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Your Collaboration Strategy: Ensuring Success with SharePoint Server 2007

You've decided to make an investment in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. Congratulations — you have a powerful software platform in your hands, capable of delivering high-impact collaboration solutions. Now how do you make it work optimally? MOSS is simple to set up and use but difficult to get right, mainly due to its sheer power. This chapter provides a critical foundation for your MOSS-based solution.
This chapter is from the book

If you're a developer, you probably already own a SharePoint programming book or MOSS API guide (or are looking for one). This is not a book about SharePoint programming. However, this book is the ideal companion to your development guide. It will give you some of the "why" of MOSS and help you understand your organization's business needs and how they might be addressed using MOSS. Developers will find this book useful when building solutions (in conjunction with an API guide) because there are important business considerations that are critically important to every MOSS-based solution.

If you're a project manager, consultant, or business analyst, you'll find that this book helps with all the intangibles of a MOSS rollout. For example, "What roles should exist to support MOSS?" or "What should my offline/search/business data strategy be for MOSS?" This book also introduces you to some key technical concepts and provides simple walk-throughs of the key features that many businesses need to leverage.

Specifically, this chapter provides a critical foundation for your MOSS-based solution and lays the groundwork for the rest of the book. It includes a comprehensive overview of the fundamentals of the Office SharePoint Server 2007 architecture; a discussion of strategies for moving from the current version of SharePoint Portal Server (2003) to the new 2007 version; a review of information architecture best practices; and explanations of how to optimally leverage MOSS's collaboration, offline, search, business process, content management, and business intelligence features. This book also includes an appendix for end users describing how to execute the top 20 end-user tasks in MOSS.

So put away Visual Studio and Office SharePoint Designer for a moment. Take a breath and a step back. Start thinking about why your organization needs MOSS and how you know you'll be successful after your solution is deployed. Software is expensive to purchase and integrate. If you want to build a successful solution, you need a carefully defined plan. A MOSS solution, especially one that serves as your corporate intranet, is implemented to provide the single interface that integrates all enterprise information and applications.

MOSS provides a convenient and often personalized way for your entire organization to find the information and tools each individual needs to be more productive. However, the use of the MOSS solution cannot often not be mandated in the same way that the use of a new accounting or payroll system can be mandated to process an invoice or generate paychecks. MOSS users usually have other options for accomplishing the tasks MOSS enables. For example, MOSS may provide a convenient summary of financial information about a project that might also be available by looking at existing reports generated by the financial system. The MOSS solution may be more convenient and efficient but not necessarily required to surface the project financial information. The MOSS solution may also include "subportals" or online collaborative team spaces where users can efficiently share documents to minimize email traffic and ensure that everyone on the team always has the latest version. But users might still e-mail documents back and forth to collaborate, resulting in an unorganized collection of documents and correspondence that is not reusable by other team members. These are some of the many reasons why it is so critically important to have a clearly articulated business strategy for your new MOSS portal or collaboration solution. Practical experience indicates that technology has only a small impact on the success of MOSS solutions; organizational and political (process and people) strategies have a much greater impact. As a result, a comprehensive MOSS strategy is vital for success.

You should consider several key elements in your MOSS strategy:

  • Who are the key stakeholders? This might include the CIO, a knowledge officer, or key business leaders in areas such as corporate communications, marketing, and human resources, among others.
  • What are the critical business objectives for the key stakeholders? In other words, what keeps these executives awake at night? How can the MOSS solution address these key business objectives?
  • How will the organization as a whole measure the business success of the MOSS initiative (or initiatives)? In other words, which key business goals does the MOSS solution address? Remember, successful portals do not just need to be free of software defects. Successful portals must be designed to have an impact on key business objectives, or the challenges of ensuring user adoption cannot be overcome. A successful MOSS solution may also include more than one departmental portal that may be consolidated (or not) as an enterprise portal. It may not always be appropriate to have a single portal project, but all portal projects need to be measured by business success.
  • What governance processes need to be in place to ensure that all of the MOSS users are aware of and accept their roles and responsibilities with regard to the MOSS solution? The governance model for MOSS solutions should include a statement of the vision, guiding principles, policies, roles and responsibilities, and procedures for using MOSS in the given environment.
  • How do you plan for both the design and ongoing maintenance of the content in MOSS? Accurate and relevant content is the foundation of a MOSS solution. A good strategy needs to include a plan to ensure that content remains relevant over time.
  • What type of rollout strategy should you pursue? What types of communications and training do you need to provide for users? A rollout strategy needs to prepare both users and content for the new MOSS solution. It also needs to include a communications plan to make sure that users are aware of and, ideally, eagerly anticipating the business value of the new MOSS solution. In addition, the strategy needs to include a plan for launching the new solution and training users. Training needs to be specifically targeted to each stakeholder or user community to ensure that users are optimally prepared to leverage the new solution.

Key Stakeholders

In many organizations, the Information Technology (IT) group is separated both physically and emotionally from the organizations they are designed to serve. Given that the success of MOSS solutions is critically dependent on business user adoption, it is imperative that business stakeholders take an active role in portal design and governance planning. One way to ensure that your MOSS project will fail is to have IT build the solution without engaging a broad spectrum of potential users. Early portal and collaboration projects were primarily driven by IT organizations, and many of these early initiatives failed to gain acceptance by users because they were essentially IT projects. Today, more and more portal and collaboration projects are driven (and funded) by business users. Many intranet projects are sponsored by the corporate department responsible for internal communications. One or more business units may fund and drive an external or customer portal initiative. As a result, it is critically important for IT to work with the sponsoring business unit as well as all key stakeholders to ensure that the inevitable trade-offs that will be made during the MOSS design and development are made in favor of the business stakeholders as often as possible. MOSS provides an important opportunity for IT and business owners to collaborate. IT managers who fail to take advantage of this opportunity put their projects and potentially their careers at risk.

Who should your key stakeholders include? Clearly, the executive for the sponsoring organization is an important key stakeholder. This individual will likely be your project sponsor. For intranet portals, this is often the Director of Marketing or Internal Communications. For extranet portals, this may be a key executive in an operational business unit. Your stakeholders should also include representatives from your major organizational units, both internal and customer-facing. When you look to identify stakeholders, recognize that there are different types of stakeholders, all of whom should be included in the development of your strategy and ongoing governance model. Many of these stakeholders will also be included in your requirements definition process. Business executives should be included in the stakeholder community to provide overall direction and validate that the MOSS deployment is critical to achieving business objectives. IT managers should be included to ensure that the solution meets IT standards for operations and development. Content providers (internal departments such as Human Resources, Finance and Accounting, Legal, and so on) should be included because the portal will become a critical communications vehicle with the rest of the enterprise. End users ("rank and file") should be included to ensure that the MOSS solution rollout addresses more than just executive objectives and concerns. Remember that while the executive sponsor may have the "grand vision" for the solution, the solution end users are critical to the ultimate success. End users need the solution to be easy to use in the context of their work and need to be able to see what's in it for them. For example, the key stakeholders for a portal project to support a university should include administrators, faculty, and students. In addition, if the portal is externally facing, the "customer" community might be represented by examining the perspective of an applicant to the university.

Once you've identified your key stakeholders, it's important to engage them in the process of defining business objectives for the MOSS rollout.

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