SharePoint: Getting Your End Users On Board

Everyone who implements or manages SharePoint deployments knows that the hardest part is getting your end users to engage with the solution and use it effectively. Consider the following, not uncommon, conversation:

Sales guy: "SharePoint's on the blink again."
Me: "Okay, what's the problem?"
Sales guy: "I can't open a Word doc."
Me: "Send me the link, I'll take a look."

The link comes through, and it looks something like this:

portal.example.org/sales/customers/customer name/division name/program name/quote number/document name.docx

At this point, I'll explain the problem. Basically, the sales team are hitting the file path length limit in Microsoft Office (259 characters, including the path to the temp folder on your computer). I'll remind them that they should be using content types and metadata, rather than multiple nested folders, to organize their tenders and proposals. I'll run through the benefits - it's easier to find what you're looking for, it's like creating your own dynamic folder structure using filters, it's better for search, you don't hit path length limits, and so on.

Me: "You remember the training we did on using content types and metadata?"
Sales guy: "Yeah... but it seemed easier just to create the folders."

In most cases, I end up tweaking a few folder names until the path is short enough for Office to open the file, and the problem goes away. For a few weeks.

This can be frustrating - you've implemented a platform that supports more effective ways of working and collaborating, you've delivered training on how to use it, but users persist in treating it like a basic file share because that's what they feel most comfortable with.

So how do you get around this? Recently I was sent a copy of a DVD, The Pyschology of SharePoint Adoption and Engagement (part of the SharePoint Shepherd series), by SharePoint luminary Rob Bogue. In the DVD, Rob examines the user engagement problem by looking at the social psychology behind driving change in the workplace. He draws on a truly eclectic range of academic and experiential thinking - you won't find many SharePoint resources that reference Kurt Lewin, Malcolm Gladwell, John Kotter, and Daniel Pink, amongst others - to examine how to bring users with you when you implement a SharePoint solution.

My advice would be to take a look at the DVD - it's two hours well spent. We all spend a great deal of time and effort developing our technical skills, but the soft skills examined here are just as essential if you hope to roll out a truly successful SharePoint solution.

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