IT Management Blog: my thoughts about putting the "i" in IT

Sympathy for SharePoint project managers - project recommendations

I recently interviewed a candidate for a project manager role. One of the questions I had revolved around stakeholder management. We sidetracked a bit and I asked her whether she had experience with steering committees and stakeholders that are driving the project to a failure.

She mentioned that she did not have the experience but had a colleague going mental. Guess what type of project it was?

Yes, a Microsoft SharePoint implementation.

The other type of project could have been a CRM project. Those projects seem to suffer also from too many stakeholders without clear ownership.

My advice for those projects are in summary to my earlier post:

Don't let the steering committee drive requirements or design
They simply do not have the required detail knowledge of the tool and the day to day operational use. Though they might think they know it because in the end they will use it as well, reality is they use these systems only sporadically and are insufficiently in touch with how their people will use it on a day to day basis.

Find the real subject matter experts
Every organization has a few of them. The have a good oversight of the detailed processes in the organization. Realistic people with two feet on the ground. Try to find a small group of those to develop requirements and design.

Don't let consultants take over
They will tell you to use columns in stead of folders. The truth is that the technology is not ready for it and the users will not be able to make this conceptual switch. The users are already confronted with many other changes, so keep things as familiar as possible.

Keep things as vanilla as possible for the first implementation
Over engineered configurations and customizations can only do damage and are difficult to remove. It is always easier to add them afterwards.

Focus on usability
No matter how great demos and pilots were, there are always these features that the vendor did not implement in an easy to use way. For example granting access to sites and files to colleagues in SharePoint 2007 is not something easily picked up by users. And don't give this responsibility to the managers but give it other users in the team who are better available and will use the system intensively. Did you review how to move a file from an MS Outlook attachment into SharePoint? Little practical things that are easily overlooked but are crucial for the day to day usability.

Run a thorough pilot with real end users
At one moment in time, a project team and people intensively involved in the project will pick up the technology easier and quicker. They are motivated and will have a different attitude. It is good to create champions in the organisation, but you need to make sure you pick up feedback from people who will resist more and will not pick up the technology as quickly as champions.

Be ready for the next phase
It won't go smoothly, so prepare for the next phase, upgrade and probably further simplification. SharePoint requires quite a bit of processing, as well on the server side as the PC side. So expect that some investments might need to be done here as well.