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SharePoint The Reality Series 3: SharePoint in practice

Last month, in the second installment of this series, we considered the roles and responsibilities needed to shoulder the sweeping changes of a SharePoint-centric enterprise. For large-scale SharePoint deployments to succeed, stakeholders must articulate their commitment and priorities.

If SharePoint were an animal, it might be the duck parable: It walks, swims AND flies … just not very well. That one ECM platform enables document management, collaboration and workflow under one roof is no joke. But whether the deployment goes forth with a strut or a waddle depends on: governance models (KMWorld, April 2010), project leadership (KMWorld, May 2010) and the ability to fuse loose pieces cohesively.

KM practitioners have the opportunity to use the common frameworks and toolsets of SharePoint to build best search, taxonomy, provisioning and site navigation practices. No other application helps to highlight the efficiencies gained through unified indexing of organizational knowledge. On the other hand, SharePoint exposes the breakdowns between business units that impede the flow of internal resources.

In the third part of this series, we’ll look at SharePoint as a vehicle for driving collaboration, supporting a portfolio of shared services and propelling the case for enterprise search as a business asset.

Grant Thornton

Shawn Ivey’s mission is to classify relevant information ahead of time. Ivey, the director of technology strategy & architecture at global accounting firm Grant Thornton, says, “If and when there are discovery requests, we can easily identify and provide attorneys with a much smaller set of relevant content. Instead of sending a user’s entire hard drive, we’re sending client and assignment-specific documents.”

Grant Thornton’s formal enterprise content management (ECM) program began three years ago with creation of a strategy and roadmap, followed by the selection of a core ECM platform. That choice needed to address business process engineering, change management, technology selection and records management, including regulatory and legal retention policies.

Like most professional services firms, Grant Thornton faces a fork at the end of the engagement road. Project teams sift through a reservoir of work product and determine:

  • What are we required to keep?
  • Where do we put it?

While that may sound like document storage, it’s really collaboration that generates the business value. According to Ivey, SharePoint drives the team/client collaboration and document life cycle processes that enable Grant Thornton to execute against its original ECM strategy.

“Initially we didn’t prioritize collaboration as highly as the other risk areas,” Ivey says. He has seen demand spike from the audit, tax and advisory side to share information and interact with clients. Ivey’s team responded, mapping out a workgroup collaboration policy and solution on the following fronts:

  • Site generation—Avoid a repeat of a viral, unmanaged experience.
  • Value capture—Tie site creation to the backend time. Also, the billing system is critical for instilling project discipline around group collaboration.
  • Document life cycle—Sites are not created until an assignment has been formally initiated. Sites carry a one-year expiration date and central portal to handle all site requests and workflows.
  • Team participation—Consultants have the ability to extend the life of an engagement site. Says Ivey, “We took IT out of the picture by allowing users to create and manage their own sites.”

SharePoint adoption speaks to business drivers and project requirements. But the actual battle for mindshare plays out on the Blackberries and iPhones of offsite consultants and sales managers. For SharePoint that means a fuller embrace of the social capabilities that younger hires expect, such as document ratings, user tagging, microblogging and enhanced expertise discovery.

Deloitte

Deloitte, a firm that specializes in audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services, is no stranger to the SharePoint social scene. The firm retains Newsgator’s Social Sites to weave a rich tapestry of RSS feeds through basic content services like SharePoint’s My Sites to create rich topic and expertise maps. Isolated contributions are channeled into multidimensional dashboards laced with Facebook-like profiling.

In the estimation of Lawrence Blank-Cook, KM solutions lead at Deloitte, the one-off, informal collaborations of the past have given way to 31 engaged communities. Some are more talent-focused, and some are more community- and practice-focused. All abide by a firmwide code of conduct that informs what Deloitte can and cannot do: For example, a consultant operates under different guidelines than an auditor.

The balancing act is how to abide by regulatory constraints while encouraging the pockets of communities within Deloitte to flourish. “We’re trying to break out of IM into open knowledge sharing,” says Blank-Cook. “We’re focusing away from e-mail into project collaboration.”

Rabobank

While Grant Thornton and Deloitte leverage SharePoint to foster collaboration and social media, what happens when that vision reflects an organization’s core services? That’s the thinking behind the IT division of Dutch-based financial giant Rabobank. Meint Post, manager of Internet technologies, runs the bank’s IT division as a shared services provider of content management, shared hosting, Web analytics and streaming media to generate video content for training. SharePoint has its own demonstration site to showcase: (1) best practices for hosting SharePoint sites, (2) a virtual test server, and (3) a user acceptance test (UAT) environment for testing applications in conjunction with other departments or other software components like business data connectors and cross-departmental workflows.

To Post, the way to experience the value of ECM is to charge for it. Every year Post’s IT portfolio is presented to his unit heads. “My team creates an overall structure but the content is controlled locally.” Post estimates cost reductions of 30 percent to 40 percent for the last three years driven by: (1) the growth of SharePoint and (2) use of a shared allocation model, i.e. the more customers, the lower the price.”

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