Microsoft SharePoint is a common and accessible tool, providing organizations with an effective platform for document management. However, it is beneficial to take the time to consider how it can best serve user needs, as well as to potentially avoid SharePoint-induced headaches:
Vision: Find time to collaboratively develop and define what SharePoint should do for your organization. Are there different types of users? What do users need/want to find? People will not readily use something that does not efficiently serve their needs.
Governance plan: It is important to implement a governance plan for the effective management of SharePoint. Identify business requirements, and develop policies to reflect user responsibilities and requirements. Acknowledge the potential risks, and develop a plan to ensure quality, compliance, and an overall effective use of SharePoint.
Information architecture: “the art and science of structuring, organizing and labeling information to help people find and manage information” (Rosenfeld and Morville, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web). People will always possess diverse information seeking behaviours. Before pouring content into a SharePoint site, design an effective information architecture schema, and welcome feedback from colleagues. Again, no one will adopt and use a system if they experience difficulty navigating and finding what they need.
Features: SharePoint has many features that are often underutilized. Step outside of the folder mentality, and try using metadata or content types to effectively classify files. While folders are inflexible, metadata (SharePoint “columns”) provide users with options to sort, filter, and create different views. Look into other features such as personalization, workflow, and reporting services. The 2013 version highlights new social features for working collaboratively.
Metrics: Assess your SharePoint site on a fairly regular basis to ensure its success in your organization. What are the goals? Usage statistics and other metrics can aid in addressing problems.