To be successful a SharePoint Centre of Excellence needs diversity. As an agile development team works best with developers, testers, designers and product owners working together, the same holds true for a SharePoint Centre of Excellence.
There are a few key roles that make up a SharePoint Centre of Excellence.
- Team Leader
- Technical Authority
- Subject Matter Expert
- Change Agent
Don’t confuse the role of a team leader with a project or line manager. The team leader should be the inspiration for the team, provide direction, support when things get difficult and promote the team and way of working.
A good team leader does not allocate work and tasks, they support and protect the team helping them to achieve and exceed their goals. They should be seen as a mentor by the team members, someone they respect and trust and who they can share challenges and problems with.
A good team leader will have:
- A deep and wide understanding of SharePoint is essential
- Experience deploying SharePoint into multiple organisations
- this gives them essential tacit knowledge and experience
- Previous experience, or good understanding, of the infrastructure and deployment options for SharePoint
- Any development experience is a bonus, they should as a minimum understand good practice around the platform and how it can be extended
- Experience of working in an Agile development team and being a scrum master make for a good team leader
- Ability to talk at all levels of the organisation from C level to end users and for the users to feel an equal
The team leader will set the tone for the team, if they are open, honest and hardworking this will be seen in the team. If they are in it for themselves, divisive, manipulative or not really bought into the value of the platform and how change can really make a difference the team will eventually fail.
Ideally this role can will be covered by the team lead, they should have the depth of knowledge and experience to be able to guide and advise the team and the business on the best use of SharePoint. They may look to build a group of trusted advisors or be able to validate any of the decisions with peers or via a relationship with Microsoft.
- Deep and wide knowledge of the platform
- Analytical and problem solving skills
- Able to talk confidently and with authority to infrastructure teams
- Able to provide consultancy and guidance to development teams
- Ability to articulate technical aspects to less technical people in the team and across the wider business
Subject Matter Expert
This area of the team provide the opportunity for diversity in both skills, experience and interests. The vast array of features and functions in SharePoint mean that you will have a range of SMEs, with very different interests and skills.
All subject matter experts should have
- A passion for SharePoint and its roll in changing the way an organisation works
- A desire to learn more, active community members are ideal
- If someone is willing to give up a Saturday of their own time to learn more about SharePoint then they almost certainly have that little extra passion
- Ability to communicate with users
- This is essential, most of the time they will be supporting and encouraging users, working through difficult changes and being able to work well with users will pay dividends
- A feeling of being part of the team and wanting to be successful
The skills of any one SME will vary depending on their experience or interests. This is anything from a passion for doing the basics well, through tools like InfoPath and SharePoint Designer and into wider fields like information architecture and governance.
A successful team will have a mix of SMEs allowing them to offer both a breath of expertise combined with a depth of knowledge.
There will always be people outside of the team that know more about a particular subject, a good SME will look to support and encourage those people as a way to extend the capabilities of the team.
This is not something you will see in the traditional skills matrix for SharePoint but is probably one of the most important skills needed to ensure a successful return on investment.
The change agents will be less technically competent, or even interested, but have softer skills that are essential.
- Requirements gathering and understanding the business need
- I will write a lot more on this subject in future posts – check out Effective SharePoint Requirements gathering workshop for an idea of what this involves
- Marketing and communications
- The ability to promote the services of the SharePoint Centre of Excellence
- Sell the success across the business
- Promote the work at senior level
- Build community
- Arrange events and workshops
- Keeping the community going and active
- Finding new members
- Organisation change
- Interest in the psychology behind effective organisation change
- Understanding / interest in enabling the social enterprise
Where do we find them?
The creation of the initial team may be difficult, the team leader role is crucial and probably the hardest to fill. You may have to go external to your company to recruit a good team leader. Disclaimer – 21apps provide people with for this role.
Subject matter experts will likely come from within. If you already have SharePoint in the business then you will have a few candidates who have put themselves forward as ‘The SharePoint Guy’ – court these people as they are the ones you need to work in the SharePoint Centre of Excellence.
Change agents can come from a variety of backgrounds, I often find that people who are currently on fast track or career stretching activities make good resources here as they have already shown a commitment to improving the way they work and a willingness to learn.
New starters, people straight from university or school, are great additions to the team. They are untainted by the way the business works, have a passion and desire to learn and today have an in built propensity to using technology to get things done.
You have to be very careful who you get on the team, aim as high as possible, ensure every team member brings something to the team and do not allow the team to be dragged down by underperforming people.
What mix of people?
In typical SharePoint consultant speak – it depends!
If your organisation is new to collaborative tools, have a long history of old technology and an aging workforce then the needs for the SharePoint Centre of Excellence are less around technical skills and more around changing the way people work. In this environment there is a need to focus more on the change agents and helping get more from the basics.
If your organisation has kept up to data with technology and have used collaboration and social tools before then you will be looking to build solutions that push the platform. In this scenario you will be looking at more capacity in the subject matter experts, but with a focus for the change agents on building community.
A successful SharePoint Centre of Excellence is not a place for a journey man employee, be very weary of people overselling someone’s ability in order to get them to move into your team and away from their business – if they were that good they would fight to keep them. The team will be small and focused and there is no room for people who don’t carry their weight
How many people?
If you do things well the demand for the time from the SharePoint Centre of Excellence will always outstrip the resources available. The challenge is building team that is big enough to support the rate of change the organisation is comfortable with. Too many people and it will feel like SharePoint is being oversold, too few and people will go elsewhere for support or just do things badly.
You need a base team of between 2-3 people to provide some diversity and mix of skills needed to form the basic SharePoint Centre of Excellence. As the size of the organisation grows, the demand for engagements and support increases so will the demands on the team. A rule of thumb would be 2 people for every 1000 active users – e.g. for a 5000 person organisation with 2000 knowledge workers this would be a team of 4.
In the next post I will discuss ways of working and how the SharePoint Centre of Excellence support the adoption of SharePoint.