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If SharePoint is anything, it’s versatile. The Microsoft platform can be hammered into almost any shape, whether that’s a simple file management system, a customer-facing website or an ambitious line-of-business application. However, as with any IT project, SharePoint success isn’t dependent on functionality alone. An effective implementation has to solve a genuine problem for the business, and to do it well – something no amount of bells and whistles will compensate for.

As such, all of the best SharePoint deployments – whether they’re supposed to facilitate communication, collaboration or advanced analytics – are driven by a similar set of design principles, while all of the worst ones are haphazardly thrown together in the assumption that Microsoft’s arsenal of enterprise tools will somehow prove useful on their own terms.

Here’s a seven-step outline of the set-up process that differentiates a successful SharePoint implementation from a botched one. Have you paid heed to these requirements in your project?

1. Get buy-in from every stakeholder

Before you can kickstart your SharePoint deployment, you need to convince every single stakeholder in the company – the end users, the IT department, middle management and senior executives – that change is necessary and urgent. In order for people to understand the solution to a problem, they need to recognise that there’s a problem in the first place.

2. Work out what you’re trying to achieve

As discussed above, there’s no end of things that SharePoint can do. However, there’s likely to be only so many that are actually applicable to your organisation. Before working out how you’re going to leverage the platform’s features, or even decide which of those features stay in and which you can throw out, it’s critical that you capture your end users’ needs and define your goals.

3. Establish your governance requirements

Before design work can begin, it’s important to establish any requirements that aren’t directly owned by end users. What style of information governance will supply the biggest benefit to the organisation as a whole, while avoiding regulatory non-compliance? Will this translate into more responsibilities per user and therefore more training, or can some procedures be automated? Asking questions like these is critical to devise an effective governance plan, which is something that all successful SharePoint implementations require.

4. Put together the right team

A common and profound mistake that many companies make when deploying SharePoint is to put the wrong people in charge. You can’t simply silo the project through IT – to deliver benefits to the business, it needs to be owned by the business. Think of who will use the final implementation, then empower them to have a say in its design. Hiring a skilled third party to lend a hand may also help you to jump some of the more difficult hurdles.

5. Design and build in support of your goals

When it comes to actually designing and building your SharePoint implementation, don’t allow the platform’s versatility to steer you away from the proper path. Focus on your core requirements and work out how SharePoint can deliver on them. You can always explore avenues for added value at some point later down the line.

6. Set up a training strategy

In every successful SharePoint implementation, the designers and architects will put in the legwork to ensure that end users are aware of how to make the most of the platform. This encompasses both technical upskilling and training on business process, and both are vital to drive adoption and maintain adherence to governance.

7. Promote adoption and collaboration

Finally, one of the toughest aspects of delivering a successful SharePoint implementation is actually getting the end users to start using it. Granted, this should be a lot simpler if you captured their needs in the first place rather than if you didn’t, but there’s still more you can do to promote adoption. Your end users should recognise that they’re vitally important cogs in the machine, and that their feedback and collaboration is a key part of that.

Your SharePoint implementation could be a file store, a website or a line-of-business application. More than anything else, however, it should be an environment in which everyone works together to deliver value to the business.

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