Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Business Collaboration Platforms and Implementation

Yesterday's class discussion around SharePoint and its capabilities was great to learn about all the potential benefits of the software. However, I did want to share my real-world experience as a reminder to always ground higher-level conversations with the challenges of actual successful implementation.

I have several years of experience with SharePoint 2007 and 2010 while working at the nonprofit Citizen Schools. SharePoint is an enterprise-grade product, and through their partnership with Microsoft, Citizen Schools was able to get SharePoint for free. Looking at the glossy marketing material for the product, it looked like a great solution for our organization's intranet needs. Soon after launching SharePoint, however, we realized how severely we underestimated the need to invest in proper configuration of the software itself. After a few years of use, SharePoint was a disorganized mess of documents and pages with half-working features, and some features not working at all. (The intranet was referred to as "WOWspace", the WOW being a reference to an element of our youth program. The graphic posted with this blog entry was made as a tongue-in-cheek joke about the state of the SharePoint intranet system.)

The takeaway I learned here was simple enough: successful implementation of a business collaboration platform must include the cost of the product, the cost of configuration, and the cost of ongoing support. This may feel like common sense, but what I think catches most people off-guard is the sheer scale of potential impact from poor setup and support: A half-baked launch of a new system is easily worse than no new system at all!


  1. Interesting example...highlights the need to think of collaboration as a capability, not just a technology

  2. I went through an experience that also makes me think twice before jumping into the next big thing - in this case, SharePoint. At my last company, it was months before upgrading the SaaS-based HRIS, but the suggestion had come up to create a new project in SharePoint to store and share data. After researching all the features of the current and new update of the HRIS, it became known that there was a familiar, nearly self-updating and reporting tool for this. As most of the company was utilizing SharePoint, SharePoint was the first answer, but again, the maintenance that would come after the creation had not been considered.