When I told people I was writing a blog about SharePoint, I got a lot of interesting responses. As the title of this document might suggest, most responses were firmly in the negative. Here are some examples:
- “Better you than me.”
- “SharePoint? Is it still 2004???”
- “SharePoint sucks – Dropbox is so much better!”
You get the idea.
Many people have had bad experiences with SharePoint over the years – and I’m not here to dispute that. On the other hand, I am here to tell you that when you say, “I hate SharePoint,” what you’re really saying is:
- “I hate intranets that look like GeoCities.”
- “I hate confusing file trees.”
- “I hate using poorly-configured software and receiving little to no training.”
In other words, you don’t hate SharePoint. You hate poorly-executed SharePoint strategies.
Here are a few strategies to improve your SharePoint implementation.
Simplify your content
The average intranet homepage is busy, to put it mildly. It’s crowded with videos, gallery sliders, columns, boxes, and widgets. The objective is to give the user everything they could possibly need in a single location – a design choice which is textbook bad UX.
Most of your users will not use the entire functionality that a SharePoint intranet offers – most won’t need to. What you users will care about is whether it’s easy to find the features that they do use. HubSpot research shows that 76% of website users only care that it’s easy for them to find the features they want. Simplify the front page of your intranet until it's easy for most users to find what they need.
Make security user friendly
Box, Dropbox, and other file-sharing and storage solutions have taken the world by storm, and it’s easy to see the appeal. Just add a file, and everyone in the group can access it. Right-click, generate a custom link, and anyone who has the link can use it. Since it’s that easy, why not just use Dropbox?
Here’s the deal: you need to explain to your users, very carefully, why ignoring access management is a bad idea.
From an administration perspective, the idea that anyone with access to a Dropbox folder can view all its files is terrifying. To preserve the security of mission-critical data, your administrator needs to carefully control who can access it, using a central management tool such as Active Directory.
To be fair, Dropbox does have Active Directory integration – BUT
- Activating this feature is a six-step process with complex prerequisites
- You must pay for a license to activate this feature
- Although SharePoint isn’t free, you probably already have a license (because it’s bundled with other enterprise Office products) – and it natively integrates with Active Directory.
You need to explain to your users that you have the choice of either paying extra for an unwieldy security solution or using the built-in security for a solution that you already own. You need to explain to them the consequences (fines in the $250K range) for ignoring that security. Lastly, you need to take steps to ensure that your SharePoint implementation is as Dropbox-like as possible (there are ways).
Understand the configuration options
SharePoint isn’t inherently buggy, but it has a lot of settings and advanced tools. If you’re setting up SharePoint for the first time, there are some common mistakes that you might make, such as:
- Creating too many content types
This adds unnecessary manual work that forces users to drill down through several menus to complete routine tasks.
- Complicating file structures
When administrators use folders instead of metadata – and when they allow everyone to create new folders - it typically results in an unusable maze of nested folders in which no one knows where everything is.
- Not installing an IFilter for PDFs
Without this plugin, PDFs aren’t searchable, which means that your users will have to manually hunt through your presumably vast PDF library.
When these configuration errors accumulate, it makes SharePoint difficult to use – which makes your engagement numbers crash. Better not to make these mistakes in the first place.
Posted by Justin Kobel
Justin Kobel is the Practice Lead over the SharePoint practice at KiZAN Technologies and has been with KiZAN since 2005. Justin has experience as a developer, engineer and architect on all technologies surrounding SharePoint.