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Tyson, others focus on prep, training in SharePoint 2010 strategy

User examples back up expert opinion that SharePoint 2010 strategy success depends on key steps, including a clear SharePoint governance plan, training and initiating a solid follow-up program.

Tyson Foods Inc., the Springdale, Ark.-based food giant, is wrapping up an enterprisewide upgrade of SharePoint and is already seeing the benefits. That’s because Tyson involved end users in planning its SharePoint 2010 collaboration strategy and is deliberate about training its 18,000 information workers on the platform, the company said.

“Make sure your governance model isn’t a bottleneck,” said Charles Norman, lead programmer analyst for Tyson’s information systems. Organizations should also have a plan for follow-up training, he advised. Those steps have helped employees already improve the effectiveness of collaboration and search is “really off the charts.”

There was a corporate concussion where we forgot there are better and other ways to learn.

Dan Pontefract, Telus

“It’s always important to have users involved in planning,” said Karen Strong, the change management practice director for Houston-based consultancy Gimmal. She agreed that the other key steps include providing a clear SharePoint governance plan, training and initiating a solid follow-up program.

People also need to understand what’s changing and why, Strong said. “You need to provide the context for the training, and any time you can provide users who have success stories, that will help the adoption effort.”

Tyson did just that.

The upgrade began in late 2010 with a meeting of site designers to go over the high-level differences between SharePoint 2007 and 2010. Once Tyson upgraded the server infrastructure in November, Norman’s department followed up with a series of “lunch and learn” meetings in May and June. It was a chance for users to ask questions and for the IT group to “evangelize the new features of 2010,” he said.

It’s important to get people from various business units to talk about how they solved certain problems. In one case, Tyson’s research and development team demonstrated how it used Document Sets for managing projects and all of the associated content.  Another team showed how they use Slide Libraries to publish slides and build decks for sales and customer presentations, saying the process was flexible and consistent because team members work from the same source and slide templates.

Such first-hand demos are more effective than someone from IT trying to sell the program, Norman said. The “lunch and learn” sessions continue to occur almost weekly.

Tyson decided to dig deeper into social networking with the rollout by promoting SharePoint’s My Site capability and focusing on enabling search. “Collaborations are faster and more effective, and ramping up new hires has improved,” Norman said.

Kiva Systems, a provider of automated material handling systems for warehouses and distribution centers, has also touted the social networking aspects of SharePoint 2010 to its employees. The North Reading, Mass.-based company of 280 employees rolled out the platform’s My Site capability -- what it calls Kiva Social -- a year ago, early on in an intranet portal deployment.

“It took eight to nine months to really take off, and now we are seeing everybody filling out their profile,” said Craig Brenner, director of information systems for Kiva Systems. The company, which uses SharePoint as its foundational workflow management tool, wanted to build a sense of community and provide employees a way to find peers with specific areas of expertise.

While Kiva Systems is about three-quarters of the way through its intranet project, Brenner said the key aspect of the SharePoint 2010 implementation was including the end-user base in planning. “It’s fundamental,” he said. “You have to get end users engaged early.” It serves to ease the way for the IT department and helps the organization meet goals in a timely manner, he said.

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After that, training and “ongoing evangelism is important.” Don’t let go of the reins, Brenner said, explaining that once the portal is launched, he intends to continue with training in “short bursts dealing with real business problems” and evangelize by sending out updates on the strategy and directing users to examples of good uses of SharePoint on the intranet.

Like the maître d’ in a restaurant, he said, you need to keep circling back, collecting data and making adjustments to build trust and adoption.

That follow-up is also part of a new plan at Telus, a Vancouver-based telecommunications company using SharePoint 2010 capabilities to share knowledge and information on a new intranet system. Telus spent about a year on a pilot and “inched” its way to a full SharePoint Server 2010 deployment to all 35,000 employees about a year ago.

Previously, the company outsourced training for various matters, but found that approach limiting in scope, expensive and not scalable.

“Learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom,” said Dan Pontefract, senior director of learning and collaboration. “There was a corporate concussion where we forgot there are better and other ways to learn.” Now employees use My Sites and Team Sites via the SharePoint portal for networking with communities, online mentors and discussion forums and to post blogs, wikis and videos.

The company has its own YouTube page called Habitat Video where user-generated learning videos include everything from technicians in the field sharing methods for servicing equipment to office-based workers sharing tips about customer engagement. Management also regularly reinforces the importance of collaboration by providing examples on the social network. There are also fun videos about company parties and others that highlight Telus customers.

“We say that learning is continuous, it’s collective and it’s collaborative -- whether informal, formal or social, it’s all is part of our learning process,” he said.

About a third of the organization has filled out SharePoint profiles and about 45% is using enterprise social media. The company expects more than half of all employees will be collaborating on the new platform sometime this year, and Pontefract said Telus has been measuring a steady increase in employee performance since introducing it. That, he said, has been tied to an increase in customer satisfaction.

Stories like these are indications that SharePoint 2010 is being deployed with more thought being given to end-user adoption. In the past, said Gimmal’s Strong, many companies introduced SharePoint 2007 without much direction and guidance and a “Wild, Wild West environment” ensued.

Now, the emphasis is on preparing end users well by setting up governance, training and user follow-up to be ongoing processes. For many, it’s an organizational change in the way business is carried out.


SharePoint is a change management project

SharePoint is not just a technology project; it is a change management project that involves technology. That’s the thrust of many of the SharePoint presentations by Karen Strong, of Houston-based consultancy Gimmal. Success, she said, depends heavily on employees adopting new processes and tools that comply with policies.

To help the end user find the platform fast, easy to use and useful, organizations need to provide the following:

  • Ownership and accountability
  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • Process and procedure definitions
  • Guidance to discontinue unnecessary or undesired behaviors
  • Training to learn new behaviors
  • Reinforcement and support for new behaviors

To build end-user trust, Strong said, involve users in the process and make sure the benefits of SharePoint 2010 are not overpromised so the end result matches what they’ve been told about the technology. In the end, the key is striking a balance between organizational and individual objectives.


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