Many Global Pharmaceutical Companies are leveraging SharePoint to solve a lot of their business operational challenges. The main reason for that is the build can be managed by the business functions with little help from specialized vendors if required and not much intervention from IS. This means that businesses can build faster – Efficient operations need Speed. The second, of course, is you do not need to pay anything additional for licensing, as most organizations today use MS Office 365, and it is cheaper to build on SharePoint vs. Buying an off-the-shelf product.
SharePoint is highly customizable and, if designed well, can be very user-friendly. It can do many things like document management, designing electronic forms for the collection of data for everyday operations, managing lists and trackers of information centrally, and effective storing and dissemination and communication of knowledge and information amongst a distributed group. It also helps with the automation of a variety of operational processes through the creation of intelligent workflows. It also has a very extensive access policy which you can use to provide role-based access control to sensitive information and documents.
The added benefit is that a lot of Reporting and Visualization Tools are now able to connect to SharePoint as a data source. Though there are some limitations, it means that the data that is there on your SharePoint can be used for analytics and put on a dashboard.
On one side, the increased features of Share Point have made it a hot commodity – With business functions using SharePoint for a variety of use cases other than simple content management. On the flip side, in process and content-heavy functions such as medical and regulatory, this increased use has created many sites, with maintenance becoming the main problem. The usage is low, with many people either not going to the SharePoint Site or people still struggling to find which site to go to.
How to Deal with the Common Challenges in SharePoint
Many sites lead to certain challenges, of course – This article looks at a few of those usual challenges and how organizations can go about solving them.
A lot of organizations, often under pressure from businesses to get a solution out as early as possible, naturally gravitate towards SharePoint. However, it is critical to remember though SharePoint can do a lot of things, there are things it cannot do. If businesses keep that in mind, they can use it to create solutions that will add value to their function vs. creating a tool that stops adding value a few months after it goes live because it becomes too complicated.
Business functions should have a Governance process around Managing SharePoint Site Builds. Create a system that allows you to manage your requests, assess the impact of the requests (what process is it going to support, how critical is that process, the number of users will it help, what will be the impact in terms of direct and indirect cost, etc.). Assign an approval process that looks at these details and then decides -if it makes business sense, addresses a critical need, is the right platform, and will have a good Return on Investment.
Expectation setting can happen at various stages of the project – at the discovery, build, and roll out, but it is important to do it earlier rather than later so that users know what the site cannot do. I have seen many users come to the site, and if it is not able to do the one thing that they were looking for (which it was not supposed to do anyway), users get frustrated and are quick to jump to the conclusion – Oh then this is not going to work for me.
There needs to be a training and communication strategy in terms of how you will start redirecting your people to the SharePoint Site. Create a small team to field all the questions from the stakeholders about the site post-release. This team can promptly respond to questions ensuring that people know how to use the site. Based on an analysis of the questions, training can be planned for the top issues that people are facing.
People often find it easier to email someone to ask for information rather than going to the SharePoint Site. Being able to make the search functionality powerful so that users can get to the information they need in the fastest possible time always helps with adoption.
Building the Site is not an end goal. The work starts after that when you need to continue to ensure that people are coming to the site and getting value out of it. SharePoint provides usage data that can be leveraged for this purpose. Else you can also configure SharePoint with external scripting languages to capture specific usage data in much more detail, of course, within the bounds of your legal organization.
You should also have a governance process for Site maintenance – Create a repository or Site map of what information is there on the site, how often it needs to get updated, and who is responsible for ensuring that the update happens.
Do not go over the top, but sometimes it helps with adoption if your SharePoint Site does not look like a boring intranet site. Use design smartly to give it a website look and feel. With the internet and apps gaining prominence, people have little patience with something that does not look good. As Steve Jobs once said – “The design is not just what it looks like and feels like. The design is how it works.”
This should be a part of your build strategy. Whatever is to be maintained on the site, business function team members should be able to do it with minimal technical intervention. If the maintenance becomes too complicated, then the resource and cost demand will ensure that businesses never prioritize maintenance, and the site will die a slow death.
I have listed it at the end, but this is the most important part of any solution, and not particularly SharePoint. Have a thorough discovery session, and always put yourself in the user’s shoes when you are designing and developing functionalities. Sometimes due to technical limitations and sometimes due to the assumption of the people building the solution, some functionalities are provided, which are not just clunky but useless. Be wary of those, do not overthink, and keep it simple.
Build the Right Solution with DefineRight
At DefineRight, no matter what solution we build, we pay extra attention to the governance aspects of the solution. Because we know that the right governance mechanism is what helps generate continuous value from what you build.