SharePoint Spotlight On – Rob Kronick (Toronto, Canada)

Rob contacted me in July last year about my blog and website, and we got chatting. Our history in SharePoint was extremely similar, both on very large projects, loved it instantly, self-taught, little support, etc. We have been in constant contact ever since! Even though he is on the other side of the planet, his challenges are exactly the same as ours on the southern tip of Africa.  SharePoint unites alot of people.

Ron KronickWhere do you work?
Justice Technology Services Division, Ontario Public Service, Canada.

What is your job title?
Senior SharePoint Project Manager and Trainer.

How many SharePoint users in the company?
40,000 in the company but only around half on the platform right now.

What version of SharePoint are you using and how long has your company been using SharePoint?
SharePoint 2007 Enterprise Edition – 6 years.

How did you learn SharePoint and how long have you been using it?
Self-taught; 5 years.

What is the biggest challenge you face with user adoption?
A (lethal) combination of :

  1. SharePoint functionality not being compelling enough for our information workers – especially given they are still able (with a few exceptions) to do things the same way they always have (e.g. emailing attachments instead of emailing SharePoint document links); and
  2. the lack of executive and management sponsorship, direction, and leading-by-example.

The only SharePoint feature that has proven compelling for our business is the ability to share information across geographical boundaries. Since our clientele are comprised of over 6,000 police officers, 5,000 Correctional Offices, and over 1,000 police detachments, prisons, jails, and administrative offices spread across the 2nd biggest province in the country, this requirement is fairly widespread.

How are you handling governance?
Ontario Government as a whole:

  • Justice Technology Services (JTS), the IT Division of the Ontario Public Service (OPS) for which I work, is responsible for the delivery and ongoing management and custodianship of all IT services for the Justice Cluster, which is comprised of approximately 22,000 of the 60,000 employees who work in the OPS. However, JTS also happens to be responsible for the SharePoint Service Offering for the entire OPS, and in order to manage the workload amidst on-going staff freezes and cutbacks across the Ontario Broader Public Sector, each of the 7 other OPS Clusters (e.g. Health Services Cluster) has had to appoint a SharePoint Lead to assume responsibility for all SharePoint applications for their Cluster.

Justice Sector – IT Side:

  • Central Help Desk: serves as First-Point-Of-Contact (i.e. Tier 1 Support) for all IT problems, issues, service requests, etc., including SharePoint.
  • Application Support Team: comprised of 3 SharePoint Technical Support Analysts, this team serves as Tier 2 Support, that is, they are the next team to be contacted for all problems that cannot be resolved by the First-Point-Of-Contact (Tier 1).
  • SharePoint Specialist Team: comprised of 2 SharePoint Technical Experts, this team serves as Tier 3 Support, that is, they try to resolve any problems the Tier 2 Application Support Team can’t resolve. For any problems this team can’t solve, JTS has an on-going annual agreement for Microsoft Premier Support. This team also provides SharePoint consulting and some custom development upon request, on a charge-back basis to the requesting business group.

Justice Sector – Business Side:

  • Local Portal/Systems Administrator: Each business group that requests a SharePoint application, MUST appoint a staff person as the local SharePoint support person who is responsible for user maintenance and answering “how to” questions for their local business group. For all other SharePoint problems, the business group users must contact the Central Help Desk (see above);
  • Team/Group Managers/Leads: Every person working in the business group who has staff reporting to them and wants to create an electronic workplace for their staff to collaborate, is responsible for creating their own SharePoint Team Workspace. If they are not interested in learning how to do this themselves, then they rely on the Local Portal/  Systems Admin person to set it up for them. Further, if a Team Group Manager / Lead also has people reporting to them that will be leading other people, then the team’s SharePoint Team Workspace will provide these people with Manage Hierarchy Permissions to the Team Workspace.  Then they can set up Team Workspaces on-the-fly to support collaboration, document-sharing, etc for whatever initiatives they need to assemble sub-teams for. As a best practice, JTS recommends that every Team / Group Manager / Lead assigns a backup person that is to be added to the OWNERS group of the Team Workspace.
  • Staff: These are the primary SharePoint application users who contribute content, etc. It is unknown whether, as a general rule, Justice Sector business group managers sponsor SharePoint training for their staff, since they do not half to coordinate this through JTS.
  • Content Consumers: Depending on the nature and scope of the SharePoint application, this group represents all of those staff members who only consumer information from the SharePoint application (i.e. they would only have READ ONLY permissions to all SharePoint content).

As an overall policy, if the application a business group is interested in is content-based for a broad audience, JTS recommends our standard Web Content Management Service Offering (i.e. Stellent), whereas if the application is primarily to support team/group collaboration, including document sharing, JTS recommends SharePoint.

Do you have a dedicated SharePoint support team and is it working?
I think this is a Governance issue, and it is covered above.

If you could design the SharePoint dream team what would it consist of?

I am very pleased with our Governance structure as it is described above, with 4 exceptions;

  • We don’t have a SharePoint training crew, so consequently, our business groups are going outside to the market place for their training. (And you and I both know the lack of quality that’s out there.) So I would like a team of 3 SharePoint trainers, so we could offer this service to our clients ourselves.
  • I would like a SharePoint Marketing Team of 3 staff, each fully versed in SharePoint’s capabilities and supported by a SharePoint Demo Centre to which business groups can come to view SharePoint ‘killer app’ ideas that have been developed and implemented in the Demo Centre by this team. The Demo Centre would also have marketing literature for visitors to take with them, describing ideas for how to use SharePoint.
  • I would like 3 more SharePoint experts to join our extant 2-member SharePoint Specialist Team (who comprise our Tier 3 Support), bringing the team up to 5. They are presently very overworked.
  • Above all, I would like to establish an OPS-wide SharePoint Review Board through which all SharePoint initiatives must pass for approval. It would be comprised of a panel of 3 or 4 SharePoint Solution Architects, each having several years experience implementing SharePoint solutions ‘under their belt’, and every SharePoint project would have to present what I would call a “SharePoint Readiness Checklist” along with all the project artifacts the checklist demands. For example, one of the items on the checklist would be the requirement for a SharePoint Communications Plan, and the applicants would have to submit their plan for the Board’s approval. The Board would then review the plan to ensure it covers minimum pre-requisites.

Have you built anything cool in SharePoint (out of box) that your users loved, and if so what was it?

  • Our most successful SharePoint application to-date is our Legal Services Division Portal (LSDp), with over 900 users working in several Legal Services Branch offices across the province. The primary business drivers were local web content management by content owners in each of the branch offices, along with team collaboration, content approval workflow, and application integration (with single sign-on) to remote legal information services. (There was some custom dev on this, the branding and application integration component, the rest was out of box).
  • While not very ‘cool’, by far the most common SharePoint application across the Justice Sector is document sharing across geographical boundaries.
  • Also common is the use of Meeting Workspaces for periodic divisional, branch, and section meetings in our own JTS Division. Management and staff submit Agenda Items, including attachments, to a central admin person, who then uses a Meeting Workspace Template I created that provides for dynamic agenda item prioritization, among other things.
  • I also built a Team Workspace Template that is very popular across JTS, and perhaps beyond, but I have no way of knowing. The template provides more than 25 individual features that improve upon the standard SharePoint Team Workspace template (e.g. the Shared Documents Library in my template has Versioning and Forced Check-out enabled).

What functionality do you use the most on a day to day basis?

  1. By far: Subscriptions (Duh!).
  2. Document Sharing.
  3. Document Management, including check-out, check-in, versioning, etc.
  4. Document Library Organization using the Windows Explorer feature.
  5. Task Assignments & Task Monitoring.
  6. Meeting Workspaces.
  7. Announcements.

How has SharePoint changed your life?
It’s made working with others a lot easier, it has made me more productive, and it’s fun to use once you become proficient at it.

What’s the hardest thing about your job?
By its very nature, our business is reactive (e.g. a high profile death, a public inquiry), and it’s very difficult for us to control our workload. Consequently, our executive and management are very client-focused, with little or not time or energy left to ‘mind the store’. Consequently, it’s very difficult to get them to learn anything new, even something that may pay off in the long run. It is also very difficult to get them to understand how much SharePoint user adoption depends on their direct involvement.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Designing, authoring, and delivering SharePoint training courses, and then being privileged to see my students adopt SharePoint in a big way. Mostly, this happens with the younger ones, especially the young team leads.

What do you know about SharePoint 2010 and are you planning to upgrade?
Since the rollout of the OPS Enterprise SharePoint Service Offering was fairly recent, it will be some time before we upgrade to 2010.  It was such a tremendous effort just to get MOSS 2007 out, the last thing they want to think about now is having to upgrade to 2010. They’re too busy trying to get this thing sold across the entire government.

One comment

  1. Sounds amazingly similar to our experience – our team of a half dozen “power users plus” (no programming, although we do use SharePoint Designer when necessary) supports our company intranet (MOSS – close to 40,000 users) as well as a couple of thousand team sites. End user training is a challenge that we are attempting to address – the more educated our users, the lighter the burden on us as consultants and trouble-shooters, as well as the better the end user experience in general (leading to better adoption, etc, etc).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.