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SharePoint|The Reality Series 6
Migrating your users—not just your data

Expectations for the much-hyped SharePoint 2010 range from just another upgrade cycle to a green light that propels long dormant projects. A new McKinsey & Company report on process flow automation focuses on information architectures in service industries, but it may as well be addressing SharePoint 2010 when it asks: Can the new system carry its weight or is it “simply wrapping a lot of expensive IT around the current processes?”

McKinsey’s observation is not extended to just any standard or pending ECM upgrade. A recent Metalogix survey finds that nearly half of all SharePoint enterprises are planning 2010 upgrades—even though four in five shops have made the leap to the previous upgrade, SharePoint 2007. But what about the user base? Are they onboard?

Search-driven or site-driven?

The deployment team aims to move the requisite data, forms and documents over to a new SharePoint home. But does the team factor the comfort zones of the user base into its migration? That’s a hidden cost that surfaces even as SharePoint is keeping its promise to automate labor-intensive tasks. The system may run fine but line managers may be running clear of it. Why? According to McKinsey, alienated users often cling to the familiar.

And it’s not only your back office that’s feeling compromised. Project teams insist on generating new SharePoint sites every time they sign up an account or start a new assignment. But why flip the site switch, you ask? Those lists and libraries can be assembled on the fly through new 2010 features like Content Organizer and Managed Metadata Services (MMS). No one has to remember where they find or place their content—so long as they tag it.

Taking advantage of the new capabilities may have little practical value if the migration carries over the same unproductive uses of the same content—no matter how well vetted or documented the materials being moved. The unified indexing of today’s enterprise search tools frees users from remembering where they placed their uploads. But even in virtual settings, many users still insist on site-driven storage. They prefer hunting for folders or browsing directories to enterprise search.”

As we’ve seen across many enterprises, an ill-defined deployment results in lots of duplicated efforts and no way of posting, showcasing or even distinguishing must-have or definitive versions of key documents. Not only does it prolong the pain of preserving the network file share, but it typecasts SharePoint as a document repository—not as a platform for optimizing business processes.

Shorter circuits

If there’s no line item in the deployment budget for rewiring our colleagues’ mental maps, there certainly is incentive to close open loops and bypass siloed data sources. According to Beau Mersereau, director of applications, development and support for San Diego-based law firm Fish & Richardson, telltale signs indicate that SharePoint’s place in the enterprise has taken on the air of inevitability—if not complete buy-in.

For starters, SharePoint allows system administrators to compare settings, create dependencies between tasks and integrate data stores formerly siloed by the functional units that typically live off the enterprise content reservation: HR, finance and service operations.

That means it’s faster to connect two stovepipes in SharePoint than it is to wait for an internal department to formally adopt it. It’s easier to plug holes between functional and business units than it is to incentivize field service engineers and account managers to work with a system they neither trust, like or understand in terms of learning or its role of connecting operations to the overall business.

To Mersereau, however, it’s not about replacing people with technology but about optimizing scarce assets: “In this day and age it’s not easy to hire new people, so we’ve had to automate a lot of things,” he says.

To other change agents like Boston Red Sox CIO Steve Conley, SharePoint workarounds are more than Band-Aids if they plug a chronic leak—especially where existing operational capabilities fall short. What happens when customers misplace invoices or when accounting loses an invoice payment request? Writing SharePoint-enabled task flows allows the enterprise to track those transactions, tie them to scans of hard-copy documents and ultimately plug the paperwork leaks.

That was the thinking that inspired Conley to “step back from documents” and revisit SharePoint as a business automation tool. The clear and manageable goal was to simplify routine order entry processes in the club’s billing cycle so that the financial staff could trace payment records online and resolve any outstanding issues free of paper-based invoices.

Conley’s team was able to map the process requirements of the team’s financial operations without imposing any new technology, regulatory or training-based burdens on back-office staff.

Story-telling

According to Mersereau, another indication of the longer-term changes triggered by 2010 adoptions is that ECM managers are much more comfortable with SharePoint. Therefore, many of the custom designs used to build homegrown systems are a key part of the overall migration plan. That priority is major in terms of SharePoint’s ascension as the de facto global platform for ECM. It’s not just an upgrade when the company’s most important knowledge assets are re-channeled from a lapsing standard or an outmoded system into SharePoint. That’s not an interim move but for keeps.

Children’s Hospital Boston is one SharePoint shop that has migrated its patient care and operational policy and procedure content from fragmented, standalone repositories into a unified interactive eLibrary to grow and leverage institutional knowledge. According to Shelley Norton, the hospital’s document repository administrator, the migration from shared drives to SharePoint has not only improved document integrity and met compliance requirements but has created a way to tell the story of the hospital through its documents. “That story-telling allows us to connect people and processes—identify institutional expertise and determine compliance responsibilities and requirements,” she says.

She continues, “We have recently extended the role of our eLibrary by creating an institutionwide compliance calendar in SharePoint. Entries link institutional content to statutory and regulatory requirements and set review/revision schedules. The calendar not only links to documents stored in libraries managed by separate departments, but also connects to a workflow that alerts the responsible individuals that a compliance element (i.e., policy, license, permit, inspection) is due for review or update. That represents a significant efficiency and quality improvement for the hospital and helps individuals manage their tasks more effectively.”

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