SharePoint 2010: Why after 2 years is it still so hard?

by Allison Squires 19 Jun 2012 The Connected Company

With Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer hitting the headlines last week, businesses are once again awash with questions about SharePoint’s credentials as a social platform.

It’s no secret that Microsoft SharePoint 2010 is one of the most pervasive technology platforms of recent years – it has gained a record number of licenses, a reported 125 million in just over two years. And the numbers just keep on rising. Whether you use SharePoint Foundations, Enterprise or Office 365, the chances are, SharePoint has made its presence known within your business.

Unfortunately, despite its ubiquity, SharePoint suffers from a host of worst practices for adoption.  In “Taking your SharePoint Implementation to the Next Level”, we discussed the reality that organizations have to stick with, and make SharePoint work, but that enterprise decision-making is focused incorrectly. There is too much focus on the needs of implementors which results in a punishing user experience that sabotages adoption.

Unspoken Assumptions Cause Problems

In the early days of any typical SharePoint project, we often catch an undercurrent of thought that is not often explicit, but makes SharePoint implementations harder to embed and adopt as time goes on. These are centred primarily around the user experience, namely;

  • “SharePoint is an intuitive product.”
  • “SharePoint doesn’t require training.”
  • “SharePoint integrates seamlessly in MS Office, and therefore users like it.”

In our experience, every one of the above points is a deeply held belief by IT decision-makers, but just isn’t true from a user perspective. At Dachis Group we are laser focused on user centered design. This helps us get to the root of why so many SharePoint implementations fail and why, even in organisations with high usage, adoption is often very low.

Announcing a Series on SharePoint – Barriers & Solutions to Adoption

We are excited to announce an upcoming series of blog posts, webinars and events looking at the common pain points of a SharePoint implementation. Here is a small taster for what we’ll be releasing soon:

SharePoint Barrier: Siloed information

One of the biggest selling points for SharePoint has been its ability to break down silos of information. The reality however is that in many cases it either re-enforces existing silos or creates a new one.

In this discussion we will be looking at ways to break down information silos via search. Specifically, we’ll discuss a unified navigation framework to ensure that your search strategy is focused on the way your users actually perform their searches.

SharePoint Barrier: Confusing Navigation

This barrier is strongly linked to the information silo issue that we highlighted above. Using the native SharePoint navigation framework can lead to confusing global/site navigation experiences, inconsistency across sites, and no obvious ownership or governance for the information architecture (navigation, tagging schemes and search). These issues frequently lead to very confused users!

We will discuss how to take a user-centred approach that ensures a balance between search and browse behaviors. Our focus will be a technology-agnostic approach to designing the navigation framework combined with a deep understanding of the SharePoint elements that create the experience.

The result? A SharePoint navigation experience that is logical and easy to use.

SharePoint Barrier:  Adoption

If usage of a system was equal to adoption, then SharePoint would be in an even stronger position within organizations today. Unfortunately, organizations equate usage with adoption and fail to offer critical training and support. Over time, the lack of these critical elements is compounded to disastrous effect.

For this discussion, we will focus on a holistic approach to adoption built around users and their needs. This is is the only solution to driving adoption. For more on our approach to adoption, Dion Hinchcliffe’s recent post on getting effective results by applying culture change is a great place to start.

We are excited to share our insights over the next couple SharePoint-themed posts. We’ll share some of our specific work around these pain points, and our thoughts about SharePoint v.Next due into public beta any day now.

  • Andrew Gilleran

    Good points, look forward to the other posts. SharePoint users (those average day to day users) are normally left quite confused at times especially in using the ribbon and the interface. I’m a Power user and I still find it difficult!

  • Halvor Kalve

    Is it true that history repeats itself ? Also the user experiences?

    1. It started with IBM Mainframes in the 80′s. Everything on one server, hunting for information in complex UI on dumb terminals
    2. In 90′s came the server-client architecture. Lotus Notes platform. For enterprises, many servers, huge number of custom Notes applications. You had to know where to look.
    3.In the 00′s Sharepoint came and the battle with with Lotus Notes as enterprise platform. And then we have new UI devices ( back to the terminal days ?)
    4. in the 10′ we are back to the mainframe era with everything in the cloud and huge number of apps.

  • Edwin Martinez

    I have to agree with Halvor Kalve’s nearly precise assessment of where we are today; literally, back to the mainframe era – the only thing that has changed is the delivery structure. Nowadways, we use the Internet as our method of data delivery. Our device Web browsers have become our “dumb” terminals, and often times – especially if you’re a home user – you get to pay for the delivery backbone that was once provided by companies to access their mainframes.

    What it boils down is that user experience has almost always taken a back seat to the needs of the deployment planners. I saw this in the 70′s and 80′s when I was in the U.S. Army, and I’ve continued to work in IT as a civilian all through the 90′s ’till the present time – and nothing has changed for the user. Prettier interfaces? Perhaps. More effciency? Jury is still out. Better ROI and business intelligence for the companies? Doubtful.

    We just need to keep pluggin along until the “next” big giant software and/or hardware provider comes along, and hopefully, they will put the user first. Don’t hold your breath.