If you’re like me and you’re working with a generally non-technical company, the roll-out of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server/Office 2007 System can be quite a daunting task. I’ll try to keep the ranting to a minimum but below will be some major issues that anyone in charge of a SharePoint deployment should be aware of.
1. If you’re planning on using SharePoint as a file share replacement, interview everybody!! And don’t take no for an answer. Many document intensive companies will have cross-departmental ownership of working files and you’ll be quite surprised that there are often times nested active files and folders that many people are not aware of. To prevent the duplication of efforts or file structures, these nested file structures will have to be taken into consideration if you are planning on creating departmental sites and/or portals. I unfortunately experienced this problem as a consultant – my main project contacts were misinformed on how tightly integrated multiple departments were and therefore we had neglected to interview all of the affected groups. What resulted was the launch of their MOSS portal having a ton of team sites with semi-duplicated document library structures.
2. Another misconception is not needing to involve everybody! You cannot expect to get a SharePoint solution setup and think that it would be possible to simply push it down on an entire company without their involvement. To fully take advantage of all the awesome collaborative features, you will need feedback from not only the department heads but also the people that will be working with documents stored on SharePoint all day long. By consulting with everyone, you will be able to tailor the solution to the way they work and not to mention how much easier it will be when launch day comes around!
3. Demo often! I’m not caught up on software engineering but I guess this would fall under one of the Agile/Scrum manifestos. If you plan on taking advantage of many of the SharePoint document management features it will be wise to constantly demo them, and not only demo them but also have your users test them out. For example, some of the main selling points of SharePoint is its ability to have document versioning, check-in/check-out, information rights management with document information panel, etc. These all sound great and dandy but may greatly lower expectations if end users are not able to experience the process early on in the launching process. They may find the check-in/check-out process too cumbersome and decide against it, which might be quite a headache if you had already created 50 sites, with 10 document libraries each, like I did…
4. Upgrade to Office 2007! If you’ll be using either Windows SharePpoint Services ver. 3 or MOSS 2007 for mainly document management then you definately want your users to have a flavor of Office 2007 to be able to enjoy the whole Office System experience. It’s not flawless, but it’s definately a must. If you’re going to be on Office 2003 or earlier, you might as well stay on the 2003 SharePoint versions.
5. Train your users! I hope this goes without saying but it has definately been one of the more difficult tasks for myself. With today’s fast-paced business, project deadlines, ever-changing technology and a company full of middle-aged non-technical end-users (sound familiar?), proper training will the key to a successful transition. So how the heck can you train everyone in preparations for a smooth transition? I’m open to suggestions if anyone has any! So far, we’ve had formal training provided for the entire company, taking a full day out of everyone’s work week. And that 8-hour training day was barely enough for them to touch upon many of the new UI changes of the Office 2007 suite. If you think that is bad, can you imagine telling your company that they can no longer save documents to a file share but now have to navigate through another set of directory listings to find the proper SharePoint site? And then they have to decide if they want to check-in the file. How about minor versions? Or do they want major versions? Oh wait, you don’t press the save button anymore, you have to go to Server > Check-In. Don’t forget to press the check-out button before you edit, oh and don’t forget to fill out the document information panel with relevant metadata….. As you can see, it can be quite confusing to most average users as to why these things need to be done. All they wanted to do was save a file right?
For me, it almost seems like a never ending tag-team battle between Me/SharePoint and Old Habits/File Shares. I hope this has given you some insight into any SharePoint adventures that may lie before you.