SharePoint = Collaboration? Not Always
Assuming users will buy into a collaboration portal just because it's available assumes too much.
My latest quest to seek out roadblocks and sources of problems takes me to the often-overlooked issue of the assumption. Buying into a product or service on the premise that it's what everyone else is doing could be problematic.
I'll use the example of buying Microsoft SharePoint to improve collaboration among employees as a case point. That decision may seem a no-brainer, but you're taking a risk if you just throw it over the wall and hope for the best.
For one, not all employees will mesh well in the collaborative environment. Two, you need to understand how employees work before picking a portal. And three, simply making SharePoint a place to put documents for the sake of sharing and granting user permissions doesn't ensure that collaboration will improve.
Let's look at this last point in more detail. Assuming that employees will be more productive just because they're sharing files in SharePoint is erroneous at best. Any number of factors can bog down productivity. Key concerns in any such case include: Will the documents become obsolete? How many employees or outside parties will touch the document? Will the information contribute to information overload or is it essential to have and share among a community? Does the shared document positively impact information or workflows?
BYOD workplaces face another layer of concern should users expect to have full functionality of editing and posting on SharePoint. Is the user's browser of choice supported? Will the device function as expected? If the device features a small screen, how much time is wasted attempting to read, write, or manipulate shared documents? If device choice decreases productivity, then that defeats the purpose of collaboration -- and convenience wins over quality.
Again, the challenge isn't in using SharePoint as a collaboration portal but in doing so with the assumption that it'll be put to good, productive use just because you've made it available to employees. Certainly armed with the right tools, including SharePoint, employees do have the opportunity to get creative and reap benefits from collaboration portals.
As Microsoft outlines in the white paper, "The ROI Benefits of Business Critical SharePoint," (PDF download available here) benefits can involve more than sharing information or placing documents in a portal. Orchestrated the right way, collaboration will happen when users know exactly how they can engage SharePoint and take advantage of the ability to reduce replicated efforts, shrink the time needed to gain input from other team members, and decrease the process that involves input from other people or groups. With SharePoint can come reduced phone and email back-and-forth, for example -- and that can lead to productivity improvement.
So don't just assume great things of SharePoint for your organization. Rather, take the time to explore how your organization will most benefit from its use. Ask yourself how unifying users in a collaboration portal like SharePoint will help when trying to resolve problems, and to simplify, reduce, or eliminate processes that increase the cycle and flow of work.
If you make the upfront investment to understand the impact SharePoint will have on how employees work with documents, gather information, and establish workflows, the organization will see deeper rewards and better results, as shown in the graphics below. Throwing it over the wall not only is naïve but also certainly detrimental to the purpose of driving value into an organization through a collaborative tool.