Important Considerations for your SharePoint Implementation Plan (Part 2)

This is the second post of a six part series that provides important considerations for your SharePoint implementation plan.   I’m not claiming there are ONLY 6 considerations, or that these are definitively the 6 most important, but I am claiming they’re important enough to be pretty darn close to the top.

Consideration 2:  Who is the user?

It is tempting to go into your implementation without a clear understanding of the user.  Knowing the characteristics of your users provides clarification on your implementation in the same way that having a clear definition of your success criteria provides clarification on how to focus your efforts.

Quick poll.  Which of the following indicates the best understanding of your users:

  1. Every employee is a user.
  2. Every employee is a user. They are grouped into Groups A, B, C, ….
  3. Let me tell you about one type of user for the site:
    1. He is in field services.
    2. He travels once a week and loves his iPad.
    3. 50% of his day is spent in Word, 50% in Excel.
    4. His Inbox is WAY Too big (5 GB!!)
    5. He always misses technology trainings.
    6. Etc.

I’ll bet you guessed three. Congrats, you’re right!  So why do most organizations typically start their implementations by defining their user base using descriptions that sound a lot like one or two?   The short answer is: because it’s easier and it allows you to push off the tough questions of how to construct your implementation until deep into the implementation i.e. way too late.

What does a deep understanding of a user allow you to do?  It provides clear guideposts for the implementation along the way.  Take, for example, a typical requirement to share organizational knowledge across a certain group of users.  How should this be implemented?  For organizations that have not thought through who the user is, the brainstorming sessions around what to use go something like this:

  • Person 1:  I think a blog would be great
  • Person 2:  I like the idea of a Wiki.  Wikipedia uses it and it works great.
  • Person 3:  how about we just use a list with questions and answers, curated by one person?
  • Person 4:  I’ve got an idea. Let’s do a portal page that incorporates all of the above.
  • In Unison:  What a great idea!

Who’s right?  Person 1?  Person 2?  All of them?  Who knows?  Any one of these could be the right answer.  If, however, we know that our user:

  • Works from a mobile device
  • Needs fast answers
  • Has no tolerance for any mistakes in the information (perhaps a broker quoting pricing)

We are now in a position to better architect the solution.

January 16, 2013