Saturday, October 2, 2010

Internal SharePoint Marketing -- Tipping the Balance towards Power Users

Of all the interviews conducted for an ongoing SharePoint Reality Series in KMWorld, one of the simplest and most compelling ingredients of a successful deployment is put forth by EPC Group's Errin O'Connor, and his notion of power users. It’s not the extra licensing, the extra server farm, or frankly a 3rd party outfit like Errin’s that spells the difference. It’s the folks in your enterprise that connect the business goals of their team to a platform for delivering them. Sound a bit abstract? How’s this for incentive: they map their own job skills and career assets to their knowledge of SharePoint.

That’s why deployment teams should resist the temptation to provide introductory SharePoint training and opt instead for coaching power users and their teams – the more grounded in their day-to-day grunt work, the better. Power users self-identify as stakeholders. They're accountable but they're not stuck on precedent or tethered to the orthodoxy of an outmoded approvals process. Governance is not administrivia any more than innovation is free-form experimentation. There’s a balance between discipline and exploration. There’s also a duality between the power user’s role as SharePoint consumer and producer – someone on the hook for scaling the productivity gains of a wider adoption.

Power users straddle the line between trying anything once and building on what works. They don't answer to a central command or a rogue band of enterprise insurgents. They answer to results -- the most pragmatic of change agents.

O'Connor cites a full blown document management initiative at Continental Airlines, where the original goal was to get 50 power users to support 3,000 end-users at HQ in Houston. "These people all have day jobs," says O'Connor. They're not theorists or programmers but see SharePoint as an extension of the broader business goals that require an ECM platform like SharePoint to succeed: “How can I put you in a portal today?” is the used car salesman line that O'Connor invokes for describing Continental's playing of the power user card.

One internal marketing vehicle he recommends is to create internal SharePoint training sites. These are not introductions for generalists but just-in-time learning materials targeted to specific build approaches, workflow models, security, and architectural designs that help power users to leverage the webpart galleries,coding repositories and best internal practices that have been leveraged by their cross-functional peers. O'Connor encourages clients like Continental to download learning tools like Camtasia Studio and generate five minute training videos:

1.How do I enable inbound email to a library?
2.How do I set up a new list?
3.How do I add folks to my workspace, etc…?

These task-specific lessons are too granular for Microsoft to address but take on a more genuine team-building benefit for users familiar with the processes and players exemplified in these training demos. Think of it as ShareTube for your project leads. Whatever way happens to work O'Connor puts his finger on the Key to successful SharePoint rollouts: empower your technical business users. "These are natural SharePoint proponents and will see through what they start."

O’Connor likes to use a retail metaphor to describe enterprise adoption. In the SharePoint economy the system administrators are the mall managers while the store owner is the power user. It’s those shopkeepers that manage inventory and make sure content is relevant – they police the store.

Global and local champions – like any KM or document management initiative – need to keep the snowball rolling down the hill. Project leaders need to identify or seek out power users. In the absence of a formal rollout, they need to reward power users with incentive plans for their teams to utilize SharePoint – and reinforce that through internal marketing.

From a more central perspective those pockets of power users form a collective picture of what no single CXO or unit head can speak to with any real gravity or conviction -- that's the fundamental question: what are we using SharePoint for -- not the roadmap, but the reality. This can be a trick (and anxiety-laden) question because:

•SharePoint orchestrations are inherently complex, and
•No single group is leading the way

What O'Connor likes to call the world’s largest Swiss army knife can take an enterprise in any number of directions. The larger point that gets lost is that with so much functionality, a power user support mechanism is critical for defining and ultimately driving how current projects can map to looming priorities. For an enterprise that’s already embraced MOSS, there’s no better indication of how and where to pool enterprise resources.