need from the platform. The words ‘it depends’ is never far away, and with good reason. When rolling out a platform on the scale of SharePoint you need to be asking Why?
Being able to answer this question will enable every decision to align and help you achieve a measureable return on your investment.
The problem most orgisations have is that there is no one in the organisation asking these questions and ensuring they are reflected in everything that happens with the platform. That is why I promote the creation of a SharePoint Centre of Excellence team as a best practice.
SharePoint Centre of Excellence
A team of high performing, empowered, diverse and capable people who are able to inspire change within your organisation, build community, align your use of SharePoint to business needs and provide the practical application of governance needed to ensure success.
To promote, educate and ensure there is a shared understanding of the way SharePoint will be used within the business. The team act as a single point of contact for all SharePoint activities – a team who know the answers or the people who do.
Providing every area of the business from the C level executives to the guy who mans the support desk with the information, support and confidence needed to make SharePoint a success.
I will go into more detail on the typical activities a SharePoint Centre of Excellence should undertake in a future post, however the team will typically cover the following areas
Not the break fix type of support that already exists in organisations, but support for users who are looking to understand how to do something, if they are allowed to do something or what is the best way to achieve something.
Support will typically be via a community site and discussion board which is moderated by the SharePoint Centre of Excellence but open for other users to contribute to. The SharePoint Centre of Excellence will leverage the platform to provide a support via FAQs and regular blog posts. They will also provide proactive role in demonstrating good practice, running face to face clinics and brown bag sessions to educate users.
The team will also work with IT on support issues, investigation, service pack recommendations and testing. Anything that impacts the platform should include representation from the SharePoint Centre of Excellence.
Any team within the business looking to make use of SharePoint, from simple site requests to full blow business process management should engage with the SharePoint Centre of Excellence. The SharePoint Centre of Excellence will be the 1st team to help the business explore their requirements helping to discover common challenges, define measurable outcomes and prioritise new ways of working.
The team will look to leverage out of the box features and functions, working with the power tools available in their deployment to solve the business needs. Only if the needs require coded solutions will they support the business in engaging with a delivery team, providing consultancy and support through the creation, deployment and use of the developed solutions.
Without an active community of SharePoint champions any meaningful business change will struggle. You will have pockets of success but business wide adoption and exploitation will be limited and the cost of change will be significantly higher and take much longer.
The SharePoint Centre of Excellence are responsible for the creation of, running, promotion, support and success of a SharePoint Champions community within the business.
A key activity for any SharePoint Centre of Excellence is to ensure they continue to build their knowledge of the platform, where it works well and where it falls short. Having an awareness of the wider vendor community offerings is essential. The team should look to become active in their local SharePoint communities, attend conferences and events.
Building time into every team member’s weekly activities is essential to becoming a high performing team able to support the organisation and demonstrate measureable benefits.
The team need diversity in order to be successful. As a successful agile development team works best with developers, testers, designers and product owners working together. The same is true for the SharePoint Centre of Excellence which needs a diverse mix of skills in the platform, the business working as change agents, community creators, marketing and support people.
Not every member has to be a technical expert, but they should grok the value of the platform and how successful adoption can really make a difference.
To grok is to intimately and completely share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity
Do not underestimate the value of senior stakeholder support. This is support for the team, the work and providing them with the autonomy and authority to get things done.
As a team they will also report into, and influence, a governance board for strategic decisions, but they must have a line to a stakeholder that understands the value of the team. If they end up having to report up via a traditional project or support management structure they will become impotent and unable to make the changes needed.
I like to think a successful SharePoint Centre of Excellence is akin to a Skunkworks but without the secrecy.
Skunkworks: A skunkworks project often operates with a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy
How do you get started?
Attend my session at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday 3:15-4:30pm South Pacific Ballroom E. #SPC214
I also plan to walk through the areas above in more detail in future posts and follow this with guidance and advise on how to get your SharePoint Centre of Excellence started – the first steps to creating a team that will ensure success in your SharePoint projects not only today but into the future.
The 1st step will be to recognise the need and value of SharePoint Centre of Excellence.