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SharePoint is a lot of things, but niche isn’t one of them. There’s a popular soundbite that the Microsoft platform is used by a staggering 78 per cent of Fortune 500 companies, and that it gains another 20,000 users around the world per day.

You couldn’t ask for a better endorsement. Faced with figures like this, it’s difficult not to assume that SharePoint boosts productivity and collaboration in almost any business environment, 100 per cent of the time. And yet the truth, according to a new survey, couldn’t be more different.

Earlier this week (February 24th), the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) published the results of a poll of around 500 companies that used the Microsoft platform. It found that far from sharing in universal success, almost two-thirds of SharePoint projects have fallen short of their original goals.

Specifically, more than a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents said that their efforts to implement the software had “stalled”. A further 37 per cent told AIIM that their finished SharePoint projects had failed to live up to their initial expectations.

Perhaps most damningly of all, only 11 per cent of companies were of the opinion that their implementation had been entirely successful.

So, what is it that causes a SharePoint project to stall or to thwart its owner’s ambitions? Based on both the results of the AIIM survey and our own experiences, here are a few of the most common reasons.

The workforce isn’t engaged in SharePoint

Commenting on the poll results, the AIIM’s market intelligence director Doug Miles pointed to under-par adoption rates as a key issue: “Workers are simply not engaging with SharePoint in a committed way,” he said in this week’s press release.

There are a handful of potential reasons that this is the case. AIIM cited an absence of end user training, as well as the failure of senior management “to endorse and enforce SharePoint”. Of course, it’s also important to remember that this endorsement counts for nothing when the workforce’s needs and wants aren’t taken into consideration.

All too often, an organisation will introduce SharePoint without really explaining how it’s supposed to make end users’ jobs easier.

Ownership lies with IT, not the business

Along the same lines, many companies insist that their IT departments take ownership of SharePoint projects rather than the actual business units intended to use the finished product. This is counterintuitive – the Microsoft platform provides rich out-of-the-box functionality precisely because non-technical teams work most effectively when they have control over their own workflows and processes.

To use Mr Miles’ words: “Business lines need to drive use, and SharePoint steering groups can play a big part in encouraging adoption.”

SharePoint isn’t integrated with other applications

Interestingly, one of the pain points identified in the AIIM survey was a lack of integration between SharePoint and other applications. Just 14 per cent of respondents had connected their implementations to other document and content management systems, which the researchers theorised had restricted its ability to provide functionality such as enterprise-wide search.

SharePoint doesn’t need to be integrated with other data sources to be successful, but these findings suggest that a lot of companies are turning their backs on some of its most compelling features. Document management is important, but SharePoint’s functionality extends far beyond that – it can also be used to build sophisticated line-of-business applications, for example.

Had the respondents really understood their workforces’ requirements, maybe they’d have realised that these extra capabilities could have been added both simply and profitably.

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