Introducing SharePoint: What YOU say, What THEY hear

As an Organizational Change Leader, I've designed and developed my share of SharePoint sites that have reached people across cities, counties, and across the globe.  Just last year, one of my sites achieved over 16,000 hits across the world.

I'm generally in the "hot seat" as I introduce the concept of collaboration using SharePoint to large organizations who have never experienced SharePoint or, if they have, it looks like a ghastly similar version of their T: or M: or whatever shared drive they've used since shared drives were invented:  just a list of folders.

I've also worked with executives who say, "We've invested in SharePoint, let's use it!"  Then, months later, SharePoint is still everyone.  IT is perplexed as they stood up SharePoint and provided training and yet the business still feels frustrated.

That's when I step in.

I work with Executives and Project Managers and other leaders to develop sites that they will USE and get excited about and then we share the site with others and watch the interest heighten across the organization.

How?  Every conversation I have introducing SharePoint, I begin with the understanding that people fear what they don't know and they especially fear what they can't control.  

I didn't "grow up" wanting to be a SharePoint Guru.  As a Change Leader responsible for multiple projects and programs across an organization, SharePoint made my life WAY easier so I dove in and learned the ropes.

I've developed SharePoint sites for:

  • Employee Engagement Programs
  • Hennepin5K (across multiple sites)
  • Many IT Projects including SharePoint
  • Planning and non-IT Projects
  • Employee Resource Groups (Lean In)
  • Organizational Alignment (Department infrastructure)
  • Leadership Development Programs
  • Training Programs
  • and more...

I know the basics...and honestly, that's all a SharePoint fanatic who wants to teach people to collaborate online really needs to know.

Below are some general learnings and tips that I hope will help your organization understand the initial human response to SharePoint so you can move forward with this handy collaborative technology.  This also gives you an idea of what well intended statements really sound like from the "people side."

Building a Sharepoint Site

Sharing Documents?

When you say, "SharePoint is a collaborative tool where we can share documents."

They hear: "SharePoint allows others to look at all of your stuff."

They believe that all of the documents on their computer will now be accessible to everyone.  They believe that others will want to steal or corrupt or delete their important work and put them at risk.  They believe that there are 15,000 policies that protect data in their organization and this will put all 15,000 policies at risk.  They believe that they will have no control over their own documents or, for a leader, the documents of their team.

Now, why would they want to use SharePoint?

No joke - there are many policies about data privacy and quality and so on within organizations, and there are specific rules to be followed in saving, sharing, and storing documents.  These rules will be followed in SharePoint.

This is where I talk to them about permissions, version history, how they can use other options for documents they don't want to share with others.  I help them understand how to control their SharePoint sites.

Conversation tools?

When you say, "SharePoint has similar features like Facebook or LinkedIn where you can create a blog, have a discussion board and create surveys."

They hear, "SharePoint brings your family to work and shows you what they eat every day."

This is where they question "What is wrong with email?"  They have absolutely no desire to have two Facebook-like feeds-and what if someone makes an inappropriate comment?!?! I help them think through the challenges with email chains (where inappropriate comments also may occur) and that SharePoint helps eliminate confusion and duplication of information by allowing others to read comments in a series.

You should see their reaction when I tell them my prediction that email will be obsolete in our future (I initially made that prediction in 2008 when I provided change leadership for Lotus Notes Instant Messaging across a large government enterprise).

Media in SharePoint?

When you say, "SharePoint allows you to share photos, videos and Power Points easily." 

They hear, "SharePoint is going to take photos of me and post them without my approval OR (even worse) my colleagues are going to take secret photos of me and post them."

They simply cannot transfer the similarities between what they do in their personal life (ie sharing photos on Snapchat) to what they do at work.  Photos?  Videos?  At work? Online?  Only if approved by communications or public affairs or some other area, right?

I have inspired many teams to use SharePoint to share videos and photos about the work they do.  My favorite team used SharePoint to share photos of furnaces and plumbing in homes they were inspecting to get real-time feedback from their team members so they could provide better recommendations for customers.  The photos also served as a training tool for new employees.

I have also found that the key to getting people to view SharePoint is photos!  My own personal research has found that people are more likely to view sites and share them with others when there are photos and videos of real people on the sites.

How did I entice over 16,000 people to visit SharePoint?  Photos!  I promote employee spotlights with photos and articles, pictures of team members in meetings or on site doing their work, etc.  This is what separates shared drives from SharePoint:  photos can be easily viewed and shared.

(P.S. I do ensure I get permission to use photos before posting them on SharePoint - it's the respectful thing to do!).

We need templates, right?

When you say, "We can build multiple sites for different audiences that are connected."

They hear, "We need someone to design and approve templates or SharePoint will bust."

Thanks to our Communications and Marketing leaders, we have been conditioned to use templates to present the information consistently for ease of recognition.  This includes branding (colors, etc.).  In SharePoint, branding is important, yes.  However, SharePoint  already provides templates that offer functionality for projects, community, and other collaboration.

Every organization starts SharePoint with their own branded and approved templates and then experiences the true value in the technology:  each site is different because each audience that the site is intended to reach is different!

Let's use a point of reference we've all experienced at some point:  we have shared folders, all with naming conventions (or without) that are saved however we have evolved to save them over the years.  The same is true for SharePoint:  the sites will evolve with the skills, talents, and creative ideas of the people who use the sites. Eventually, they will all have a unique look and feel - and that's what SharePoint is intended to do: offer the ability for us to design our site to achieve the best possible results for the work we need to do together.

Can I change stuff?

When you say, "You can post timelines and strategic information on SharePoint so everyone knows what dates to plan around."

They hear, "SharePoint makes me lock in dates that I won't be able to change."

This is a challenge I often face with leaders and project planners.  There is fear that the dates may need to be changed due to project unknowns and people will not be held in the highest regards if they change the dates.

People are resilient and can adjust to new information easily:  even on SharePoint!  If a timeline is adjusted with an explanation that provides context, generally people can adjust.  If it happens frequently on a certain project, it might appear to be poor planning, but I have yet to work on a project where a change in the timeline caused an uproar.

Org Chart Design is the best structure, right?

When you say, "SharePoint can be designed in a variety of ways to connect people across organizations."

They hear, "The site structure should mimic the organizational design structure (ie:  it should look exactly like the org chart)."

This is one of the greatest challenges of developing a SharePoint infrastructure - does the organizational chart really speak to the structure needed for collaboration across teams?  If the site is developed with the customer in mind first, organizational changes (reporting relationships) are less likely to impact the design of the site.  Although we can take the organizational chart into account as we develop the site, we want to ensure that the customer (the purpose the organization exists) is at the heart of the design.

Dive in.  Just do it.

SharePoint really is an effective tool for collaboration.  Especially in large change efforts, it's critically important to have a fun "one stop shop" for sharing updated documentation and presentations that leaders can use (right from SharePoint) to share with their employees and keep everyone "in the loop."  It's also important to highlight the amazing PEOPLE who work so hard to achieve success at work- and SharePoint does all of that plus more.

What are other fears or challenges you think people experience when being introduced with SharePoint? 

What are some ways you've used SharePoint to achieve awesome teamwork?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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