Some SharePoint adoption guidance for SME’s

SharePoint – “But I don’t like it, it’s not what I’m used to!”

It is the sort of comment I have heard many times from both customers and colleagues as we transition from on premise file shares to SharePoint. Statements like “Accessing my files in SharePoint is complicated” and “All I want is a mapped drive”, or “SharePoint is slow to navigate” are heard regularly.

It is not surprising that there is resistance. People have been accessing files using drive mappings for a long, long time and the process is engrained in people’s minds. Ask them to start looking for files in another place with a different interface and all hell breaks loose.

I believe Microsoft made a mistake by assuming everyone would just adopt the SharePoint interface when they started pushing it as part of their Office 365 suite. People new to the world of work will embrace whichever method they are shown but people who have worked a particular way for a long time cannot help but compare this way of working with how it used to be!

However, as we like to say “we are where we are” so it is a case of adapting and learning to work that little bit differently. SharePoint is a good product and is here to stay.

Experience shows that there are a few things you can do when adopting SharePoint to keep your staff on side. I am convinced, if you give them a similar look and feel initially, they will adapt and start to embrace all the enhancements you get with SharePoint. If you get this first stage right, it is much easier to take them with you on that journey as you begin to embrace the features and benefits that can come with adopting SharePoint.

Deployment of SharePoint is an extremely large topic. However, I have put together the following suggestions to help you when first adopting SharePoint based on our experience to date.

  1. Do not just dump data into a single data library when migrating to SharePoint. Microsoft give you the OneDrive Sync tool built into Windows 10 which can be used to behave similarly to mapping a drive on your PC, but it has its limitations. Advice is to limit the number of files in a Document Library to around 30,000 and to limit the number of files you want to access via the tool to no more than 300,000 in total. If you have larger document libraries, you will begin to see issues whilst attempting to connect to them. These limitations mean it is crucial you look at your data and decide how to structure it into 30K file chunks, so the sync tool functions reliably, and you only sync the document libraries you use regularly.
  1. Have multiple sites within your SharePoint environment. It is easier to control permissions at a site level so have more sites rather than lots of permissions within one site. For example, have a HR site, a Sales site, an Operations site, a Marketing site etc.
  1. Educate staff to embrace the search function within the SharePoint portal. It’s very powerful and does have integrated artificial intelligence to surface documents more relevant to you based on your behaviour.
  1. Create a home page menu for the users. Do not use a company’s first SharePoint site as a showcase of your newfound skills. I have seen many cluttered home pages with irrelevant info, such as news feeds, weather etc. Keep it simple to start with and add content that people want. If you want to create an Intranet keep that separate from the sites that primarily house data. If a SharePoint site is cluttered, too busy or irrelevant people will just not use it. Create a simple home page with links to relevant content so users can easily navigate around your environment.
  1. Get your staff to understand the file sharing features in SharePoint. Users still traditionally send attachments which means uncontrolled versions of documents floating around the company. By sharing rather than attaching you retain control of who can see or edit the document. As you are all looking at the same file you can also collaborate much more easily.
  1. Start with some simple forms and flows to automate repetitive tasks. For example, a new starter process or a company credit check request are good examples of tasks that can be easily automated, rather than the old process of sending emails, attachments or even paper between staff. This will help your staff to appreciate the power of automation through SharePoint and begin to come up with ideas themselves on how processes can be automated.
  1. Consider folder path lengths when migrating data to SharePoint. There are limits such as a 400-character URL character limit which can impact you if you have some long folder paths.
  1. BACK IT UP. Buy a third-party SaaS backup tool. Microsoft does not guarantee to protect your data, so it is important that you can restore data. Items placed in a recycle bin are permanently deleted after 93 days, another good reason why you should have a backup solution.

I hope this was of interest. Clearly, it is a large topic and there are lots of useful blogs out there that go into far more detail. But a word of warning. Things change so frequently that many blogs or documents you find online are out of date and no longer relevant. Always look at the age of any information you find and be conscious that it is probably no longer the latest advice.

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