So, there is a new version of SharePoint coming up, so you may be thinking about moving to the latest version. But there’s an economic crisis going on, so your budget may be under attack.
In any case, I expect some very interesting discussions will take place in many organizations. But if your management decides not to spend money at this time, please do not despair! There may be other opportunities to improve your intranet.
What was the situation?
About eighteen months after the launch of our SharePoint intranet we started with preparations for the new version. We attended a demo of the new features, discussed how these matched the needs of our users and made a preliminary time schedule.
Of course I was looking forward to the adrenaline that “a new intranet” brings, such as the creation of a communications plan, doing road shows and late-night functionality testing….not to mention the excitement of the actual launch day!
On the other hand, I knew very well that many users still had problems with SharePoint. Even our most ardent publishers of our previous, custom-built intranet were struggling with content management in SharePoint. Would it be a good idea to confront them so soon with even more new functionality?
My more technical colleagues did not share my fears.
As soon as we had incorporated our ideas in our annual plan, and had distributed the draft planning to the rest of the team, we received a corporate message that all budgets for next year had been frozen. Not only did we have to cancel our plans, but our in-house developer/support team had to leave as well! All support and development would be using the normal process that also applied to other systems: completing forms, waiting until someone else decided on the priority, defending your request and fingers crossed that our support partner would know how to maintain our SharePoint environment because that was not their expertise. (Not to mention the amount of customization we had done).
And if you’re used to a few wiz kids in your team, who understand you with half a word, and who have located, if not solved, almost every issue within 5 minutes, it is difficult to accept the bureaucratic route.
My more technical colleagues were devastated.
Secretly I was a little relieved, because the delay meant that our end users were getting more time to get used to the existing platform. So I tried to keep a positive spirit in the team.
We allowed everyone one day for expressing frustration and grumbling.
The next day we looked for positive aspects of the new situation. And guess what .. there were many! Because of our focus on new technical developments, we had neglected some other aspects of intranet management. We could give attention to those aspects without any extra budget and with the remaining resources.
What did we do?
- With the last part of our own development budget, our developers made some small application and modifications that we had never given priority before.
- We made reprints of our Team Site manual with the remains of our promotion budget, and our designer created a new guide for the External Team Sites in her last weeks with us.
- All technical specifications, use cases, process descriptions, configurations, special code and other technical and system stuff that I do not know much about, were collected from various sources, evaluated and stored in a Team Site, for transfer to the service partner.
- We created a maintenance schedule to clean up empty or neglected Team Sites and other content types on a regular basis. A Team Site Calendar was perfect to store frequency, process and communication for each content-type.
- We replaced our labour-intensive monthly html-based newsletter by a blog.
- We started creating personas. That would be taking a long time, so the longer we could think about those, the better.
- We organized training for new users. We organized a classroom training for new employees on our location, and a Live Meeting session (live or recording) for everyone else. This has the unexpected benefit of getting to know our new employees from the start…and they knew us which was even better!
- We created a central configuration team (our Business Solutions, who created the DMWS-Examples), to help the business use their SharePoint environment as good as possible.
- We rewrote our annual plan in 3 days and shifted the focus from “technology” to “user experience”. It looked as professional as if it had been our back-up plan all the time!
My more technical colleagues finally saw the advantages of the situation. And the business was pleased with our training sessions and our Business Solutions Service.
What have we learned?
Sometimes it is good to not just upgrade to the new version just “because you can”. If you keep focussing on having the latest version of your intranet platform, you may never get around to doing other things to improve your intranet. If your budget gets cancelled, think how much time you will have to spend to improve your intranet in other ways!
Next to that, we learned to enjoy the challenge of introducing new activities on a low budget.
Have you experienced an unexpected budget constraint? How have you dealt with that?