If you were to define a business user today, how would you do it? Would you classify the person by their role, the responsibilities of their job or perhaps by the output of their job function? The word “user” indicates that they are somehow involved in using a system or software package, but what does that truly mean? Regardless of the option you choose or the way you view yourself within your organization, business users typically use software to assist them in the role they fulfill at work. They use it to enhance the job they do, but not necessarily classify technology within their role.
We have all heard the famous response that something is “not within my job description,” “it’s not my job, or “that’s Jane’s job.” Statements like these are an unfortunate reality within organizations around the world. People become users of systems by expectation; they are not taught how to be a user. Even if you’ve completed extensive training on a particular system, that doesn’t necessarily provide the structure for how you should conduct yourself when using another system.
I often ask audiences to identify with a user role type when I speak at conferences. I put up a slide with 5 titles and ask them to raise a hand when I call their role out. Without fail, everyone puts a hand up for IT pro, project manager, developer and so on. I then stop and ask how many end users are in the room that day and the silence is deafening. Add the term business user to the mix, and you would be able to hear crickets chirping in the back of the room. People don’t resonate with the term business user, and this is a key problem that must be solved for SharePoint 2016 to be the uber-success everyone is planning for.
This classification and identification of a SharePoint role typically evolves from the job level, department and seniority of the individual. The default roles of Administrator, Web Designer, Contributor and Reader come out of the box with the permissions of Full Control, Design, Contribute and Read, respectively. Atop this classification, we can now apply the Business User context to get the full picture of what the individual will be responsible for.
In preparation for SharePoint 2016, Microsoft has released some preliminary information to guide organizations and users on their investment areas and what to expect in the product. In a blog post in April, Microsoft announced three primary focus areas, first, and foremost of which is an improved user experience. Microsoft has further expanded these experiences to include mobile, personalized insights and people-centric file storage and collaboration. Interestingly, the other two areas Microsoft noted, cloud-inspired infrastructure and compliance and reporting, also include benefits for the user.
Now more than two months and one major conference since Microsoft released that blog post, I can tell you wholeheartedly that there is a lot of excitement about the change in focus. When SharePoint 2010 came out, it was accompanied by what was affectionately known as the “SharePoint Wheel.” The wheel was divided into six sections: Sites, Communities, Content, Search, Insights and Composites. In 2013, Microsoft released SharePoint with some updates to the familiar wheel, but still nothing focused entirely on the user. Now, as we look towards the 2016 product, not only is the user mentioned specifically, but it is the first in the list of enhancements to the product.
Within the improved user experience, these impact areas are solely focused on empowering users to make better decisions via access to the right information. Without question, empowerment is one of the key components to building better business users. Business users must feel that their organization is thoroughly vested in their long-term growth and development. Failure to do so jeopardizes not only the productivity of the user, but also their impact on the company.
As the excitement continues to build around the SharePoint 2016 release, now is the time to bring your business users together and build out a strategy that includes them. The onus is on organizations to educate users on the changes, on what the business user role is all about, and how together they can take SharePoint to new heights internally.