Usage reports speak directly to the bottom line in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS). Focusing on metrics like site summaries, top pages and top users will tell you how SharePoint is being used in your organization and if you are receiving a sufficient return on your investment.
A successful SharePoint implementation is giving real value to your organization if it makes routine business tasks easier for users to complete. And usage reporting will tell you what business tasks people are using SharePoint for, who is using it and if user adoption is trending upwards. SharePoint isn't a file share or a website, so statistics like the amount of data in SharePoint or number of visitors aren't useful.
Here's a breakdown of the three most relevant reports:
These statistics are most useful when viewed over time, and if you save the data from month to month, you will see general usage trends. This allows you to keep an eye out for declining usage, which can be a sign that the platform is not useful to people or that it's difficult to understand.
In a pilot or initial launch of SharePoint, usage tends to be high at the start before falling because people are initially curious and want to look around the system. They will not come back unless they quickly see things they recognize as useful for performing their everyday tasks. To make new SharePoint sites more inviting, they should contain familiar elements that map to those tasks.
This is the most useful statistic because it shows you what tasks or business processes are most commonly being performed with SharePoint. If, in the past, these processes took longer or were more costly to do because they used more expensive software or took up more people's time, you can see that SharePoint has provided some ROI. The top pages report can also show room for growth for pages that contain valuable functionality for your business but aren't being used. When new functionality is added, the pages it uses can be looked at separately to see if they have been adopted successfully. Ideally, you would also like to see a steady increase in new pages.
User adoption is the key factor that will lead to the success or failure of your SharePoint implementation. The goal isn't to have everyone using SharePoint all the time. Instead, it's to give users who can really benefit from its functionality an easy-to-use site that makes their jobs easier and your business more efficient.
The top users metric can also help you spot people who are not using SharePoint. Maybe it's because they do not need to use it or that they have not been given the appropriate permissions. The simplest explanation is they do not know it is there or how to get access. You need to inform users what they should or could use SharePoint for to help drive adoption.
Beyond the reports discussed here, you can also run a report on search queries, which helps you see what people are trying to find on the system. An over reliance on search may indicate that your site navigation hierarchy is not clear enough or that there is an opportunity to use SharePoint in a way it's not presently being used.
The devil is in the details, as they say. Usage reports in SharePoint also point out quality issues. The reports can't tell you everything, but they are a perspective that is easy to analyse and free from user bias.
| Stephen Cummins, founder of www.spsfaq.com, is a SharePoint consultant and
has been a SharePoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for the past seven years.
He lives in Kildare, Ireland, with his wife, daughter, two dogs and an ever-changing number of goldfish.
This was first published in September 2009