Archive for September, 2010

September 30, 2010

Why is measuring a hard ROI for SharePoint just so hard?

Traditionally when it comes to implementing technology, the financial bean counters and decision makers have looked for hard dollars for the ROI of a technology investment. However, when it comes to SharePoint, it seems we have thrown a hard ROI out the window. In a manufacturing or factory environment, it’s generally easy to measure hard dollar costs of raw materials or labor costs or costs per hour. Centuries of economic theory and practice led to the pioneering of the “scientific method” in the early part of the 20th century by Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford among others. Implement “robot X” into the assembly line and produce more widgets and save on labor costs. We have also had a few decades of TQM (total quality management) which has evolved into many buzzwords all seeking efficiencies in productivity of manufacturing and supply chains. In Business School, I remember learning all kinds of management theory on these subjects and “generally accepted accounting principles” to calculate hard dollar costs and manage budgets to actual as well as profitability of goods sold. So what happened to measuring ROI of SharePoint and why isn’t there enough written on it?

I have read tons of articles on web 2.0, collaboration, and SharePoint. They evangelize about grand topics like innovation and creating opportunities through communities and connecting people through social sites. Some talk about the vision of enterprise content management being realized at an enterprise level. And some articles even try to address ROI and talk about the “downstream effects” of capturing ideas and information in blogs or wikis. Then we hear from executives and decision makers that evangelizing the technology sounds great, but all the benefits are “soft” and too hard to measure. Okay, so why not measure “soft costs”?

The reality is that all businesses have soft costs such as turnover, lost productivity, low morale, lost sales and missed opportunities. And any combination of those might drive soft cost dollars in your organization which can have big impact on your bottom line — sometimes just as much as the hard costs and other times even more. Many organizations simply don’t measure these types of costs because they don’t understand it or simply don’t have the capability to measure them. Or perhaps people are just focused on meeting deadlines without questioning the value or impact to the customer. Meanwhile, project management within many organizations seems like chaos, deadlines get missed, decisions are delayed, tiger teams get formed, and the insanity of our day to day work life continues. Projects that should take only a few weeks or a few months, takes 12 or 18 months to complete and quality suffers as does employee morale. You continue to wonder why things in your organization aren’t as easy as what we see on Google or Facebook. Then we recharge on the weekend, read the Dilbert cartoon in the Sunday paper, laugh and think of our own work environments, and do it all over again next week. All the while we continue to email each other on our smart phones and at best upload documents to a site on SharePoint. And if you’re paying attention, there are no doubt hidden costs in many of the things just mentioned.

In today’s economic climate, it’s time we take a hard look at dollars and sense and focus on driving analytics from a collaboration & information management platform like SharePoint. In my next series of blog entries, I’m going to focus on making measuring a hard ROI less hard and relate it specifically to real solutions implemented on SharePoint.

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September 27, 2010

When Social Media Became News

September 23, 2010

Now that I have SharePoint, what do I do with it?

It continues to amaze me how many organizations have SharePoint or go out and purchase it but still aren’t sure what to do with it.  While you could easily show them the SharePoint wheel or talk about features, functions or capabilities…it isn’t enough.   Simply saying SharePoint is a collaboration tool is not enough as “collaboration” itself is such an abstract term.  While you could simplify SharePoint and say that everything inside the application is really a “list” with rows and columns used to track things, that isn’t quite enough.  So it’s usually best to begin the conversation by relating SharePoint to people’s day to day work activities.  The goal is to show people there’s a better way of working than they do today.

Executives and business managers seem to understand ERP & CRM systems, data, reports, and transactional processes.  However, most people don’t realize there’s a whole set of collaborative “activities” that need to happen to actually generate the required data to enter into those transactional systems.  The below diagram outlines this in more detail.   It shows the business activities that occur before, during, or after entering raw data into number crunching transactional ERP/CRM systems.  It’s the top half of the diagram — the “Unstructured Activities” — that SharePoint as a technology platform focuses on.  SharePoint’s capabilities were designed to surface information and address unstructured content, knowledge, activities and the social interactions that take place in business.

Ideally, you’ll want to pick a business process executives and workers are familiar with or processes that touch a painful nerve in those individuals.  Maybe it’s the sales process, or onboarding of new employees, or some other internal operation or customer facing activity.   Have them identify all the Word tables and Excel documents in which they track information on their desktops.  Map out the value chain — the people, emails, documents, activities and workflows, and the points where raw data is used and decisions are made.   Once you do that, you can easily begin to propose and prototype a solution that can be implemented with the capabilities that SharePoint provides.   You can begin to educate people on what’s possible, show them how SharePoint can alleviate some common day to day headaches, and get them excited about the possibilities and changes to come.

September 17, 2010

Don’t Forget the Change in your SharePoint Investment

We have seen SharePoint sites pop up and virally explode.  We have seen SharePoint used in many cases as a basic document repository.  In some organizations, we’ve also seen SharePoint used for collaboration, project management, or even process improvement.  No matter how SharePoint is used in your organization, you’ve probably taken a standard approach to implement the technology with the typical project elements:

  • Identify business need or opportunity.
  • Define the Project.
  • Design of Business solution.
  • Develop new processes and solution.
  • Test, implement, and train.

Or maybe you’ve gone one step further properly planning and outlining your roadmap to build out a centralized SharePoint infrastructure with a clear migration strategy for your legacy intranet or fileshares or collaboration spaces.  However, the traditional approach we normally take to deploy technology has resulted in many non-believers and those who continue to under-leverage the capabilities of SharePoint and rely on the old ways of doing things.

Yes, it’s important to create a solid technical infrastructure.  Like building a foundation to a house, you need a stable platform that can scale and perform for users no matter where they are in the world. And yes, you also need good governance of the SharePoint platform to manage and support users and the growth in demand.  While a secure technical infrastructure and good governance are 2 keys to a successful deployment of SharePoint, there is still one thing missing.   A critical ingredient which is not discussed or blogged about much is the change management component that SharePoint requires to break old habits and fundamentally transform how knowledge workers approach their day to day.   When I talk about change management, I am referring to people but not necessarily referring to the social capabilities of the software.  I’m referring to how SharePoint as a technology can reshape the “industrial psychology” of how knowledge workers connect, collaborate, communicate, and actually get work done in today’s service-driven economy.   While there are a number of methodologies and approaches to managing change, there seem to be a few common themes among the different schools of thought:

  1. Assess your organizations readiness for change.  Is it incremental or transformational? Are people aware they need to change?  Is there a sense of urgency?  Do they have the desire?  Where is there resistance?
  2. Knowledge about the change and vision.  People need to learn new abilities and ways of approaching the same work with the new capabilities that the technology offers.
  3. Empowerment and reinforcement.  People need to take ownership and the behaviors need to be reinforced.  There needs to be some short term wins and long term vision and approach to make the change become permanent.

SharePoint needs to be seen as a productivity tool and not just a place to store documents.  For this to happen, building the best solution on SharePoint is not enough.  Training and adoption can’t be an afterthought that happen towards the end of the implementation.  Change management needs to be part of the plan and addressed up front.   At the end of day, SharePoint is a platform that is not just about information management or some broad concept like collaboration.  If you want to maximize your investment, don’t forget the change.  Ultimately SharePoint is about people and the ability to manage change throughout your organization.

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