5 steps to take after a SharePoint debacle

A fresh start means a clean stop, a frank assessment, and a good deal of recalibration before you try moving forward again.


The train is off the tracks. Your users hate SharePoint, and they refuse to use it. You know the organization needs an intranet and a collaboration platform, but how do you get back on track and rolling again? Here are five steps for getting to your goal:

1. Stop

It’s really difficult to evaluate a situation as it’s changing and as more energy is being poured into it. If the train is off the tracks and skidding on its side, stop the engines and let it come to a screeching halt. Once the train is back on the tracks, you can get it moving again—in the right direction.

2. Honest assessment

Step 4 of a 12-step program is making a “fearless and searching moral inventory.” Openly assessing what went wrong in your SharePoint implementation won’t be gut-wrenching, but it’s likely to hurt. The politics of the situation—with everyone wanting to “save face”—won’t make it easy, but openly assessing the problems is essential.

One “rule of thumb” is that there’s plenty of blame to go around for a failed implementation. Take your share (and a little extra) before trying to help other folks identify their part in the derailment.

The point of this exercise isn’t to bash someone. If you’re going to restart you’re going to need to know how to not make the same mistakes again and how to determine that things are getting off track. You’ll want to get outside help on the biggest issues. For the smaller issues, you’ll want to get team commitment.

3. Make an admission and a clean break

If your SharePoint implementation’s bad, know that your employees are already aware of it. Before you get restarted, you’ll need to openly admit that your implementation failed. If you try to just put the train back up on the tracks and start rolling again, it will be obvious that you’re trying to sweep things under the carpet, and you’ll have a minor revolt on your hands.

No matter how much you like the branding you did for the project (you did do branding for the project, right?) you’re going to need to change or tweak it. You need to help everyone realize that it’s a new world order and that the problems that plague the existing implementation won’t be carried over to the new implementation.

4. Let’s get real or let’s not play

There’s a book titled, “Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play.” It’s a book for sales professionals to help them learn to sell better. One of its important takeaways is that the answer “yes” is OK. The answer “no” is OK. Not knowing whether someone is committed to what you’re selling is the real problem.

This is probably the most frequent problem with a SharePoint implementation that I see—a lack of commitment to creating the right environment to be successful. Before you restart the project, make sure the entire organization will get what it wants if SharePoint is successful. In truth, the organization doesn’t really want SharePoint—it wants what it believes SharePoint will provide. Make sure they want it enough to support a successful implementation.

5. Overdo it

If you believe that you need some arbitrary amount of effort to make SharePoint successful—call it 100 percent—build a strategy, and plan to spend at least 150 percent of that effort to restart your failed implementation.

People build up resistance to change when they’ve seen failures. We’re quick not to take action if the last action we took wasn’t successful. It’s likely you’re underestimating the specific resistance to SharePoint if you’ve got a bad implementation under your belt.

Even with better targeted and more compelling programs for encouraging adoption, it still will take more effort the second time around. Even with a realistic estimate on what it will take to make the change, you’ll want to make sure you give yourself room to grow.

Final encouragement

A SharePoint implementation whether for collaboration or an intranet is a tricky thing to get right. There are so many variables, both technical and non-technical, that will contribute to your success. If you know that weaknesses exist in your organization, you might want to ask for help. It is possible to get that train back on track and headed in the right direction.

Robert Bogue is the author of 22 books, including, “The SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide for End Users-2010,” which is also available in a Wiki version as The SharePoint Tutor. Find out more about SharePoint made simple at SharePointShepherd.com or follow his blog at ThorProjects.com/blog/.

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