The 5 biggest factors in successful SharePoint sites Planning for and ensuring high user adoption

March 2, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: SharePoint, Twynham School 

I have had lots of responses by email, twitter and comment about yesterdays post on models for gaining user adoption. I even had a member of staff who was discussing the need to push something through say, ‘maybe we need a bit of Stalin on this!’. The SharePoint man in Microsoft, Tom Rizzo, has even posted on the topic to which I am grateful for his link into the blog. Tom goes on in his blog to identify Microsoft’s own support tools for user adoption and having looked at them this evening I can see that they are genuinely useful. Take a look at Gear Up here for more details.

As promised yesterday in this blog post I would like to identify what I think are the 5 most important factors to consider for creating successful SharePoint sites which gain high user adoption in Education. In truth the advice acts as an outline road map for the process we went through when rolling out and developing out SharePoint set up. If you havent read my post from yesterday you might want to read this first here so that this post makes more sense.

1. Create your SharePoint site with your users in mind.

The most important reason behind setting up SharePoint is the needs of your end users. In the case of education this will be predominantly students and staff but may also incorporate your wider community. For staff, supporting them in being efficient and collaborative will be the main drivers. Can all staff users get to everything that they need quickly and make their resources available to the community in the same way? For students collaboration and efficiency will also be important but there are other factors to consider. By far the most important consideration is thinking through what resources and tools students need to help them to make most progress in their education. A major consideration here are the learning styles of your students and working through which resources will meet their need. How will you achieve all this? In education student voice is key to developing online learning so talking to your students in as many forums as possible is essential. 

2. Develop your taxonomy

Organising the information you get from users and understanding what you want to achieve with your SharePoint site should lead you to considering your taxonomy. How many sites will your SharePoint contain and what will be the relationship between these sites? Think really carefully about this first phase of organisation as you will live with what you build for a long time. This is often where people get stuck in education thinking the model through. As a top tip, consider a relatively flat structure with sites for staff, students and parents. Do not tie your subjects into any of these but run them alongside the sites and use permissions to prevent access to the staff site and staff sections on the subject sites by students and parents.

Top tabs can be useful for linking sites

Top tabs can be useful for organising and linking sites

3. Map your navigation

When you have clearly identified your SharePoint classification in terms of sites you need to consider the hierarchy of the individual sites and the ways in which they link. Again some significant time spent mapping this out will pay dividends. Your navigation should be clear and logical on all sites to avoid confusing your users. When I started working with websites I was advised that your users should be able to get anywhere in 3 clicks or your site has poor navigation. This is largely true although don’t get hung up on this issue too much. I normally encourage people to go and look at the BBC site as I think it is an excellent example of how to organise a massive site. In truth having just done the test you can drill down 4 clicks from the homepage  but this is a reflection of the complexity and volume of information on this site. 3 clicks is a good rule of thumb to stick with.

Breadcrumb trail can support navigation

Breadcrumb trail can support navigation

4. Share and review with your users

Once you have built your useful, carefully mapped and well organised sites share them with a group of students and get feedback. You may have spent a long time building your sites but you may not get them right first time. Don’t take any negative feedback as criticism but use it to review and amend your sites so that they will gain high user adoption.

5. Evolution not revolution

Once your site is launched, working and being used by the end users you are at the beginning and not the end of your SharePoint implementation. Most successful sites are almost constantly evolving with minor changes to site pages based on the feedback from end users. It should be rare if ever that you fully change your entire site as this will most likely confuse your end users and switch them off. It also suggests the site has not been kept up to date and needs a major overhaul.

Whilst the advice in this post is not rocket science I hope it will act as one suggestion on how you might go through an implementation and development of any online learning set up. It would be great to here from others on how they have gone through their set up and I would be happy to post any thoughts or examples on this site as a resource for schools. Let me know what you think.


3 Responses to “The 5 biggest factors in successful SharePoint sites Planning for and ensuring high user adoption”
  1. Rich Blank says:

    Having spent over a decade getting users to adopt technology like SharePoint, there are 4 C’s to getting users to adopt the software. The formula for successful user adoption = context + convenience + closeness + convergence.

    Context. What is the context the technology is being used in? This is about focus, filtering information, and providing visiblity —- and putting it all within a secure context that users can easily understand and find later. Is the context contract management? Is it project management? You might think context is “like a portal” — but it’s much more than a basic portal because a collaborative platform like SharePoint is not just a means to display information, it provides a context to actually get work done.

    Convenience. This is about ease of requesting/setting up a site, ease of use and helping to keep things as simple as possible for end users. The harder it is for someone to learn the tool or access it or configure it — less chance they adopt it. The technology has to seamlessly fit into our daily lives — both work and personal lives. I’ve heard from too many clients that they don’t want the tool to distract them from the business at hand. So making this technology easy means a higher chance users will adopt it. Once they adopt it — it’s hard to change as you just can’t work any other way.

    Closeness. This about end users and understanding what they need, what they want, and how they work. You can’t just “build it” and think they will come. Some will understand this technology and become power users. As an IT organization, you need to empower those individuals to be change agents and educate them as much as possible, get feedback from the user community, and evolve the deployment of SharePoint. You also need to pick specific projects or “contexts” and be consultative with best practices and demos internally to show what is possible with SharePoint.

    Convergence. A buzz word that is now more popular. This about converging technologies and information – regardless of where that information originates from (eg. ERP or CRM system).. Bringing it all together in one organized and secure place.


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