I came upon this post over the weekend and think it will be particularly interesting to SharePoint developers as a commentary on issues to consider whilst delivering systems to the end users. I found it particularly poignant with relation to where T-SPARC are currently with the roll-out and piloting of the new programme design and approval system. Hope you find it useful.
(Original post can be found here at http://sharepointbusinessanalyst.com)
A secretary walks into a Giant Car showroom and demands ‘OK tell me how much it is… I’ll take it?’ This is without actually telling the bemused sales guy; what make she wants, the model, the colour, age, size of the engine, spec etc. She had failed to ask her boss all of these things (end user) who had instructed her to ‘go out and get a car’, as he she took his instructions literally.
The salesman rubs his hands together and she goes and blows £300k of her bosses’ hard earned money on the latest supercar. All he needed was a basic saloon car to get around town!
Ok this didn’t really happen but the exact same thing happens week in week out with Internal Communicators who use SharePoint as their Intranet and/or Content Management systems and never ask users what they need and would like to see.
Between IT and Internal Comms, they are the ones that often decide what the end users will need and want as they ‘know’ their audience and have done the requirements gathering. (Often a 1 hour meeting with them to tell them what they were going to do!)
The days of static content (pushed out by Internal Comms) are well and truly numbered. On an Intranet, users not only demand and expect content that is fresh and relevant to them personally but also applications that will make their lives easier. With SharePoint, you will be amazed how many applications can be built within days, without any custom coding and often life changers for the users. This will also drive user adoption and get people visiting the content you want them to more often. These can be anything as simple as a holiday request form, through to a Recruitment system.
You just need to ask them what their pain is!
8 Great Tips to get the most out of SharePoint
- Don’t let IT Run the project – SharePoint is a business facing application. Unless there is a fresh installation needed, try to keep the project run by someone in the business who understands the challenges in the business rather than of the technology.
- Requirements gathering – Ask end users what they want by actually asking the question ‘tell me about the challenges in your business’. Count the blank looks on people’s faces when you ask ‘tell me what you want SharePoint to do.
- Custom code – There is always a time and a place for this but avoid wherever you can. For every 5 days of development, the same can be achieved with configuration in 1.
- ‘Out of the box’ Features – Get to know all of the features that are in SharePoint. Knowing what the product can actually offer can avoid custom code!
- 3rd Party Products – SharePoint, like all systems, has its shortfalls, but there are thousands of products that can be bolted onto SharePoint to address these. These costs a fraction of the cost of developing from scratch and are supported also.
- Micro-Projects – Wherever possible, try to deliver SharePoint offering in small chunks. This will make SharePoint become viral and also make it easier to improve on each piece that you deliver. Hard to do with a ‘big bang’ approach.
- End User Training – Train Train Train – Allow a decent budget for training end users on how to actually use SharePoint. How will people use the tool if they don’t know how to?
- Support – Log a ticket approach doesn’t work with SharePoint. Try to identify the ‘power users’ that can be accessible to help the business users.
I’m guessing that you’ve arrived here this week after taking part in the JISC Online Conference, ‘Innovating e-Learning 2011‘ and clicking one of the links to our project blog and website. (If not, please feel free to look around!)
First of all, welcome, and thank you for clicking one of the links to the site and showing an interest in our project. If you would like any further information or access to documentation you can either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively start or comment upon threads within our session workspace. The topic for the session is ‘Socio-technical ramifications of a new technology-supported approach to course design and approval’ and is being delivered by Paul Bartholomew (BCU) and Jim Everett (University of Strathclyde).
A brief guide to the T-SPARC project site:
Project blog (this page) – http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/tsparc/
Meet the team – http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/tsparc/meet-the-t-sparc-team/
Project overview – http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/tsparc/what-is-t-sparc/
SharePoint development site – http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/tsparc/sharepoint-dev/
Baseline review info – http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/tsparc/t-sparc-baseline-review/
Feedback from stakeholders – http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/tsparc/stakeholder-feedback/
Contact details – http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/tsparc/contact-us/
Following a meeting yesterday with BCU’s Head of Project Management in Corporate ICT, several updates have been agreed that will move the system development process forward in the coming months whilst piloting the new workflows:
- The project will have made available the services of our in-house SharePoint 2010 developer over the next couple of weeks to finish all minor tweaks and adjustments to ensure the beta version that is made available to the pilot programme teams is fit for purpose (design informed from initial piloting phase of SharePoint 2007).
- Corporate ICT have agreed that in true ‘Agile’ fashion, our developer will work alongside me (Oliver) in the same physical space whilst I act in a ‘Business Analyst’ capacity. This will allow us to define and solve issues in real time and help to ensure that the developers time is spent 100% on the project during these development sessions.
- Once the software is ready for the piloting phase to begin (we envisage this being in the next couple of weeks) we have agreed that there will be a number of development windows during the process. These will be set at approximately 6 week intervals so that new requirements can be defined (with input and feedback from pilot teams) and technical solutions prepared so that once a development window is reached, the developer will have a set of definitive business requirements to work from.
- As a caveat to the above development window structure, we have also agreed that if an issue becomes obstructive or starts to impede the programme development process in any way (due to unforeseen circumstances or usability issues, for example) , we will have the resources made available immediately to develop emergency solutions.
- The services of one of BCU’s Senior Project Managers for the Corporate ICT Project Office who has extensive knowledge and experience as a software tester has been made available to the project to assist with final testing and run-throughs of test scripts.
- Corporate ICT have another project that is in progress at the moment, the DAM project, (the Digital Asset Management system) which will deliver a single, University-wide repository system for the Universities video, audio, document and image files. It was suggested that T-SPARC project members have successfully gained buy-in to the project from a wide range of stakeholders (both internally, and externally) and have valuable experiences to share that could assist with the effective implementation and embedding of other CICT projects within the institution in the future. Conversations around this topic will continue.
Again, positive momentum in the right direction and further evidence of the deep institutional buy-in that the project continues to develop as we transition into the piloting phase.