Seven Steps to Successful SharePoint User Adoption

Too often SharePoint projects focus on deploying sites without planning for the user adoption and training needed. As a result, momentum fizzles and falls short of its potential as soon as the project ends.

Introducing a new SharePoint deployment introduces a change: Your users might be used to storing documents on a file share or e-mailing content around. SharePoint changes this experience, and this change might cause some people to struggle.

The following are my seven steps to help people avoid struggling and help you drive successful SharePoint user adoption.

1. Establish a vision and define the purpose

An effective vision aims for something on the horizon and it orientates everyone. Defining a purpose gives your SharePoint initiative meaning.

Your vision and purpose sets what you work toward and what you want to achieve. They explain why you’re deploying SharePoint and why it’s valuable for the organization and your users.

As you think about your vision and purpose, ask yourself:

  • What business needs are you solving?
  • How will SharePoint benefit people and the organization?

2. Identify owners

Knowing who owns what helps to make sure nothing slips through the cracks—the buck has to stop with someone.

Owners serve a couple of purposes. One is that users will buy into a change easier when they see the leadership team supports the new direction. Another is that users will know whom to turn for help.

To identify the different owners, think about:

  • Who owns accountability for the vision?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities?

3. Measure success

Measuring success will help you track how well you are performing against your purpose. Monitoring trends and metrics will give you early warning signs to detect issues with adoption.

Measuring success is the feedback loop that’ll enable you to make adjustments when needed—and don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your plan as you see how your users adopt SharePoint.

As you ponder success, consider:

  • What does success look like?
  • What can you showcase as a relevant example of visible success?

4. Cater to your audience

People will be attracted to your SharePoint initiative if you position it from their perspective and think about how it will benefit them. This will generate excitement while helping you anticipate potential issues.

It’s easy to focus on the technology itself, because there are technical pieces to configure or because that’s the reality of our role. However, the technical details are not our users’ reality—they do not work in IT.

Catering to your audience makes your SharePoint initiative relevant to your users. You can ask yourself or your team:

  • How will SharePoint benefit people’s work?
  • Who might struggle with or resist the change?

5. Communicate the change

Your goal here is to create excitement by making people aware of how SharePoint will help them. This means speaking their language and focusing on what makes sense to them and what is important to them.

Open and transparent communication is the catalyst for building any relationship, and connecting with your users is no different. To build a communication strategy, consider:

  • How can you communicate the vision and leadership’s commitment?
  • What is the best way to maintain continuous communication?

6. Reinforce the change

Your goal is to continue encouraging and supporting people as they explore their new SharePoint sites. This helps keep momentum and guide people toward new habits for working and collaborating together.

As you look at ways to reinforce the change, ask yourself:

  • How can you create a sense of urgency for the change?
  • How can you adapt to and apply people’s feedback?

7. Provide targeted training

Training ensures everyone has the skills and abilities to perform their tasks. It also removes the mystery around SharePoint and its features, which removes the main roadblocks to adoption.

Target your training so it is relevant to your people. Rather than simply focusing on the technical steps for how a feature works in SharePoint, discuss how it relates to someone’s job.

As you design training for your users, focus on asking:

  • How can you use language and processes familiar to people’s work?
  • What short, just-in-time training options can you provide?

Your goal is to educate people on what they need when they need it. You don’t want to overwhelm people with unnecessary details on every possible SharePoint feature, because people simply won’t retain it.

One tool you can leverage to help drive effective training and user adoption is my free end-user training guide, Productive SharePoint Collaboration.

Adopting SharePoint can be intimidating for people who haven’t worked with online software like it. People don’t like feeling vulnerable and confused when they just want to do their job. By following these seven steps, you will smooth the way to successful SharePoint user adoption.