Find this Podcast “Common Challenges of SharePoint Adoption” on the ThreeWill Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes.


Danny Ryan:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan and today I have Bruce Harple here with me. Bruce is the VP of Delivery. Welcome Bruce.


Bruce Harple:Hey, good morning Danny.


Danny Ryan:How are things going?


Bruce Harple:Going great. Glad to be here.


Danny Ryan:We’re on take two. My Mac blew up. Hopefully that will not happen again here but if you don’t mind we’re just going to go back through and redo … We’re going to relive the last ten minutes of our life.


Bruce Harple:Let’s do it. Let’s do it.


Danny Ryan:You’ve got a really important topic for us to cover which is about adoption and that really adoption is about having a successful intranet and a successful portal. Let’s start off with some of the common challenges that you see out there when we are talking with customers.


Bruce Harple:Yeah, that’s great Danny. We’ve been really doing a lot of portal work with our customers, a lot of intranet portal work. Also, we do extranets where customers who are wanting to reach out to either their clients or their vendors. There is a number of challenges that I see where customers talk about their portal failing or low adoption rate for their portal, so there’s a number of challenges that are a common thread across many of our customers.


Probably the number one challenge, number one problem is, I call it findability. Employees will come to the portal they’re looking for a document, a specific piece of content, and they can’t find it. If it’s not two or three clicks away they get frustrated and they give up. I do that when I’m on external sites and I’m looking for content or something and I can’t find it and I get frustrated and I throw my hands up and I give up as well.


Danny Ryan:It’s one of my biggest challenges. I know when I get up in the morning I can’t find my keys anywhere. Findability is a key problem.


Bruce Harple:It is a problem for sure. Some of that’s just where this kind of … We’re all mad-dashing against time and we’re all looking for quick answers, quick information, and if we can’t find it quickly we move on.


Danny Ryan:Yes.


Bruce Harple:Findability is key and number one. Another one is lack of ownership. It’s lack of an executive owner, a champion of the portal. Someone that can create the vision for the portal and ensure does it really support the needs of the business. Really just having content owners and providers. If your content isn’t current, it’s not fresh, and there’s people that aren’t taking ownership of that, then it becomes stale and irrelevant and people won’t use it. The ownership is another key issue and problem we see out there.


Danny Ryan:On the organizations who are doing this really well, they sort of see their intranets and extranets as a key way of communicating their brand, and also a key way of communicating what their culture is as well. You can really look at it a couple different ways, but for us, if you have … We’ve got a very open culture here and so there’s a lot of sharing on Yammer, there’s a lot of document sharing so it’s very open. I think it sort of speaks to, and it’s probably, depends on the organization, but you have different people who sort of own what the intranet and extranet is.


Bruce Harple:Yeah. A key point, Danny, is the ownership … You obviously want that executive ownership, but you also need to have that individual ownership so everybody in the organization has to take ownership. The whole organization owns the content in that portal and everybody’s got to be willing to contribute to it and obviously everybody wants to consume, but everybody’s got knowledge to share. Everybody’s got information that can value other parts of their organization, other parts of their teams.


Danny Ryan:Great. What’s the next challenge?


Bruce Harple:The next one, I kind of grouped these two things together, it’s relevance and reliability. That’s just saying that if you’re not constantly looking at your intranet, your portal, if the information and content out there is not current, if it’s not relevant to what I do, that content’s not helping me sell products and services to my customers, if it’s not helping me deliver products and services to my customers, it’s just not going to provide the same level of value to me. It’s got to be relevant to what I do, it’s got to be relevant to how I am delivering goods and services to my customers, and it’s got to be reliable. If content becomes old, stale, outdated, or that content is in 5 different places in your portal and that content’s different in all 5 of those places, how do you know which content, how do I know which document is the document that I should really rely on? That is a huge problem, that relevance and reliability, making sure that I trust what’s out there. If your organization doesn’t trust the content, they’re not going to go use it.


Danny Ryan:This is where it leads to, and I know I sometimes fall into this pattern, which is if you’re not sure then you start emailing the document around and then you really get out of whack because the latest version of the doc is in somebody’s email. You have to have the discipline to keep pointing people back to the intranet and saying this is the record of source. This is where you want to go to for the latest version.


Bruce Harple:Absolutely. Some of that kind of goes to my next challenge. It’s one thing that I think a lot of people overlook, and that’s just understanding your culture. How does your culture collaborate? How do they share information? How do they share knowledge? That’s huge in trying to understand. The intranet portals today have a lot of capabilities, but you’ve got to understand, of all those capabilities, which of those really met best to the culture of your company and what people are willing to do? Do you have a social culture? Are they the Twitter generation? Are they in the news feeds and activity feeds and things like that? Understanding your culture. Then if there’s things you want to move them towards, you’ve got to understand, how do I do that incrementally and take small steps towards changing that culture to be a more collaborative type culture?


Danny Ryan:Yeah, some of the larger companies, they’ve got multiple generations. They’ve got folks who are the older generation that might are used to picking up the phone to collaborate and then you’ve got … I think I’m part of the email generation. I don’t know if I want to call myself that, but everything’s done through email because I have a track of … I know when what was said and all that good stuff. I’ve got my outbox and ways of managing what commitments I’ve made and all that good stuff. Then you’ve got the activity feed driven younger kids, younger punks, that are so disrupt driven. Whatever’s the latest thing is the latest thing and that’s what I’m working on and it’s very interrupt driven.


Bruce Harple:Absolutely. In the next challenge I talk about, I call it governance. I’m always amazed at how many customers don’t have a governance plan in place around their portal. It really kind of governs how do we provision content into that portal, how do we use that portal to support our business? It’s key because the good news about a lot of these portals in today’s world is it’s very easy to add content and it’s easy to get to that wild, wild west mentality where there’s community sites, project sites, department sites set up all over the place and they’ve all got their own unique look, feel, brand, so instead of having a company look, feel, brand, and way to find information, it becomes very functionally departmentalized. Some of that freedom you want to allow, but you really need to have that governance plan in place because that’s going to drive that findability, that relevance and reliability aspect of this.


The last challenge and thing to talk about is, I call it inspection and adaption. One of the things that we see with portals and intranets today is that people build them, they get them populated, they get content out there and then there’s no ongoing care and feeding. There’s no kind of assessment of what kind of usage is occurring on the portal. I call that inspection and adaption.


Danny Ryan:That’s not like the Boston version of adoption. Is that adaption? Adaption?


Bruce Harple:I like that.


Danny Ryan:You are saying adaption?


Bruce Harple:I am saying adoption.


Danny Ryan:Adoption. Oh my goodness. You’re saying- okay, good.


Bruce Harple:I am saying adapt.


Danny Ryan:Go ahead. Sorry.


Bruce Harple:It’s really that kind of inspection, kind of inspecting the usage, inspecting value, assessing that value, and then adapting the content, adapting what’s out there to the business. Businesses are going to change too. The parties and the business are going to change and you need to keep that content, again, relevant, reliable, and findable. Those are the key challenges.


Danny Ryan:I’m going to be stuck on Sharepoint Adaption. Next, what do we have up next?


Bruce Harple:Really, next we just talk about how can people begin to think about addressing some of these challenges that we see.


Danny Ryan:Cool. How do they do that?


Bruce Harple:The first thing I’ve got is to really create a vision for your portal. It sounds simple but it’s really important, really critical, that you have that vision. I think of Steven Covey, precept of, kind of begin with the end in mind. If you don’t know where you’re going you can’t build a roadmap to get there. That vision really needs to convey the overall importance and value of the portal to the business. It should be supported with some specific objectives, and really some simple metrics that really assess the value of the portal to the business. A lot of people, it’s build it and they will come. That typically doesn’t work in the intranet business. You really need to make sure that everything you do through that portal is supporting the business somehow, is driving value to the business, is aligned with the business. That vision should support that and every time you do something to that portal you should really look at that vision stuck on your wall and say, “Am I supporting the vision? Is it supporting the end state of where I want to get to with my portal?”


Danny Ryan:Very nice.


Bruce Harple:That’s the first thing in addressing some of these challenges and the other is just overall ownership of the portal. There’s two parts to that. Some of it is having that executive level champion or owner of the portal. I think that’s key because you’re going to look to that person to make sure that that portal is aligned to the business like I talked about with the vision. Are we really aligning the usage of this portal, what we’re trying to accomplish with it, does that support the business? Is it meeting the needs of the business? This needs to be someone that’s really passionate about capturing and sharing the IP of your organization, and really passionate about driving that culture of collaboration. To me, that’s what a portal is all about. It’s about establishing that culture of collaboration, sharing knowledge, sharing experience, and just trying to look for how can we better sell and deliver to our customers?


Danny Ryan:I look at us and the reason why I think we do a lot of collaboration here at ThreeWill is because Tommy does a lot of collab- It’s from the top, and we do have some … We’ve got lots of clients that we end up finding out that the CEO is involved in this because of really, the communication aspect of this. If I’m going to get my organization to work together, we all have to be on the same page.


Bruce Harple:Yep. Absolutely. The other aspects of ownership are finding those content providers. With any portal there’s content providers, content consumers. Everybody wants to consume content. It’s always hard to get people to provide content. Some of that ties back to culture, which we’ll talk about later. Really, I think it is important at some level to identify those content providers, those content owners who could be responsible and held accountable for keeping content fresh and relevant.


Some of it too is driving down to individual ownership. Everybody wants to consume content but I think the organizations have to look for how do we motivate, how do we incent individuals to provide their content, their knowledge, their IP, as it relates to how we sell to our customers, how we deliver to our customers. You’ve got to figure out how to get that down to the individual level to where there’s individual ownership and people want to contribute and people feel good about doing that.


Danny Ryan:Great.


Bruce Harple:Kind of creating that vision, defining that ownership, those kind of … That applies across all those challenges.


Danny Ryan:What’s up next?


Bruce Harple:The next thing I’m going to talk about was that concept of findabilty. How do I enable people to quickly come in and find the content they’re looking for, find the information they’re looking for? There’s several pieces to that. One is just looking at what we call the information architecture. How do you structure all that content on your portal and how do you navigate that portal? There’s a couple of ways people come into portals to look for content. One is through navigation, through hitting links on pages, and the other is then through search. Those are the two key things is that site structure, that information architecture, and then search.


Then kind of associated with search, we think it’s really important that you develop that corporate taxonomy. A corporate taxonomy is just how you describe the things that are important to you. It’s tagging. It’s the metadata. How do I describe a document that I upload? How do I describe a video that I’m going to put on my portal? Then that metadata can be used in searching for that content, helping people find that content.


The overall search experience is so critical, because that’s the way that most people are going to find that content through that search bar. Like any website you go to, the first thing you’re looking for is that little magnifying glass and you’re going to key in what you think in your mind you’re looking for and that’s how you’re going to try to find that data.


Danny Ryan:We’ve been so trained by free text search, the Google search of just … Your expectation are so high of that I think on the public internet that you expect the same type of experience internally as well.


Bruce Harple:You absolutely should have the same experience. That Google search experience that you have on the external face on public websites, you should have that same experience inside your intranet portal.


Danny Ryan:Our solution is to put a Google device inside their organization, is that what we’re proposing here?


Bruce Harple:There’s several things, and I’m just going to rattle these things off. There’s a lot behind them, but the kind of things we look for establishing as part of your search experience or search verticals. How do I verticalize the content in search? I can search everything, I can search people, I can search for specific types of content, the other search refiners, so when the search result comes up, how can I refine that search by document type, by person, by date, by one of those metadata tags I talked about.


There’s different ways to present search results, so you might want to present a people search result in a way that if I mouse over that person their profile pops up.


Danny Ryan:In a little animated gif where they’re dancing or something like that?


Bruce Harple:A little animated gif where they’re dancing, whatever the avatar they have …


Danny Ryan:That’s the kind of intranet I want.


Bruce Harple:Or like for video, if I mouse over a video, I want to see the video playing for me. That’s important. Things like you expect with any kind of search engine is being able to influence search relevance, search suggestions, best bets. All those things are so important. I have this throughout this whole thing.


The other thing with search is that inspection and adaption. Somebody needs to be paying attention to how are people searching. With that you can begin to tune your search experience for your organization. You can’t just expect it to always work and always get better, you’ve got to manage that. You’ve got to expect what people are doing.


Danny Ryan:I actually track on our public site. I track what people are searching for. It gives me good input for, maybe I need to change something in the menu structure or something along those lines.


Bruce Harple:Yes, exactly.


Danny Ryan:Nice. What’s next?


Bruce Harple:Next, again, is relevance and reliability. I kind of group those two things together. Some of that is around reviewing metrics. It goes back to, again, I’m going to use those words, inspect and adapt. It’s really kind of looking at metrics, looking at Google analytics if you have that wired into your set which we recommend, looking at site analytics, search analytics, content aging. It’s all those things, so really it’s paying attention to what’s out there, how relevant it is, how current it is, and making those adjustments.


I think the other things is looking at ways to leverage site or page templates. People create new team sites, new community sites, new department sites. There’s a template that’s being followed so there’s a consistency, so as people navigate though that portal they’re not going to some team site, some project site, and try to figure out where content is stored and how it’s organized, you’ve got a consistent way you can apply a template to every different type of site you might provision inside a portal.


The other thing I kind of call out under relevance and reliability is, I’m saying conduct an annual portal retrospective. That means once a year you sit down and really kind of revisit your vision, revisit your objectives, because the business has changed. We do retrospectives on projects and we ask three questions, what should I continue doing, what should I start doing, and what should I stop doing? I think that applies to an intranet portal or an extranet portal. Once a year you should stop and ask those three questions about that portal, and again, fine tune what’s happening with that portal.


Danny Ryan:Nice. I like it. I like it. It’s almost when you were talking about that I was thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if we went around to our clients and did an annual …


Bruce Harple:We have a new service opportunity right there, Danny.


Danny Ryan:That’s just what we need is another service opportunity.


Bruce Harple:There you have it.


Danny Ryan:All right. Bring me to the finish line here. We got a couple more left, right?


Bruce Harple:Yeah, a couple more things. Let’s talk a little bit more about culture. Again, I just think it’s so critical to really understand your organizational culture, especially as it relates to collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing. Ask yourself, do I have a social culture? Will they participate in activity feeds, discussions, news feeds. Are they-


Danny Ryan:Nude feeds?


Bruce Harple:News feeds. That would be a good one.


Danny Ryan:I’ll leave that one alone. Next? Go ahead, sorry.


Bruce Harple:Some people have fun with that.


Danny Ryan:I’m sure some people do. I’m sorry, go ahead.


Bruce Harple:An example is, there was a CEO who had a news feed of his own, like a blog post, and occasionally, just to see if people were paying attention and engaging with him, he would put a post out early in the morning and say, “First person that responds to my post …”


Danny Ryan:Gets a raise.


Bruce Harple:“… Gets a raise.” Exactly. They were just things like, “Have a gift card,” so “You’ve got a 50 dollar gift card, first person that responds to my post, I have a gift card sitting here for you.”


Danny Ryan:Engagement shoots fires up.


Bruce Harple:You can have fun with it as it relates to the social aspects of it. You just need to really think about how do people share documents? How do they collaborate around documents? Is that part of your business model? Really trying to see how their project teams interact and engage. How do they work together? Do they collaborate around a project set of some kind, a group of some kind? What are they willing to do, what are they willing to share?


I think so, you really have to end up mapping your culture to the capabilities of your portal, especially as it relates to social features, document sharing, document collaboration, notifications alerts, those kind of things. What will your culture accept? What fits that culture?


Danny Ryan:Then, bumbadumbum, everybody’s favorite subject …


Bruce Harple:Everybody’s favorite subject, governance.


Danny Ryan:Don’t you use that word around me. Don’t you point that word at me.


Bruce Harple:To me it’s simple. I just develop a governance plan. You need to have one. Identify ownership, assign accountability, and again, I got the inspect and adapt here with this one. It’s like, governance, you need to look at our governance plan once a year. You’ve got to pay attention to that because governance should drive that inspection and adaption. It should drive some accountability for how your portal is governed, how it’s kept current, kept relevant, et cetera.


Danny Ryan:If you don’t have one we have templates, right?


Bruce Harple:We have templates, absolutely. The last thing, Danny, is just to make it fun and engaging. It’s got to be engaging, it’s got to be fun, and you can do that if you’d like customers to have fun with their portals and make it fun, make it engaging. It doesn’t take a lot to do that. Then you have CEOs that make it fun and engaging too in the way that they engage with their team. That’s it.


Danny Ryan:That’s awesome. Thank you for taking the time to share this. I know this is really important. It’s just great you’re on so many different projects and working with so many new clients and prospects that I really appreciate your input on what you’re seeing out there, so thank you for taking the time to do this, Bruce.


Bruce Harple:Absolutely. We have a lot of passion around building portals that are successful, and to us success, it’s the adoption. It’s portals that are really used and where organizations are getting value out of those portals. That’s so critical and a key part of what we do is we work with clients on their portals, really trying to make sure that we’re looking at these challenges and addressing them and that they’re partnering with us to help us do that.


Danny Ryan:That’s great. Thanks so much everybody for taking the time to listen and have a wonderful day. Thank you. Bye-bye.



Related Content: