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Get your users to actually USE SharePoint and Office 365

Get your users to actually USE SharePoint and Office 365

by: Susan Hanley

The biggest challenge with the adoption of new technologies is that adoption requires change. And change is hard-even if it's a good change. If you want to make change (and thus adoption) a little easier, here are some ideas that can help:

Make sure your solution solves a critical problem. The solution you build needs to solve a real and measurable business problem. If the problem is keeping people up at night, then that's even better! In other words, you need to give your users a reason and a purpose for investing in the change that you want them to make.

There are lots of shared organizational problems that SharePoint and Office 365 address, but one that I see pretty much everywhere is "versionitis.? Versionitis is a rampant disease and a direct result of e-mailing documents around with file extensions such as .v1, .v2, .final, .reallyfinal, etc. Every organization suffers from this disease, and pretty much every user has some pain associated with it. Want to get folks to take advantage of SharePoint and OneDrive for collaboration? Remind them about "versionitis? and the benefits of co-authoring and consistent and version-free file names. Problem: Versionitis. Cure: SharePoint.

Don't assume you can get by without training. I spend a lot of time launching new solutions for my clients, and that often means conducting end-user training. Unfortunately, a lot of SharePoint training is like drinking from a firehose: too much content coming at people at too fast a pace.

While I think training is really important, adults seem to learn best when you teach them what they need to know just when they need to know it. That means that you shouldn't overwhelm people by trying to teach them every possible feature of Office 365 or SharePoint. Keep the changes to a minimum. When you launch your solution, focus on just what people need to know to be productive on Day 1-or just what they need to know to continue to get their job done in the new environment.

Align permissions with training. Years ago, a client called me in tears because she thought she had deleted her entire 400-document library. The problem was that as the business owner of the site, we had given her full control privileges (i.e. super powers) by putting her in the Site Owners group before we had a chance to give her the necessary training to know how to use those powers. Fortunately, the problem was that she had accidentally put the page in edit mode and closed a web part when she was trying to delete a document. It was pretty easy to "restore? her documents, but she immediately asked us to change her permissions so she couldn't make that type of mistake again.

The important lesson that I learned: Just because someone is the business owner of a SharePoint site doesn't mean that you need to put them in the Site Owners security group. The Site Owners group is a permission setting that should not be given to anyone who hasn't been trained to use all the powers that come with that permission group. Why is this important for adoption? Because it's important that users feel safe when they use your solution. They need to know that they can't accidentally do any damage when they are in learning mode. The easiest way to create that "safe zone? is not to give people permissions until they know how to use them. When users are ready to learn more, have additional training available.

Provide training "in context.? In the best case, training is delivered in context, just when someone is ready for the skill. Two great tools, VisualSP and Content Panda, provide just-in-time, in-context training for SharePoint. As an example, they each add an icon to various places in SharePoint that allows users to identify training (text, video, etc.) for the task they want to do on the page they are on. For example, training about how to upload a document is aligned with the +new document button. That's when users need to know how to upload and when they are most likely to pay attention to training.

Train teams together. While we're on the subject of training, I've found that it's incredibly helpful to train an entire team at the same time. Here's the thing: It's much easier for team members to hold each other accountable for using the new solution than it is for the organization as a whole to mandate it.

I think of it sort of as Maslow's hierarchy of caring. First, I'm all about me. Second, I'll extend what I care about to the people I work with on my team. Lastly, I'll focus on what the organization wants me to do.

When you train teams together, you create an opportunity not just for learning, but also for teams to develop a plan for how they will work together using SharePoint and Office 365. They can talk about where to store and how to name their documents. They can get a chance to experience co-authoring and see how even without the save button, edits are still saved when you edit in the browser. Not only is just-in-time, in-context training important, but experiential learning is important as well-and who better to experience change with than your work team?

Have a persistent communications plan. It's important to provide frequent communications when you want people to change their behavior. Change is the result of small steps, repeated consistently and practiced over time. It's important to support your adoption plan with initial and ongoing communication to reinforce the behaviors you are trying to encourage.

Get some help. Don't try to go it alone when it comes to adoption. Engage some friends! Your leadership team is the first place to go.

I once worked with an organization that was focused on eliminating e-mail attachments as a remedy for both huge inboxes and persistent versionitis. They were able to get a key executive to create an Outlook rule for internal e-mails with attachments that basically said that he didn't respond to messages with attachments unless the attachment was a link to the document in a collaboration site or the intranet. It didn't take very long for his folks to send links, not attachments. It's not just the leaders that make a difference when it comes to adoption.

Many organizations have evangelist programs that focus on engaging a distributed group of early adopters and key influencers in their organizations. They might be called evangelists or PUMAs (Power Users of Microsoft Applications) or champions or digital [workplace] multipliers. The important thing is that it pays to seed the organization with helpers when it comes to adoption.

I've got lots of tips and advice for adoption-way more than I could possibly put in this post. Come join me at SPTechCon in San Francisco in December and I'll be happy to share some more!

Susan Hanley is an independent consultant specializing in the "people side" of SharePoint solutions. She is the co-author of "Essential SharePoint 2007," "Essential SharePoint 2010," and "Essential SharePoint 2013: Practical Guidance for Measurable Business Results." She writes the Essential SharePoint blog forNetworkWorld.

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