Many of the files contained important, highly useful information. The business decided to group the files using a very complicated folder structure. For example, they had a folder for each of their 15 brands, and within those folders, they had subfolders for marketing, finance, and other key categories; within thosesubfolders they had yet more subfolders.
This had allowed them to more easily find a particular file, or files, rather than having to open and view individual files. But because of this complicated folder structure, they now needed a business process to ensure every file was placed in the right folder. As they found out, the new business process was simply too difficult to manage, and many files ended up in the wrong place.
This allowed me to incorporate and explain the use of metadata to the business. I broke down the file structure into a few key content types, which we then used to include key data elements, along with important data validation. It was this simple approach of content types, metadata, and data validation that was the first major success in my journey to present to my business a better business case for SharePoint.
Now that I had the business’ attention, I decided to have a simple walkthrough of the document library with the key stakeholders. I showcased to them the true value of metadata and content types by filtering and sorting their data.
To my amazement, they were simply awed by some of the basic SharePoint features that they never even knew existed. I then decided to include a custom filter page to really show them what could be done with some simple page creation, web parts, and filtering.
I was very careful not to fully customize any of these pages. I wanted to only use OOTB web parts. That way they would have a better understanding of the basic SharePoint features before I moved forward to more complicated scenarios. The custom page was a huge success and we hadn’t even discussed the extended capabilities the search engine would provide for them. I wanted to hold off on the search engine until after I had better adoption of SharePoint basics.
SharePoint Workflows: The Key
In my humble opinion, SharePoint workflows have been the single most important factor in my ability to educate my business clients and ensure the adoption and use of SharePoint within my organization. Workflows were the first feature that caught my attention at that first VSLive I mentioned, and they were a major contributor to my first full SharePoint POC which incorporated our SDLC processes.
When it comes to SharePoint, the initial conversations that I have with my business clients are usually around their business processes. Business processes are key to using SharePoint to increase productivity and reduce costs, something any business client is eager to discuss.
As I’ve said to many senior IT executives, I can practically guarantee the use and adoption of SharePoint simply through business processes. Every business unit has processes, and most of these processes have checkpoints or points of approval, and this is where workflows come in handy, whether it be through the sending of an approval email or the creation of an approval task.
Once I have convinced a business client of how workflows can improve their processes and reduce their costs, I then educate them on how they can use those same approval tasks to then create service-level agreements (SLAs) or key performance indicators (KPIs).
How great would it be for a business unit to understand just how long it takes for a document to be reviewed and approved? They could then take that information and adopt a strategy to improve the overall process. That would then allow them to create KPIs to monitor and govern the process.
To show senior management’s commitment to the improvement of their processes, they could even include the improvements as part of their bonus objective programs. This is usually the home run that convinces a business client of the true value they can achieve through the adoption and use of SharePoint.