Please Stop 'Training' SharePoint End Users

Understand what the end users need 'before' making them understand what the organizations expects from them.

Asif Rehmani

by Asif Rehmani on 4/22/2015

Share this:
Print

Article Details

Date Revised:
4/22/2015

Applies to:
Business Productivity, collaboration, governance, Office 365, Opinion, SharePoint, Strategy and Adoption


Conclusion

Many years ago, I came to the conclusion that thoroughly training end users on SharePoint is a waste of time – theirs and yours (the trainer). You may or may not agree, but this is my conclusion after seeing myself and others like me be unsuccessful attempting this for many years.

Actually, when you think about it, there is no such thing as a SharePoint end user. There are folks in all walks of life (legal, health, financial, gov't, etc.) that just happen to be using SharePoint since they have been told to by their company. Why should it make them SharePoint end users when we don't call folks who use MS Office, Office end users?

Read further on how I came upon these conclusions and my thoughts on what does work in regards to helping SharePoint users be successful with the platform.

The Situation

This realization dawned upon me about 6 years ago when I was conducting a class for end users in Chicago. I felt pretty good about myself since everyone was nodding their heads and it truly seemed like they were really getting it. This class was schedule for two full days so we talked about sites, pages, lists, libraries, permissions, web parts, site columns, content types – the works!

At the end of the class, this organization that I was consulting for wanted me to sit in their office the next couple of days in case end users had any questions while using the system. I had no doubt in my mind that there would be a few questions, but nothing substantial. I was so wrong!

The whole two days that I sat there in their office, I got questions on the how-to of what I had just taught them thoroughly in the last couple of days. Questions such as:

  • Do I make a new subsite when I don't have enough room on this site home page?
  • Where do I upload our company pictures? In the document library you showed us?
  • I want to give permission to this user on this site, but not on this other site. How do I do that?
  • Why is it asking me to 'check out' the document that I'm clicking on? This is too confusing. What does this mean?

Tough Lesson

I felt terrible :-(. Honestly. Almost like I robbed the company for the training that I provided to these end users since they had questions on the same stuff we had already talked about in the training. I did the best I could those two days. I sat there to help their users and then bid them farewell and good luck. They had very minimal SharePoint knowledge within the company and I wished that I could leave behind some knowledge that could help their users when they needed it. I knew I was going to get emails/call afterwards. I was definitely right about that part. Lots of calls and emails afterwards.

This was a tough experience for me. It taught me that no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn't get their end users to become SharePoint end users. They were really end users who had expertise in their domain (the company dealt with secondary institution insurance). They didn't really care about SharePoint much. It was just a tool to help them do their job.

Eureka Moment

I finally had the realization:

Users who use SharePoint don't want to become SharePoint end users any more than users who use MS Office want to become Office End Users.

It is impossible to thoroughly train end users to become SharePoint literate completely in a couple of days. The time spent for SharePoint training for end users should rather be used for explaining how end users can be successful with their jobs using this platform that just happens to be powered by a technology called SharePoint. Users need to understand what's in it for them. If they don't understand that, then it's a waste of their time and yours.

Quite obviously, the SharePoint platform does have a lot to offer. We all know that. Instead of shoving all the knowledge down the users' throats, however, I truly believe (and have experienced many times) that it's better to provide help to users as needed.

Help provided in-context and on-demand to users just works!

No one really cares about how to create a new column on an existing list until they have a need for it. Checking out a document from a library is not cool until there is a need for locking down a document so you can edit it and you learn that checkingit out is the way to do that. Editing the page of your site is not something anyone gets excited about, until an end user wants to share results of a contest that shows scores and pictures of the winners and their trophies. This is when the person needs to know how to edit a team site page.

Provide help and support to users when they really need it. One of the options to do that is with a product like VisualSP Help System. I don't think there is much point in providing a thorough training to users before they lay their hands on it or asking them how things are going after they have already given up on the platform.

Final Thoughts

  • Let's not waste the end users and your time trying to train them thoroughly on SharePoint.
  • An end user doesn't want to (and quite honestly should not have to) be as enthusiastic about SharePoint as you and I.
  • People who use SharePoint just want to do their jobs and not learn yet another system called SharePoint.
  • Provide your end users the help they need when they need it – not before and not after.

Best wishes and good luck on controlling the chaos of SharePoint support in your organization. Feel free to get in touch or leave a comment on this post.


Topic: Strategy and Adoption

Sign in with

Or register

  • I completely agree with this article. New IT toys come out, and we throw them at the users without knowing if they really need them. We need to stop wasting money on thing''''s the user does not need, and do more customer requirements and support those requirements. IT is only a part of the solution, business practices is the major part. What are the customers doing to get the job done on a daily basis. How can we (IT) make it easier for them to do their jobs faster, and better.
  • I respect your article; however, I think there needs to be some additional clarification. SharePoint end users are just that...end users. End users need to know general navigation, how to add/edit/remove items from lists/libraries and how important metadata is to the overall SharePoint puzzle. We really should reserve things like creating site columns, creating sub sites, creating pages, and working with content types for power users, site owners and admins.

    The problem is that some companies don't segment their SharePoint user population. For example, if we train the whole company on creating sub sites then you can end up with site sprawl and hundreds or even thousands of unnecessary sites. Training end users is paramount because SharePoint is not like other office products. In the big scheme of things, most people have been using MS Office since they were in grade school. Those same users are starting jobs that require general SharePoint list and document library navigation. These users and are expected to have the same level of expertise navigating withing SharePoint as they would with MS Word or PowerPoint. Well that's just clown shoes! These folks have may have 10+ years experience with Word and PowerPoint but most likely NO experience with SharePoint. Yet, they are expected to have just as much experience navigating SharePoint lists/libraries as they would navigating Word docs and PowerPoint presentations. This is rather unreasonable in my opinion.

    My suggestion is to segment your SharePoint population into end users, power users, and site owners. These segments are obviously not all inclusive; however, it's a great start. Each of these groups builds upon the other but no one should start out learning all of SharePoint at once...there is just too much to learn.
  • I disagree - there are many things that you can do in SharePoint that you won't even stumble upon without knowing where to look.

    There is place for both styles of training. I've worked with lots of people who could save hours of work if they just knew a few tricks in the tools (Word/Excel/SP). My company is giving away free access for a year to SharePoint Training videos aimed at end users

    http://blog.pentalogic.net/2016/01/free-sharepoint-2013-training-end-users/
  • Great food for thought - thanks for sharing.
  • I agree that 'button training' is a complete waste of time and money too. The focus needs to be on adoption, rather than just training the tools. Adoption is so much more than that. It's important to keep in mind the work people need to do, and build scenarios around that, getting innovators/enthusiasts on board with those, making it a ready set for the majority, and finally, at the end....provide them some support/training on 'how-to's'.
  • One word "Usability"
  • I mostly agree, but have had plenty of users that do get it on the first go around. They're usually more on the technical side. Of course, most people do struggle with the implementation of concepts until there's an actual need and they can make the connection between the business need and the SharePoint feature.

    The best thing I've ever seen in this kind of a scenario is an on-site SharePoint SME that's available for "office hours." This person is available for any and all questions at set times each day/week (whatever's appropriate) and anyone with SharePoint needs can reserve his/her time. This has worked wonders for adoption and support on several occasions. VisualSP is a great alternative for self-paced, on-demand assistance. Outside of that, there's Twitter and the good old #sphelp tag amongst others.
  • I mostly agree, but have had plenty of users that do get it on the first go around. They're usually more on the technical side. Of course, most people do struggle with the implementation of concepts until there's an actual need and they can make the connection between the business need and the SharePoint feature.

    The best thing I've ever seen in this kind of a scenario is an on-site SharePoint SME that's available for "office hours." This person is available for any and all questions at set times each day/week (whatever's appropriate) and anyone with SharePoint needs can reserve his/her time. This has worked wonders for adoption and support on several occasions. VisualSP is a great alternative for self-paced, on-demand assistance. Outside of that, there's Twitter and the good old #sphelp tag amongst others.