Thinking of moving to SharePoint Online? While the days of worrying about local equipment to run the SharePoint installation are no longer here, you still have some things to think about. Below are the major planning hurdles you’ll want to consider before beginning.
Determine the SharePoint Taxonomy
A SharePoint Taxonomy allows you to determine how information within your SharePoint site will be accessed, defined, searched, found and reported. The reason this is an important starting point, is that whether certain people should even see sections of data is critical to how the site architecture itself is created. Additionally, if a taxonomy is intelligently set up using groups, then it is easily scaled as the company grows. If it is not, then net new needs end up being implemented hap-haphazardly until the site either needs to be completely re-envisioned or no one understands who has access to what anymore.
The simplest way to begin this process is jot down a list of who should access what (you don’t have to be comprehensive of every employee yet). Next, ask yourself how these users fall into logical groups. Is it by department? Or is it by executives, sales people, administration, etc.? Once you feel like you have a set of groups that will encompass every employee within their definitions, you now need to determine what people in these groups should be able to see and interact with data.
For example: Maybe we don’t mind sales people seeing company wide sales figures for the current quarter, but we certainly don’t want them changing numbers. In this example, we would define for that the group “sales” has “view only” access to sub-site “general company reporting data”. (note that these category names are solely an example, they may be named differently in your case)
Realistically break down development and migration expectations
It is important to collaborate with a SharePoint Consultant on this portion as they will help bring your team back down to earth. More specifically, they should be able to take vague visions and relate them to actual functionality which are possible to execute within the SharePoint Online design framework. Bringing important department heads and major end users in the room for 1-on-1 sessions with the SharePoint Consultant will be valuable. This allows team wide expectations to be understood. As the owner, your goal should always be to keep customization as much at bay as possible, this is not always easy as visions from department heads will often get ahead of realistic budgetary options.
Determine if and where out-of-box functionality is sufficient
Any functions that can be achieved by using the standard tools SharePoint comes with are going to be significantly more affordable. Often this means making sacrifices in your ideal “project vision”, but unless you have a Fortune 500 budget, you’ll want to make some of these sacrifices. It is worth pointing out that to someone not familiar with SharePoint, the cost ‘landmines’ are not necessarily intuitive. So expect to be surprised at how easy some things are, and to be disappointed with how things that seem like they should be easy may occasionally be very expensive to implement exactly how you’d envision it.
Establish a customization strategy (Hint: Phase Things In!)
Do not commit to extensive customizations at the onset (unless you are a pro, in which case, why are you reading this?). It will be tempting to want to tackle your whole vision at once, you may even have a SharePoint designer who wants the hours and is pushing you to do so, don’t do it!.
A phased approach is the lifeblood of a successful SharePoint project. This is because as you complete sections, users can play around and better understand what they want. Often what they thought they wanted, isn’t what they actually want after they get in there and poke around with the interface. It is better to spend the money when we have more confidence in what users want.
Furthermore, less features initially will typically be less overwhelming for users. Often you can start by implementing the easy departments (the projects that are low hanging fruit). This way you can get half the company excited about it before you hand off the site to the nay-sayers (typically remote sales employees or Mac users). As you bring these less open minded folks online, you’ll have the other half of the company to lean in and help as experts who already know the new system. It is worth taking a moment to think about change management psychology when considering phases and user adoption.
Take a realistic look at your integration goals
While unification of systems is great for efficiency (and marketing department buzzwords), you should really take a moment to carefully think over your goals. This is the number one spot where you can completely blow money. For example, spending 50K to get entries in one system to auto update to your CRM, only to realize that users can’t seem to be trained to consistently use the process you set up. Disaster! Now some entries are doubled, some aren’t tracked in both systems, and everyone is frustrated…
Think hard and long about whether your integration tools will be easily adopted by users, and assume for the least savvy user to be much more foolish than you’d imagine. In particular, if your SharePoint Consultant has hesitations, you should have hesitations. SharePoint Consultants want the work, but often they know better and don’t want a black hole project which will possibly destroy the customer relationship. If they see a potential for a black hole of spending, you either should be ready to go way off estimate, or cave on your vision for integration. As a general tip: if your consultant is quoting you a range where the low end and high end are further than 200% apart, there is a massive amount of unknown involved. Be very careful.
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