The Microsoft SharePoint platform has seen great uptake since its launch. Indeed, SharePoint is reportedly Microsoft’s fastest-growing server product in terms of revenue. There is high worldwide interest in Microsoft’s SharePoint offerings among enterprises of every size and type. Several surveys conducted by analyst firms also show that more and more organisations are considering using Microsoft SharePoint as their strategic stack, in order to satisfy their basic enterprise content management (ECM) and collaboration platform needs in the near future. These nine key points ensure a successful result when implementing SharePoint.
Strategic key points
- The internal IT department should not be the (only) driver for the SharePoint project
All too often, SharePoint is brought in through the IT back door. It’s rolled out as a piece of infrastructure, without any real business reasons. Therefore, your organisation should have some business problems that can be tackled by SharePoint. Furthermore, any company wanting to implement SharePoint should make sure that some business people are involved with the project, to encourage internal ownership. It’s also important to work towards change management and user adoption.
- Don’t forget your governance plan
SharePoint makes it easy for users to add sites, folders and content. But this flexibility can also bring challenges: not controlling the customisations or the growth of sites and data in your SharePoint environment can create chaos. An example of a governance plan can be found at: http://technet.microsoft.com/nl-nl/library/ff848257%28en-us%29.aspx
- What about change management?
Yes, SharePoint is easy to use. But one should never underestimate the impact it can have on the day-to-day activities of end-users. Most organisations realise that this will require extensive change-management activities (reviewing of processes, end-user training, and so on). Unfortunately, companies often don’t make provision for the budget needed for this
Business key points
- SharePoint branding and styling
Business people typically focus a lot on the look and feel of their SharePoint environment. But be careful if you plan to rebrand SharePoint sites: SharePoint 2010 offers several ways of doing that, from very simple to fairly complex. Whatever way you choose, keep in mind that some elements might still be rather hard to restyle – unless you are prepared to delve deeper into the code. Make sure your graphic designers know the best practices and the dos and don’ts of SharePoint styling. Otherwise you could be in for a surprise…
Although multilingual capabilities have never been a strong point of SharePoint, they are getting better with each new version of the software. But even in SharePoint 2010, you should be well aware of the multilingual scenario that you will be ‘pushed’ towards by the software. Just make sure this doesn’t become a burden for content editors.
- Custom development versus third-party add-ons
SharePoint has many functions and out-of-the-box features. But for some of your specific requirements, it may not provide you what you need. Although SharePoint offers some development features, in our experience many organisations start coding too much, too quickly. There is a very large ecosystem of third-party SharePoint add-ons. You should definitely check these out before opting for custom development, which could cost you a lot more money and serious headaches.
Technical key points
- Browser support
When deploying SharePoint, keep in mind that MS Internet Explorer 7, 8 and 9 are the only browser versions that are fully supported (in 32-bit mode). Other web browsers can lead to some SharePoint Server 2010 functionalities being downgraded, limited, or only available through workarounds. In some cases, functions might be unavailable for non-critical administrative tasks. This can be particularly troublesome for organisations that still use Internet Explorer 6, which is not supported at all. Browser support can also be an issue when you deploy SharePoint in an extranet scenario: in this case you have no control over which browsers your extranet users will use to access your platform.
- Tiered architecture
An important part of larger scale SharePoint implementations is the need to incorporate tiered architecture development, testing, staging and production. This is still not easy to do with SharePoint and requires care and attention, which are necessary for staging of functionality AND content.
- SharePoint capacity planning
When starting a SharePoint project, most organisations do not plan for capacity management and sizing. But capacity management is an ongoing process, because each new implementation is different, depending on content and usage. You need to plan for growth and change, to ensure your SharePoint Server 2010–based environment can continue to evolve over time. While there are specific capacity-planning recommendations for SharePoint users, too often these are disregarded in a project’s planning phase.
When deploying your SharePoint platform, there are just a few key points you should bear in mind. Some of them are also relevant for other content management or collaboration platforms. But because of the large volume of SharePoint deployments, it is useful to gather people’s specific experiences, both good and bad, which we can then share among users. If you plan to roll out SharePoint and do not want to reinvent the wheel, it’s strongly recommended that you call on some experienced consultants. This will allow you to benefit from their best practices for implementation of the software and thus avoid costly and sometimes embarrassing pitfalls.