5 mistakes to avoid in your SharePoint project

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There are few things so frustrating as a failed SharePoint project. Whether it’s a line-of-business application that nobody wants to use, a disorganised file store or an open-access intranet stuffed with sensitive documents that shouldn’t be there, dysfunctional SharePoint sites are almost guaranteed to get business managers pulling their hair out.

Though these are diverse problems, they often stem from the same common mistakes. Though they might bring boundless enthusiasm to the project, organisations often approach SharePoint without a proper plan, without nominated owners and with a limited understanding of how the platform will actually boost their bottom line.

Are you guilty of any of the following SharePoint worst practices?

You haven’t made a business case

It ought to go without saying, but if your company can’t think of a good reason to implement SharePoint, you’re probably better off not. And don’t be fooled – “we need SharePoint so our employees can collaborate more efficiently” isn’t a compelling business case.

Instead, think about inefficiencies in your current IT system and determine whether SharePoint is able to plug the gaps. Do your employees send too many emails back and forth when they’re working on the same documents? Is your HR department spending several hours per week processing enquiries that might be handled by a self-service intranet form? How much work will SharePoint save you, and will that translate to a better bottom line?

You haven’t planned your SharePoint project out

Planning is a critical part of setting up a new SharePoint site. A common mistake, however, is to interpret that as an obligation for a single manager – or even a sysadmin – to sit in a soundproof room for three days on end and write a 50-page governance plan.

SharePoint is all about collaboration and an effective implementation is a fundamentally democratic one, so planning your project ought to be a case of capturing each user’s needs and working out how they can best be met.

You’ve given ownership to the wrong person

As we touched upon above, you can’t set up a functioning SharePoint site without the input of every stakeholder. By extension, you can’t put someone in charge and expect them to run the project effectively unless they’re going to be closely involved in the end result.

Many companies see SharePoint as an IT investment and, as such, put sysadmins in control of the project. This is totally counterintuitive – it ought to be business managers, not IT staff, who call the shots when it comes to how SharePoint is accessed and used.

You’ve let your users run riot

Some semblance of order is still needed, of course. If you give your users carte blanche access to every file on SharePoint then you might be making a serious mistake, particularly if your data is sensitive or subject to regulatory requirements. Or if you allow them to upload documents to any location, without appropriate metadata, the chances are your site will descend into chaos and nobody will be able to find anything.

You’ve bought SharePoint for its features, not its benefits

Finally, one of the most common examples of worst practice in SharePoint is buy-in based on features rather than quantifiable business benefits. Companies typically say something like “we need this software because we need an intranet”, which is, if anything, looking at the problem through the wrong end of the telescope.

The line of thinking ought to go: “Our employees need to be able share and discover information more effectively. Does SharePoint have the solution?”

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