Search the Internet, and you’ll find all sorts of articles on being successful with a SharePoint implementation — from a technical perspective. There are technical challenges, hurdles and barriers, but they’re not nearly as important to overall success as the approach you take to SharePoint from a communications perspective.
Here are five approaches that will help you find success.
1. Build Content Creators, Not Content
In organizations of all sizes, the content is actually being created from scratch by corporate communications. Whether the communication happens via email, newsletter or intranet, the burden is on the shoulders of corporate communicators.
However, with underfunded budgets and increased time pressure, it’s not a scalable model. Though there’s an appropriate need to manage high-impact communications and to monitor the process, it’s time to teach the organization “how to fish” rather than doing all the work for them.
SharePoint has an internal publishing system that can require content approval and workflows that can drive the approval process. You can afford employees the ability to submit articles, including all the artwork and text formatting they would like. Corporate communicators still have the ability to approve the content once it has been edited and is ready to be seen by the rest of the organization.
2. Automatically Flag Questionable Content
Personally reviewing every piece of content may work today because the volume of communications is low. However, if you reach your ultimate goal of having everyone communicating to their specific groups, you’ll have way more content than any one person can effectively review. What you really need is a set of tools to enable you to identify those communications that are important or questionable.
SharePoint workflows can be extended to include activities like scanning for “naughty” words — or words like claims of performance or applicability that may need to be approved by legal, regulatory compliance or finance. By using SharePoint workflows to route content before it’s approved, you can have a high degree of confidence in the content on the platform while minimizing the time needed to manage the process.
3. Build Bridges
Nearly every organization still has some level of dependence on email as a communication channel. Changing to an intranet as a primary information conduit might create a culture shock. Mitigate this shock by creating periodic emails with links to important intranet content.
In the short term this is more work; you create the content, then you have to create a summary to send in an email. This constant redirection to the intranet will create the perception that the intranet has the answers all the time — even before they receive them via email. This bridge from the current activity (email) to the desired activity (intranet) will smooth the transition flow and help change behavior.
4. Burn the Bridges — Slowly
Once you’ve connected the new behavior of using SharePoint to the old behavior of using email, you’ll have to slowly block the old behavior. Slowly burn the bridges that got you to the new behavior so users don’t revert to the old method.
In practical terms, this means reducing the frequency of the summary emails that you’re sending with information from the intranet. You may have started out with daily summaries but after a few weeks you move to only Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Then after a few weeks of the every other day frequency, you skip to Fridays or Mondays.
While you’re doing this you may want to clamp down on permissions to send to the global distribution list (or even large distribution lists) in the organization. By first restricting this to managers and then only to corporate communications, you create barriers to the behavior you don’t want people to use.
5. Keep Turning the Flywheel
Friction is an inevitable force. You have to put energy into your implementation continually, or it will eventually grind to a halt. Applying continuous energy is not always needed, but you do have to apply periodic energy to keep things spinning. Consider the action of a child on a playground merry-go-round. You don’t have to push the handle on every revolution; instead a push every few times around will sustain that momentum.
SharePoint implementations are the same way. Periodically come back and do a new activity to drive motion forward. Whether it’s a lunch and learn, a new poster campaign or a set of training sessions, plan on making periodic time investments to make sure that the organization is getting the most value out of SharePoint.
The tips presented here first appeared as an article on Robert Bogue’s blog, “Thor Projects.”