Let’s face it; working with SharePoint is a love hate relationship. So before you get in bed with this platform there are ten facts you should know.
1 – SharePoint is NOT as easy as it was said to be
Did you just walk out of a very cool meeting where everything seemed just a click away? Don’t get me wrong, I recently wrote that SharePoint doesn’t suck. And I truly believe the platform is awesome and adds tremendous value when used properly. However, you’re often told that it’s going to be “easy” to do and with little or no effort. The reality is, you will spend a lot more time and effort to get what you wanted out of the platform. That’s why I am a big fan of the current changes to the SharePoint brand, as it feels a lot easier to consume for users.
Lesson: It’s going to be tougher than you think to get SharePoint working the way you want, don’t underestimate it. But it is definitely worth it if planned appropriately.
2 – Watch out for the developers that don’t use SharePoint
Lesson: Make sure developers know and understand what SharePoint is and how to use it. Check out my colleague’s series on learning SharePoint.
3 – SharePoint Search isn’t a magical unicorn, it requires constant work and configuration
I’ve said this time and time again, but it feels like it is never enough. SharePoint Search needs to be properly set up and configured. But it also requires constant adjustments for it to give the best results to the users that will be viewing your content. If you think Google and Bing magically work without anyone actually working there you are mistaken. Now why wouldn’t it be necessary for you to do the same in your organization? Then again, it’s another good reason to migrate to Office 365 so that you can leverage products like Delve where Microsoft is doing all the work on their servers.
Lesson: Make sure you are constantly reworking your SharePoint Search configuration. You can either create Managed Properties or even add Result Sources and Types. Building Display Template would definitely also be a nice added value you are giving users.
4 – OneDrive for Business is not OneDrive nor is it a business version of it
I’ve been carrying the flag of OneDrive for Business for quite some time and I love it. But the facts get lost in translation and well…branding. The Marketing will make it sound like your good old OneDrive you have possibly gotten used to, but OneDrive for Business is the new Groove.exe or SharePoint Workspace from 2010. With SharePoint 2013 it has also been associated to My Sites. From a users perspective you won’t see the word My Site anymore, just your OneDrive or in other words OneDrive for Business. But in all technical ways, OneDrive for Business is just a SharePoint Site that belongs to a user with a special Document Library in there that allows you to synchronize 20,000 documents (subject to change).
Lesson: Understand what OneDrive for Business actually is, then make sure it is well communicated in the organization to set expectations.
5 – Co-Authoring on Office documents is definitely possible and works well
Surprised to see this as a title? Apparently I have to specify because I can’t remember the number of times I’ve seen the surprised look on people’s faces when I show the feature. Let’s face it, what are some of the core problems we face in the organization? Can’t find the right document we need to work on or it takes way too much time to get to it. And the other is the classic “Hey John, are you done with the Q3 – Market Analysis file yet, it’s locked by you”. The ability to work at the same time on the same document is mostly known because of Google or has been made popular by it. However, it has worked for well over 4-5 years with Office and SharePoint. In SharePoint 2013, the experience is even better.
Lesson: Test it out, co-authoring documents on SharePoint 2013 works and is very practical.
6 – The Mobility story of SharePoint isn’t what you think it is
I don’t think I have to explain how important the support for mobile devices and different platforms like the Mac has become in the workplace. Depending on the organization and the culture, you can find people bringing in their devices and expect to work from them. Due to the web-based nature of SharePoint, we could assume that it automatically works on mobile device. And technically yes it does if you enable the mobile views. However, these days we have gotten used to things like Responsive Web Design. This method allows you to adjust the look of your SharePoint as you resize the page. The mobile view isn’t the same at all, it is a pre-configured built-in view for mobile devices. On the other hand, if we were to talk about the apps that work with SharePoint like OneDrive for Business then it is more than ideal. Allows me to pick up and go using my iPad and work on documents in my Document Library and I have to say it is AWESOME.
Lesson: I guess I would simply say that you should know that a mobile accessible SharePoint won’t just come with the box. You’ll have to build it your Master Page and CSS for it.
7 – Content Types and Site Columns are not optional
THIS IS A FACT. Not even sure I need to say more and I am not sure I will add a lesson. The title is self-explanatory, if you do not know what Site Columns or Content Types are then you know where to start. Every single thing in SharePoint depends on these objects and properly using them will save you a lot of headaches. If you want to learn more I have a detailed post on SharePoint Site Columns and Content Types. There is also a good recording that explains what Content Types are.
8 – Our most successful SharePoint projects were the clearly defined ones
“We want to collaborate” is not a business need, it is the result. I am glad you received free licences or that it came with some package like Office 365, it’s a big benefit of being in the Microsoft world. However, you will hate SharePoint if you don’t know why you are bringing it in. “Replace File Shares” “Collaborate” “Need a new Intranet” are not valid reasons, I know I am being harsh but it is important.
Figure out what problem you are trying to solve, fix it. You’ll end up collaborating, replacing your file share or even building a new Intranet… possibly. If you know why then you can measure the success but also cater to it.
Lesson: Understand what SharePoint is, but don’t throw it in the organization thinking it will solve things. Identify one problem you would like to fix and implement SharePoint to fix it, keeping in mind what you may eventually use SharePoint for as well. You need a good architect, but first you need to know why.
9 – No one thinks filling out a form to add a document is fun, let’s not kid ourselves
Recently, I was working alongside another SharePoint consultant that assumed people would automatically jump in the metadata wagon. We’re geeks, we get it and still hate it. The business users or your colleagues that are not there to learn and understand the latest trends in technology, but rather to do their specific roles in the organization will not be happy. Let’s see, they used to have to go through a folder structure, yes, but that’s it. Open, Edit and send by email. They know they lost documents or worked on the wrong version once or twice, heck even lost a previous version they couldn’t retrieve. But filling out a form does not equal fun and you should be ready for some negative feedback and even refusal to use the platform. I could pull out the change management guns and tell you that you need proper communication, announcements to let everyone know why. And it does help, we’ve done “launch” events with pizza and drinks so everyone could see what was coming and what it would mean for them as well as the benefits. However, you need to make sure that you do the best you can to make them fill out the least amount of information possible.
Lesson: Don’t assume you can reach to the geek inside everyone that wants to fill out endless metadata forms because down the line it will help.
10 – SharePoint is insanely fun to be working with regardless of the pains, it’s a love story
I guarantee you will love working with SharePoint and that’s even if you hate SharePoint. Why? Because it is such a vast platform that you simply cannot get bored with it. You can work to be the best SharePoint Search administrator for three years then switch and focus on building business workflows or throw yourself into web design with Master Pages. And yet you are always working on the same platform. Make sure you start from the beginning and learn the basics, but there will always be room to evolve, wherever SharePoint goes.