Frequent visitors to this blog will know that we often discuss and promote the importance of managing a healthy SharePoint system. People often get carried away in the initial setup and configuration of such systems, and then forget that there's an ongoing commitment. This can involve a bit of hard work, but there are many ways to make it easier.
Part of the wider ecology for a SharePoint-based tool is of course users. IT professionals the world over will probably be able to swap tales of end-user frustration but let’s be candid, without them, there would be no Intranet, no document collaboration, and no real need for SharePoint! So keeping users happy and productive is absolutely key!
In this blog, we’ll be discussing how to manage SharePoint users with that old idiom ‘happy users are productive users’ in mind. We appreciate that there’s a fine (and often misinterpreted) line between support work and enabling users to have greater independence, so we'll share some of our hard fought experiences.
Key steps to think about
1. Complete Profiles
As simple as this idea is, we find profiles are always a great place to begin with user management. If a user has a small degree of representation within a system, then a small part of them is vested within it. Microsoft even encourages this when supporting Yammer roll-outs. Gently nudging a user to fill out their profile, which then lets other users know who they are and what they do – this is particularly useful in systems and companies with many users and staff.
The best way to achieve this is through a combination of user’s initiative and subtle management from an Intranet manager. Most users will see a blank photo and want to replace it. An Intranet admin can then nudge them to add more detailed info.
2. Keeping permissions in check
Moving on from profile management, we’ll look at another SharePoint milestone; permissions. And we find here that simplicity is important, which naturally starts with giving the users just the permissions they need to get the job done, rather than what they think they need (which can be a lot more!).
Does your colleague really need site level admin rights to update an old contacts list? We’d suggest not. SharePoint’s permission model doesn’t really help with good practice in that its permissions are additive. If a member of staff is a member of two groups, the one with the highest permissions wins. But careful day to day management quickly solves this problem.
3. Ongoing training
So, having appropriately applied permissions to your users, it's time to check in on training. A common query here is where do you start? SharePoint, and Office 365, has so much capacity and ability that it could take ages to train users in what they feel they need to know. Daunting isn’t it? This situation is made worse by the constant influx of new features to Office 365.
Generally, users will tell you what they think they need to know. So talk to them. We would also encourage teams to look at feedback from support and help desks. What are users struggling with? See point four for more on this.
A good tip is also to make training content as re-useable as possible. In a world where webinars and online material are commonplace, you should be thinking of how the SharePoint system and functionality can help facilitate online training and training materials.
4. Focus on user feedback
Making it easy for users to give feedback on the system, and its operation, is a big win in the day-to-day management of SharePoint. Again SharePoint itself can help here.
The general idea is to encourage a collaborative community that doesn’t underpin or bypass established help mechanisms (like the technical helpdesk). One such example that we’ve seen work well is the creation of a dedicated site collection just for site owners. This quickly became a fully self-sustaining community: a place users could discuss issues, tips and tricks and ask for help from each other. It quickly became a repository of great ideas and feedback. This sort of thing can be supplemented with a Yammer group or a blog, depending on the type and nature of the feedback being gathered.
When you manage SharePoint users, the key to success is listening to them. Feedback is an important part of this.
Lastly, the value of reports cannot be undersold. Out of the box SharePoint analytics can help IT staff see what users are doing, what they’re looking for, specific search terms and more. With such information, you can easily start to streamline system content or functionality. Tweak what isn’t working, isn’t being accessed or used very often etc.
Sharegate provides even more detailed reports, giving an even deeper insight into the requirements of a system, as defined by its users.
An on-going process
Users are often the cornerstone of any IT system, but they need a combination of direct guidance and subtle encouragement to keep them happy and productive. We hope that these ideas put forward here help you interact with your user base in a more effective manner.
While we are on the subject, any other tips you would recommend to could help manage SharePoint users?