If you are one of the more than 100 million customers who have purchased or licensed Microsoft SharePoint, you’ve probably adopted the platform to improve a spectrum of operations, ranging from optimizing business processes, to enhancing efficiency, to having better access to analytics within your organization.

Are you maximizing your investment?

According to a recent AIIM survey, nearly 50% of responding organizations reported that “lack of expertise” was the number one issue limiting the organization from maximizing SharePoint’s usefulness. Furthermore, only 28% were using SharePoint across their entire workforce.

The disconnect between software purchase and user adoption is not only wasting the millions of dollars spent on acquisition, it is also preventing the realization of benefits, such as the additional revenue and savings that companies signed up for when they made a decision to invest in SharePoint.

One of the most common problems undermining SharePoint maximization is that organizations often task their overworked information technology (IT) department with the responsibility for training users. That’s a daunting proposition for IT, which juggles a variety of business-critical initiatives on a daily basis. With IT departments busy implementing new technology almost continuously, user training frequently gets the short shrift.

The largest companies are beginning to see the problem. According to the results from Protiviti’s "2015 IT Priorities Survey," large company respondents have elevated “end user adoption of data tools” to a significant priority. In 2014, user adoption rated only moderate attention.

Typically, stakeholders involved in SharePoint implementation invest significant effort evaluating their options, selecting the software and partnering with the vendor to implement the solution. Often, however, once the “go-live” event is completed, they return to their previous duties. Meanwhile, end users are whisked onto a new platform, often with minimal training, even though they haven’t been engaged in the implementation and may not have even received an explanation for the change. Is it a surprise that they may not be hitting the ground running and fulfilling the efficiency promises of SharePoint?

That’s why it is imperative for individual business units to partner with IT and take the lead for adoption by clarifying and personalizing the benefits that can be achieved.

An overall strategy must be established up-front to address the big picture of the implementation: determining needs, setting objectives and understanding the audience for proper training. The latter includes taking into account factors such as demographics and preferred learning methods of different user groups. For example, classroom-based training may be best for baby boomers, whereas online learning modules are better suited to engage Gen Y-ers.

The following are critical steps for establishing sustainable user adoption:
  • Generate awareness: The executive staff needs to engage end users early and actively by promoting specific benefits of adoption. The goal should be to proactively answer the question: “What’s in it for me?”
  • Assess capability: It is common for end users to exhibit a wide disparity in capability. Creating a simple survey that establishes a baseline of knowledge will help identify initial training priorities. The survey also can help the executive team identify and recruit potential leaders among the end users to serve as peer mentors.
  • Establish learning objectives: The assessment also should be used to develop specific learning objectives for the training process. The objectives should be practical and measurable. If the training focus is on using a key SharePoint functionality, end users need to demonstrate the ability–for example, upload and download documents, apply metadata to documents and create search queries.
  • Use curriculum-based training: In addition to demonstrating software functionality, end users need specific training in areas that will be most applicable to their roles and responsibilities. This is best done in a lab environment with active instruction and support to help end users obtain hands-on experience.
  • Use environment-based training: Similar to curriculum-based training, this approach introduces end users to best practices within the organization and can also familiarize them with governance strategy. Once this step is completed, the executive team can expect accountability from individuals and departments on the effective use of SharePoint.

Last, but not least, it’s important to establish a budget for training–and to do so in the context of the projected financial benefits that will be achieved through high levels of adoption. A rule of thumb is to invest half of the expected benefits value (e.g., 20% process efficiency) over one year, aiming for a six-month return on investment (ROI). By making such a commitment to training, the organization stands to achieve greater adoption and a greater ROI both in the short- and long-term.

This post was published originally on The Protiviti View by Protiviti Inc. Copyright 2015. Protiviti is a global consulting firm that helps companies solve problems in finance, technology, operations, governance, risk and internal audit (www.protiviti.com).

Mike Steadman is the managing director and leader of Protiviti’s SharePoint practice. Before joining Protiviti, he spent 10 years with the US Air Force, assigned to the US Special Operations Command and previously worked at Cargill International. He also serves on the advisory boards of the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business at Shenandoah University and the College of Business at James Madison University.

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