SharePoint Server 2016 IT Pro Preview is now in place in the test environments of organizations around the world. Feedback has been strong and steady, and by in large the response has been positive. Pushing companies to new places with respect to data, collaboration and culture, SharePoint Server 2016 is poised to bridge the gap between on-premises and cloud.
With SharePoint 2016 now available, and IT teams working on the fundamentals of the implementation, now is the time for organizations to take a step back and examine their business goals in greater detail prior to forging ahead with the inevitable upgrade. I state this as inevitable because in reality, it is. Forward-thinking companies are always trying new technology, attempting to push limits and make strides in order to realize a future that incorporates the latest and greatest. Critical to this inevitability is an appropriate evaluation by senior leaders of not just the technology, but its true effect on the organization over the long term. Be cognizant of the fact that a process implemented without realizing its impact will likely not achieve its anticipated goals.
I am reminded of a client who had implemented SharePoint with every “bell and whistle” possible years ago; thousands of hours of effort poured into custom workflow and process development that would be the heart of their business. Unfortunately, their efforts failed because of poor strategic alignment, incomplete requirements collection, low user adoption and inadequate training. Without consideration for how the organization truly needed as well as how they were going to use the system, the implementation failed.
Today, CIOs consider themselves to be more technologically savvy than they were ten or twenty years ago. Data and information is omnipresent and available everywhere, and that makes us believe that not only are we “connected” as individuals, but the decisions we make are smarter and more informed. Those who have been observing Microsoft's “Nadella-era” are aware of the cloud-first, mobile-first mandate, and feel that embracing technology along this path is, in fact, lock-step with Microsoft.
Collectively, organizations are challenged with making SharePoint 2016 a strategic implementation, holistic of each business unit it will touch and become a part of. Below are some strategic suggestions on how to future-proof your SharePoint strategy and ensure a long-term enterprise solution.
Have an ability to see around corners—underground parking lots traditionally have a number of convex mirrors mounted above blind corners to allow drivers to observe traffic that may be coming their way and avoid an accident. In a SharePoint context, the same can be said, using each mirror as an opportunity to identify trends early (avoiding temporary hype) and staying ahead of the fast-moving competitive landscape.
Creating agility in decision-making—A SharePoint project team must be flexible and moreover curious about the technology they are implementing. Remember, your organization is making a commitment to support the long-term success of the organization. SharePoint should be part of your IT strategy, but not the strategy itself. “Our strategy is to implement SharePoint,” is not a strategy.
Aaron Levie, co-founder of Box.net, was recently quoted saying “build the vision you're trying to create” when asked about his beliefs around enterprise software. By this, Levie highlighted something that I have frankly been saying for some time; that in today's cloud based world, identifying the pain points of your users will allow for the creation of a product that directly solves their needs. Those who have heard me speak will recognize one of my favorite quotes to illustrate this shift in requirements creation. If a doctor walked into an ER and asked the first patient what they wanted in a solution, the patient would jump off the bed and head for the door. Instead, doctors are trained to ask where the patient’s pain is, and that is the same question that should be asked in requirements management and decision making. Where is the pain, and how can using SharePoint make for a better corporate solution. The onus is on the project team to demonstrate this agility when deciding how to test and measure new ways of doing things was the message from many others.
Adaptability in execution—One of the greatest misnomers in SharePoint is that once SharePoint is implemented, it is considered “hands-off” by the organization. There could be nothing further than the truth. Regardless of what functionality was delivered in the first phase of a project, SharePoint is never truly “finished.” Much like home ownership, there is always some improvement that can be done inside a home, much like in SharePoint. My answer to this question is straightforward; when users are going into SharePoint not just as a painstaking part of their day, but rather, to get a component of their job done, SharePoint has been implemented successfully. Note that I don't use the word “finished” here. Organizations need to harness this differential and recognize the constant adaptability. It is up to each organization to drive this near-constant renewal inside their company and their strategy.
Be at ease with technology—This is easier said than accomplished, but understand that technology is an accelerator of change. SharePoint, as a cornerstone of your strategy, must play a critical part of this and as the key tool at the disposal of your users, remaining agile is critical. Doing so can help adapt to changing circumstances and stay close to influencers and community members. Always consider the enormous resources available online and through channels such as itunity.com.