A little while back I was working with a customer that had a seemingly simple question… “How do I help my users transition from saving their collaborative documents in unstructured file shares to a more structured environment in SharePoint?”

I thought to myself… “Well, before we let the masses start saving stuff to SharePoint, we should go over information architecture, taxonomy, governance, retention policies, quotas…. that’s quite a bit to chew… and will probably confuse the heck out of this guy I’m talking to…”

So I took a few seconds to mentally flip through some of the possible options:

1. Leave the file shares as is and trust that the users will slowly adopt SharePoint over time through evangelism. “Of course my users will start using SharePoint. They love adopting new technologies!”

2. Physically migrate/relocate all the file shares into SharePoint sites. “Of course IT would gladly help migrate files and our users wouldn’t even know the difference. We’ll just set their homepages to SharePoint!”

3. Make the file share read-only and force the users to save files to SharePoint. “Of course my users are troopers and wouldn’t mind going back and forth between 2 systems to get to their files!”

Did you sense the sarcasm?

Then I had an aha! moment and thought of something that I think is quite a feasible strategy for most organizations. This would also not put too much burden on any one part of the organization in particular. I kind of surprised myself for not thinking of this before. Enter the Page Viewer Web Part.

So here’s the game plan (Works with SharePoint 2010 as well by the way):

1. Start with a team or department that uses the file shares heavily and wants to believe that SharePoint will be good for them.

2. Identify their branch of the file share and make it read only.

3. Create one or more SharePoint sites for this department or team to collaborate on.

4. Embed a Page Viewer Web Part to the page and point it to the appropriately defined file share branch using the “Folder” destination option.

5. Now your users can use the SharePoint site to collaborate on all new stuff while at the same time be able to easily reference the “Archived” read-only documents very easily from the same exact site!

6. If anyone needs to modify a document that was previously stored on the file share, then they can open the document through the Page Viewer Web Part (works just like an Explorer Window) and then “Save As…” to the SharePoint site that they are a member of. Pretty cool huh?

Summary

So this kind of game plan will not only help give your users a smooth transition from file shares to SharePoint but it also gives them the ability to work with both technologies side-by-side to be able to more easily see the benefits of using SharePoint. It also helps IT by not requiring them to manage a file migration project that could potentially turn into mega-sized content databases of purgatory from day 1. Once your users become acclimated with SharePoint, you can then introduce features like required metadata, content types and the like, slowly warming your users up to a more formal information architecture plan.

How’s that sound? Have you tried a similar plan to any success?

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