Considerations When Upgrading to a New Version of SharePoint – Lessons from a Thatching Exercise

Our complex is busy upgrading all our thatch roofs.  It entails  completely removing the current thatch, inserting a new support beam and putting on new thatch.  It’s quite the process for 44 units as you can see in the photos.  It has some quite nice analogies to upgrading SharePoint though.  Here’s some things to consider.

1. Why are you upgrading?

We are replacing our thatch because it’s reaching the end of it’s shelf life, which is 10 – 15 years.  (We have a sectional title complex and it is the duty of the body corporate to perform regular maintenance).  Many of the roofs started sagging in the middle which then resulted in leaking every rainy season.  We enlisted a structural engineer who informed us that our units’ roof structures were not strong enough to support the weight of the thatch, and that it was only a matter of time before they actually collapsed inward. (Original builders cut corners and have long since disappeared).  Every time a roof leaks it’s R4000 – R5000 to fix. Our (very expensive) insurance would not pay out if one of the roofs collapsed and they could prove that we did not do the required ongoing maintenance.

  • Background : We had R1million in our savings account, so we had to raise very little money from residents to complete the upgrade.
  • Decision : Replace the thatch.  Have a new beam designed to support the weight and install it in every unit.
  • Result : Less money wasted on unnecessary maintenance; adhering to insurance requirements.  No more worry about collapsing roofs.  Structured and well scheduled implementation that accommodated everyone.

Lessons for SharePoint : Do you have a valid business reason for upgrading?  Is the business going to suffer if you don’t?  Have you done your research properly on what you have, is it sustainable, and what do you need to improve / fix it?  Do you have the money to pay for all the hidden costs required to upgrade?

2.  Have you communicated properly?

We had 3 annual special meetings.  Almost weekly updates were emailed out. Every single residents’ concern was taken into consideration and addressed.  We were warned it would be a mess.  We were sent a checklist things to do before the thatchers arrived, the process that would be followed and how long it would take.  It wasn’t perfect though.

  • Background : The body corporate is notorious for bad communication.  They sent a survey out asking residents if we should keep the thatch, or replace it with thatch tiles, or with concrete tiles instead.  That survey never got to everyone.
  • Decision : Thatch was chosen.
  • Result : Because of one word : “tiles”, the entire direction of the complex was altered.  In every meeting they had, they kept on saying “let’s take of the thatch and put on tiles”.  Not once was the survey mentioned, or thatch tiles mentioned.  Us die-hard thatch lovers immediately rejected it in favour of thatch – we didn’t want concrete.  We were blissfully unaware that they meant thatch tiles.  Only after work had commenced and we started paying, did it come out that actually thatch tiles is what they meant, not concrete tiles.  We would have accepted thatch tiles.  Too late and R1.4million later…

Lessons for SharePoint : Have you involved your business users in the decision to upgrade?  Have you kept in constant contact?  Have you told them what to expect, what they have to do, and how long it would take?  Are you very sure everyone understands the implications of the upgrade and what the options are?

3. Planning and Implementation Day

We were told the re-thatch would take 4 days.  By the time the foreman came round to check on each property, he said it would take 2 – 3 days.  The actual day of re-thatch took 7.5 hours!  The contractors had strong project management, impeccable customer care and treated their team well.

  • Background : We have never done this in our complex before, we had no idea what to expect.  We tried to get 7 quotes, 5 companies didn’t even respond. Our thatchers have worked on our complex for a couple of years now and they have built up a trust relationship with us.
  • Decision : We all agreed to the terms and planned schedules accordingly.
  • Result : Under-promise and amazing over-delivery!  Happy, impressed and relaxed residents!  It is extremely intrusive having 14 builders take the roof of and empty your house.  The contractors handled it with delicacy and empathy – it made all the difference in the world.

Lessons for SharePoint :  Have you planned properly?  Have you managed expectations properly?  Do you understand how intrusive it is on business users who have come to rely on the platform to be disrupted and who will worry about data loss?  Are you available on the day of upgrade to address any issues?

4. Post Implementation

The team are coming back again tomorrow to clean up the gardens that are covered in thatch, it’s got dark and they couldn’t see. They brought vacuum cleaners and cleaned the entire interior of the house before putting all the furniture back.

  • Background : The thatchers have been around for 20 years.
  • Decision : They decided to buy 3 new vacuum cleaners and help out the residents because they knew what a mess they’d make and what a mission it is to clean.
  • Result : Astounded residents!  Value-added, completely unexpected service that was most appreciated.

Lessons for SharePoint : Are you going the extra mile for your internal customers?  Have you delighted your customers lately?  And if you are the customer and you were delighted – have you told everyone!?  Have you said thank you?

Here’s to Redruth Thatching and Hanro and Geelboy.  Unbelievable service! Incredible personal care!  THANK YOU!  You made something we have been dreading, a breeze.


  1. […] Considerations When Upgrading to a New Version of SharePoint – Lessons from a Thatching Exercise Our complex is busy upgrading all our thatch roofs. It entails completely removing the current thatch, inserting a new support beam and putting on new thatch. It’s quite the process for 44 units as you can see in the photos. … Continue reading → Read More… […]


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