For the first time in 5 and a half years, I heard a SharePoint IT Project Manager say that SharePoint should be owned by business. What a refreshing conversation! He is one of the very few IT people that really do get how this platform should be run. His hands are however very tied by legacy management issues that have had long term implications for the platform.
One of his main woes was how to get business to take ownership of SharePoint. To date, they have failed with this and don’t know how to turn the tide. It’s not often we get to hear stories like this, usually it’s business trying to get IT to let go; so here are some tips on how to get business to take the reins :
First, look at service you are offering to business. What is the entry point for business into SharePoint via IT? Do they have to complete endless change requests that take days or weeks to action – in triplicate? Is the process to get anything done in SharePoint fraught with red tape? The nature of SharePoint is extremely quick changes in a production environment. Telling users they have to log change requests to change a column is not viable. How easy is for them to request a new site collection? Traditional IT helpdesks do not work in the SharePoint space. You need an alternative, (very easily built on SharePoint out of box).
Second, is the platform stable and large? Are there daily (tested) backups? Proper DR? Enough space for document storage – especially if the plan is to replace file shares with SharePoint? Is it fast? If users are constantly running out of space and SharePoint is slow and hangs, they won’t use it. How easy is it to request more space? Are you managing that space effectively on the back-end to ensure speed on the front-end?
Next, is there a strategic direction for the platform? What is the positioning of SharePoint, is it documented and communicated? What do you want it to achieve in the organisation? What do you want business to achieve with it? What culture changes would you like to see happen as a result?
Do you have a training plan and support path? If you want business to take ownership, you have to train them to do that. If you want them to use the platform in a certain way, you have to train them. If you want them to build their own solutions, you have to train them. Once they start building their own sites, do you have a dedicated helpdesk that can assist them with queries quickly without having to log a change request? What type of support do you have in place for them? Do you have a fast-track program for the business users that have a flair for SharePoint and want to go all the way? Do you have dedicated SharePoint support staff to keep the service running?
Have you initiated a governance forum? You need to take the initiative and start a forum that involves the key business people from each area. Host it in the beginning, then let them take it over. There must always be representation from both business and IT at this forum, and it must have open channels of communication between the two. The future of the platform and all issues must be decided and actioned by the governance forum.
Are you flexible and open to change? You might have set up the platform and activated some services; but as business starts using it, they will require additional features activated. Their needs will mature as their experience grows. Are you willing to let go more, and able to support the features they require? You need to stay ahead of the curve and learn the functionality before business does, so you can support them properly. You need to be able to advise them correctly on their needs as they may not understand the implications of what they’re requesting.
Have you been engaging business from the beginning? Or did you do everything behind the scenes then just threw SharePoint at them and expected them to embrace it? It is important to have been engaging them from the beginning, or expect a lot of resistance. Ask them what they want, show them what’s possible, ask for their opinion. Grow with them.
Communication and past experiences? Did you have a previous version of SharePoint that everybody hated? Do users mistrust the platform now? You will need to do a massive marketing and communication drive to change that perception. Admit where you went wrong, explain what you’ve done to prevent that in future, ask for patience while you get things right, and communicate when you do get it right. Play open cards with business, establish trust and be patient.
Once you have addressed all these issues, you will be in a much stronger position to ask business to take ownership, and empower them to do so. Get your house in order to meet them half way, then be flexible in future. Everyone on the planet is still learning how to do SharePoint right, mistakes will be made. Learn together, keep communication channels open, and be kind to each other. Next, read this post on what attributes the business owner should have. Yes, business should own SharePoint, but business and IT need to work together for it to be truly successful.