SharePoint adoption has long been as significant a part of the overall project as the technology itself.
Never before has the adoption of an enterprise platform been as significant and important as right now. SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview is available, and organizations, business units, teams and end users are slowly getting their hands on the technology to kick the proverbial tires and assess a fit inside their companies. The time is now to plan ahead and begin building an adoption plan for your organization that takes the new features of SharePoint 2016 into account.
Enterprise platforms, that is, a standard foundation from which to build applications within an organization, must be built with enough form and function that adoption across the company is both simple and meaningful. The goal is for SharePoint to become common practice in organizations, or at least a common mandate at companies across the globe. Where there is a mandate, the hope is that common practice will follow. The reality is that SharePoint's promise seems more of a hope than a reality for some companies, personified by the fact that most executives have high expectations for SharePoint, only to be disappointed by poor adoption. Sadly, this is fact more often than fiction.
How can organizations leverage this opportunity with an advanced product release to structure themselves for adoption success? The answer isn't simple, but there are many steps that can be taken to achieve this goal, particularly given the amount of time we have until SharePoint 2016 is released to manufacturing (RTM), slated for Q2 2016. Speaking to an organization that has implemented SharePoint successfully can be a rewarding conversation to help identify success strategies. Note that, depending on the structure of your company, this can also be achieved by speaking to other business units to identify what has worked for their adoption.
Begin by speaking with the talent and leadership that was required at the forefront of the project, such as vice presidents, managers or directors based on the makeup of your organization. These are the people who will give you a direct answer to your questions, so be sure to do your legwork and ask questions that will be impactful to your department or company. Quantified questions are always best in this scenario; such as, "Please list the 3 most important parts of your adoption strategy" or "What 3 things did you find most difficult for your team to embrace in SharePoint". Note the structural difference in these questions as opposed simply asking, "what worked". Remember that every team and SharePoint iteration are different; what worked for another company or department will have to be tailored for your use.
Creating the capability to attract and retain the SharePoint skills required for your team is another adoption success component. Ensuring that you have the right skillsets on your team is critically important, and is possibly the most overlooked aspect of adoption. Teams who do not have this advantage are forced to train themselves first before beginning work on the project and then on their adoption strategy. Overlaying this in a medical context would be the equivalent of having a doctor tell you they were going to look up how to cure you prior to administering treatment; likely not the best scenario. Experienced SharePoint team members have the product knowledge and corporate understanding required to not only implement the platform properly, but also build adoption as they go.
Piloting the SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview can be another step in the adoption process. Providing an environment to a subset of your users can open the conversation internally and allow for feedback back to Microsoft. Teams can use Microsoft UserVoice to communicate thoughts and issues with the release directly back to the Redmond product team. With two more releases of the SharePoint Server 2016 Preview set to be released prior to the final version, this channel is strongly recommended to build product confidence. You can use a pilot of SharePoint 2016 preview to educate staff on the new features, creating a center of excellence where team members can work together and become the subject matter experts (SMEs) required once SharePoint 2016 is released. These team members will essentially become trainers of the new version, offering help and support to others on the team. The Center of Excellence can also provide a location for users to engage in conversations internally, a discussion that can be extended to your local user group, in Yammer and at conferences.
Take a step back and also be sure to address the needs of the organization at a high level. This can include such items as overall strategy, IT direction and alignment to a roadmap. This is important in order to minimize corporate risk, move the organization towards implementing support initiatives and, in some cases, realign resources to fuel your SharePoint project.
As with new technology, identifying when and where the organization intends to apply a mobile and cloud strategy can also build adoption. Identifying and communicating how the cloud can and will be leveraged in a SharePoint 2016 context can alleviate any fears, and answer questions posed by the project team or business overall. Encourage your business and technology teams to embrace SharePoint's benefits while connecting to the longer-term roadmap.
For other strategic tips on your adoption to both the SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview and SharePoint 2016 RTM, catch my webinar series, The SharePoint Journey, exclusively on itunity.com. The next episode is October 6 where I will discuss how the importance of the journey in a SharePoint 2010/2013 environment. Register today at http://www.itunity.com/webinar/sharepoint-journey-2624.