SharePoint 2010 sales are at record levels. But, its important to keep in mind that Sales <> Usage.
Many times, portal deployments result in less than expected usage. The shiny new intranet portal or collaboration site is launched with great fanfare, usage is high the first few days/weeks and then suffers a precipitous decline. I’ve seen this on all too many projects. In many of these cases, the organization re-implemented based on an old paradigm without any thought to how things might have changed in the 10+ years since they deployed their original Intranet.
Many writers have provided suggestions for how to increase usage of an Intranet/Portal. This is not, fundamentally, a technology problem, but a question of working backward from the goal of adoption. That being said, many SharePoint functions can be leveraged to increase adoption. In some cases, the functions are not well known. Sometimes, a relatively low cost 3rd party add-on can make all the difference. In other cases, lack of time in the project schedule leads to these functions being left for “phase 2”.
Here’s some examples:
- Usage Analytics – SharePoint 2010 has improved visibility into both usage and search analytics. As the old saying goes, if you can’t measure it you can’t change it. Investment in understanding and configuring usage and search analytics is necessary to drive adoption.
- Content Crawling – SharePoint Server 2010 can be configured to “crawl” content residing outside SharePoint. (File Shares, Web Sites, and MS Exchange Public Folders are among the content sources supported out of the box.) Content thus crawled becomes findable. Incorporating crawled content into a portal can become a key usage driver, making SharePoint “one stop shop” for finding otherwise inaccessible items. Organizations with large document volumes or more demanding usability requirements can leverage SharePoint FAST 2010.
- Search Alerts – To meet my own professional information needs, I have a Google News Alert which runs on the term “SharePoint”. Once a day, I get an e-mail with matching items. Not all of the results are high quality (e.g. vendor press releases), but oftentimes I find gems – innovative products, new lines of thinking, etc. Within SharePoint Server, users can setup search alerts to do the same for their internally crawled content. Every click of a link in the results represents leverage of the portal (and increased usage.)
- List Alerts – setting up alerts triggered by new or revised entries in list or document libraries is a more widely known means of increasing adoption, but can be problematic to implement. The out of the box tools have improved, but don’t really provide all the options and configurability necessary to make this effective on a large scale. To pursue this strategy, I would suggest enlisting one of the 3rd part alert managing tools/web parts available on the market (Google: “Alert Web Parts”). With the appropriate setup, list alerting can be a significant driver of portal usage.
- E-mail Integration (or lack thereof) – this can be another drag on portal adoption, particularly collaboration portals. Everyone finds it simpler to create and mail stand alone messages and documents; this habit is hard to change. In this case, documents that belong in the portal never become visible or searchable. A couple of simple actions can help to address this. Lists in SharePoint can be e-mail enabled. Such list then have a unique e-mail address. Distribution lists used by project teams can then include the e-mail address of the list. In this case, the project correspondence then becomes part of portal and shows up in searches. More and more vendors are introducing offerings for more effortless integration between e-mail creation and portal document submission. For example, the harmon.ie product facilitates the submission of documents to document libraries and the sharing of these documents within the context of the portal, all within Outlook. The end result: more portal usage and better search results.
- Application Integration – SharePoint 2010 is, in the most fundamental sense, an ASP.NET development framework. Think about your key applications. Within your list, I guarantee, are great opportunities to integrate with SharePoint and your portal. For example, people information and lookup (e.g. employee directory, employee performance review, etc.) are ripe for integration with SharePoint’s rich profile data store. Key enterprise application can, within SharePoint 2010, be much more easily “front-ended” by SharePoint and/or InfoPath forms surfaced within the Portal.
There are many other opportunnities, but the important point is to think creatively beyond SharePoint sites themselves and venture into the peripheral functions that can be equally important to driving adoption.