At the SharePoint Conference here, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates told attendees that by July there will be about 100 million licensed SharePoint users.
That's because in some companies, where the SharePoint installation is not a bottom-up departmental installation but a top-down directive from senior management, many IT shops are delaying deployments until managers can be sure the sites will have appropriate corporate controls.
One such company is Westinghouse Electric Co., a Monroeville, Pa.-based division of Toshiba Corp., which has about 10,000 inactive SharePoint licenses. The company is currently crafting guidelines that are in line with its needs, according to David Paterline, a business analyst at the company.
Brace for out-of-control, unattended data
IT managers like Paterline know that SharePoint is not just something you roll out. Once SharePoint is in the enterprise it will grow unabated. Without proper governance, sites with inactive content and without clear ownership could proliferate and sit unattended, and storage requirements could explode and slow the SQL Server databases that sit below SharePoint.
"If you don't do SharePoint right the first time, you are going to spend twice as much the second time," said Errin O'Connor, founder and CEO at EPC Group.net, a Houston consulting firm. O'Connor is a SharePoint expert who is currently working on 18 installations of SharePoint in the Houston area alone.
One reason why governance planning is so important now is that Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is light years improved over Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 2003. A lot of companies with deployments of WSS 2003 made some of their mistakes early in the game.
All it takes is one failed backup or poorly executed disaster recovery, and if there were two or three users who had presentations and lost them, you will have lost their support, O'Connor said. So those who are taking the time to plan are doing it the right way.
In the case of Westinghouse, the slow rollout is not because of a previous, chaotic experience with SharePoint. Rather, the company is trying to institute a cultural change. Westinghouse has a lot of technical employees who are used to working independently. Since SharePoint is a collaborative tool, Paterline must sell the company on why it needs a culture change for how it manages information.
Engineers who don't normally collaborate need to learn how to work together. "We need to get people to understand why they would use a wiki," Paterline said.
Establish governance for structure, oversight, protection
Every corporation is different, so the development of governance and policies will vary from one company to the next. Governance offers a structure to mitigate conflicts. "It's about having a vision and managing it," said Joel Oleson, senior technical product manager of SharePoint at Microsoft, in a session at the conference this week.
Oleson laid out a list of 10 steps for creating a successful SharePoint installation. He recommends the following:
- Have an executive sponsor in the company who can show leadership and get the company to rally behind the project.
- Define a clear vision and goals for the project. What are you trying to accomplish? Is it a place to store documents or collaborate?
- Assemble skilled teams. There are defined roles on the business side, on the IT side and on the development side. For example, if business analysts don't understand SharePoint, they might not be able to translate the project well to developers. Creative design teams may not know the limitations of SharePoint.
- Make sure employee trainers understand SharePoint.
- You are not just building an application for a business unit, but a service offering. There are all sorts of SharePoint installations and you need to know the different controls and management aspects of each. High-value, custom applications require heavy integration with line-of-business applications. And there are commodity-hosted applications, such as blogs or a document workspace. Some are short term and ad hoc. Others are long term and highly structured.
- Determine if it is easy to search.
- Create standards and policies.
- Know how you will roll out code, release patches, etc. Prepare for configuration management and release management.
- Recognize that training does not end. This is a cultural change.
- Keep your project simple.