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SharePoint Adoption – Email Admin Perspective

Before I was a SharePoint consultant, I was a server admin at a large hospital system.  Here’s a quick synopsis of how I got started in SharePoint, and some ideas around ways to drive user adoption of SharePoint from an email perspective.

I was an Exchange 5.5 and then Exchange 2000/2003 admin for about 9 years.  I was on the messaging team in the server admin department, which entailed supporting all servers having anything to do with messaging and collaboration. In 2004, we were told to install SharePoint as one of our messaging servers.  Mostly just the IT department used it for the first year or so. Then later we put together a full 5 server farm and started creating portals for all of the major departments, and site collections for each of the 100 hospitals.

We didn’t really have any kind of user adoption plan or any big glitzy rollout, it was kind of a word-of-mouth thing for quite a while. Here’s where the email and user adoption thing came in.  Most of my daily job was still email admin stuff, and just server maintenance on SharePoint. When I really started digging in and learning lists, forms, InfoPath, libraries, and all the coolness of SharePoint (as cool as SPS 2003 was), I really started to fall in love with it.  I wanted to spread the word… shout it from the rooftops.  Unfortunately, I was just an IT grunt, and didn’t have any kind of influence to make any company-wide sweeping changes and somehow tell all 50,000 employees to start using SharePoint.

I spread the word in my own little way.  One of my projects was to “clean up” the big cluster of a mess that our Exchange public folders were.  There were hundreds of them.  I personally emailed the owners of those public folders, emailed them a link to their hospital’s SharePoint that they may or may not have known existed, and let them know how great this new site is.  I told them that now they can use this instead of their public folders.  I also mentioned by the way that you have this deadline to respond to me, because I’m moving your calendar (or whatever) to your SharePoint site.   Most of the public folders were shared calendars and document storage.  That was so easy to move to SharePoint… gradually… one at a time.  No sudden movements. 

So, that’s one way that I dragged people over to this new SharePoint thing.  They were already collaborating on calendars or contacts, so now they were just collaborating on calendars or contacts that happened to live in SharePoint.

There was another, email related way that I got people over to SharePoint.  A big chunk of my day entailed working help desk tickets related to people having email issues.  So I did a lot of email tracing and chasing, etc.  One of the common things that people called us about though, was the size of their mailbox.  The mailbox was full and they wanted an increase.  This is where I hardly ever increased their mailbox size, and usually took the time to educate them on things such as “This is your deleted items folder…”, “This is the SIZE column in your sent items folder…”.

When I took a look at sort of, what that individual was doing, like the quantity of files that they were sending, and whether they were sending these files to internal or external individuals, then I had a little talk with them.  I would tell them that “You and Bob are sending files back and forth, I see.  We have this new thing called SharePoint.  It lets you collaborate with Bob on these same files, and you don’t have to send all these different versions back and forth.”  Then, I would put together a site for them, or a library in their department site or whatever.  This also worked really well for really large calendar appointments.  People would attach like 5MB worth of PowerPoint presentations into a meeting invite.  Instead of doing that, I showed them how they could use a meeting workspace to just keep all those files in one place and not fill up everyone’s mailboxes.

The cool thing about getting someone who is just like, a calendar collaborator over to SharePoint, is that now that they’re in SharePoint they may start to notice all of the other useful things they’ll be able to use it for in their daily work.

It’s not exactly feasible to have a one-on-one personal user adoption plan for a whole company, I know.  The thing is, a big part of getting people to use SharePoint, and use it effortlessly and on a daily basis, they need to know how it applies to them and what they do in their workday.

If people think that they need to save a file to their hard drive and then try and remember to upload it to SharePoint and try and figure out where in SharePoint, it’s not usually going to happen. 

For basic collaboration, for getting people to remember to put it in SharePoint instead of emailing it to their colleague, I think it’s HUGE to make sure that it’s super easy to work on a file and save it straight to SharePoint, and save it to SharePoint and send a LINK instead of sending another copy of the actual file.

A while back, I put together this quick video showing how to save files directly from Office programs to SharePoint: Beginner’s Tip: Save Directly to SharePoint (Video), which is a step in the right direction, but either entails some training, or the deployment of these links from IT.

I discovered for SharePoint lately.  It’s a GREAT, and totally relevant to my background and the way I’ve driven user adoption in the past.  This product is an Outlook plugin.  With this, now it’s easy for users to have their email and SharePoint together in front of them.  This makes it so that SharePoint won’t seem like something extra like a chore that needs to be done, it just becomes a part of what you see in front of you every day.  You can even set the product up so that when someone sends an email with an attachment, it will automatically prompt them to say “Do you want to save to SharePoint?”.  Perfect, you know, because they might forget!

On 12/7, you can come to my webinar to see more.

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