SharePoint Spotlight On – Louise Michelson (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Louise and I met at Information Worker, we’re both in the end user game so have a lot in common with our daily adoption challenges.

Where do you work?
The internal IT team at Dimension Data, C-Bits (Centre for Business Innovation and Technology Solutions).

Not only do we provide re-active internal support for our employees across the MEA region, C-Bits is the centre of competence providing innovative business technology solutions by developing, deploying and maintaining value added solutions in accordance with leading practices.

A real positive is that C-Bits has recently employed an Organisational Learning & Development Manager who will be responsible for developing and delivering a knowledge management strategy and culture within the organisation – this will lend credibility at a senior level and assist in ensuring that our intranet effectively delivers on it’s mandate – to provide employees with real-time, relevant knowledge and enhancing productivity – further establishing IT value-add.

What is your job title?
Content and Marketing, Wired, MEA. Our intranet (built on MOSS 2007) is referred to internally as Wired.

How many SharePoint users in the company and how many are you responsible for?
Our intranet is deployed globally and we have over 11000 employees making use of Wired across the Globe. My team is responsible for the MEA content and user base, which is around 4000 employees.

What version of SharePoint are you using and how long has your company been using SharePoint?
We initially deployed our intranet using Intracs functionality in 2004 and we plugged in certain elements of SPS 2003 (SharePoint Portal Server) to deliver on our portal requirements. As SharePoint evolved, we started to use WSS 2003 (Windows SharePoint Services) for our communities/workspaces. We then migrated to MOSS 2007 late 2009 and are now looking at SharePoint 2010 for end of this year or early next.

How did you learn SharePoint and how long have you been using it?
When we deployed MOSS 2007, we brought in an overseas trainer who spent a week with the team in SA. This session gave us an overview of the functionality offered, but it was only when we started to develop our sites and prepare our training modules that we began to really understand the full benefit that SharePoint had to offer. Since joining Microsoft’s Information Worker community and collaborating with like minded business users, our knowledge on SharePoint has increased dramatically. Our users are also becoming a lot more SharePoint savvy and continually challenge us to learn.

What is the biggest challenge you face with user adoption?
New employees are the easiest as they have no preconceptions about the intranet or SharePoint. Change Management is vital – don’t just build it and think they will come! The most difficult issue is managing the perception of SharePoint internally because many see the downfall of C-Bits not offering development/creativity as being a SharePoint product fault, when in fact SharePoint can do anything when the correct resources are leveraged – NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!

How are you handling governance?
The operating model that we currently use is that we have two separate areas within our intranet – one for portal content (one-to-many content, collateral, brochure ware and content applicable to all employees), the other is our community workspaces where our teams collaborate to develop solutions and services and manage projects and operations. On application of a community, we provide training to the community owner and my team then offers support to the owners, assisting them in developing and maintaining their workspaces. Our portal information architecture, design and content is strictly governed by global marketing to ensure that all aspects of Corporate Identity and standards are maintained. Community workspaces are manually audited by the team in an effort to avoid SharePoint sprawl.

Do you have a dedicated SharePoint team and Executive buy-in and is it helping?
Our current team within the region MEA consists of myself and my colleague who look after the MEA content within the portal area as well as creating workspaces, offering training and coaching for community owners and generally provide helpdesk support for all SharePoint / Intranet queries from employees. Our existing server team manage the hardware environment and provide 3rd level technical support when required. We do not offer development within SharePoint and currently only make use of functionality that does not require any coding/development/design.

If you had unlimited resources in your company and could design the ideal SharePoint dream team, what would it consist of?
My ideal SharePoint team would include a full time developer, a part time resource for hardware/server maintenance, a SharePoint stylist / designer and two resources to manage the user experience and adoption and be the interface between the business users and development teams. Access to a Business Analyst to prepare requirements specifications would also be beneficial in order to map requirements to functionality.

Have you built anything cool (out of box) in SharePoint that your users loved, and if so what was it?
We recently built a content type that allowed users to add a link in a folder/library to document that was located in another folder. This gave us the ability to “reference” one version of a document in multiple folders.

What functionality do you use the most on a day to day basis?
Wiki’s and Blogs are starting to take-off. Our users enjoy the fact they can build their own surveys. Our project teams enjoy the list functionality and from a document management perspective, columns and views are winners!

How has SharePoint changed your life?
SharePoint is an extremely powerful product and every day we get to learn something new.

What’s the hardest thing about your job?
Maintaining credibility – an intranet needs to be the trusted source that provides relevant, current and useful content. Content owners are not pro-active in maintaining their documentation and are not managed to do so. Lack of SharePoint development/creative skills – this seriously impacts on our ability to deliver real business solutions.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The best part of my day is coaching business users and showing them how to do something in SharePoint that they thought would be a difficult task, when in fact it is real easy – I love the look on their faces when we solve their problem using existing functionality!

What do you know about SharePoint 2010 and are you planning to upgrade?
I recently attended a 2010 BootCamp and have attended the Information Workers sessions at Microsoft. Both have given me some insight into SharePoint 2010 – and I am loving what I see. We have not finalised our upgrade path but am expecting to be early 2011.

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