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Successful SharePoint training strategies

User adoption is the key to a successful SharePoint implementation, and the correct training strategy can make all the difference.

SharePoint can be a pervasive platform with the potential to be adopted at every level in an organization. But even though it's been around for a while, SharePoint is still brand new for many users, and they don't really know what to do with it.

Without proper training, large numbers of end users unfamiliar with SharePoint may reject it completely. At the least, lack of proper training slows productivity while end users are struggling to learn how to use it.

Here is the SharePoint training approach that I recommend.

  • Identify a pilot group that needs to share information or that has a need for better document management.

  • Design a SharePoint structure that will help them perform those business tasks better and show them how to use it.

  • Based on their feedback, show them how to refine SharePoint so it will help them perform their tasks better.

  • Hand over ownership of SharePoint to them.

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With this approach, the training is a dialog between the users and the trainer, who is configuring SharePoint to meet their specific business needs and showing them how it should be used. This is a crucial step, because SharePoint is a user-driven tool, not one that is centrally designed and rolled out like a compiled application. It is designed to be constantly updated and modified to meet user requirements by the users themselves. Therefore, this has to be business process driven because it puts SharePoint into a realistic context users will understand.

You -- and they -- should identify specific roles and responsibilities early on in the adoption of SharePoint, so that the system will grow and remain healthy.

Farm administrators

There should be more than one person in the organization who can manage and troubleshoot the server farm, back it up, watch its capacity and performance and patch and update it. These skills can be gradually learned, but it is recommended that you hire someone who already knows these concepts. Since SharePoint has been around for nine years now, there is a growing pool of experienced people in the marketplace.

Site owners

Site owners are the users who control access and develop the main structure in SharePoint. Every team or department in your organization should have owners for the sites they use. They will represent a smaller proportion of users who understand broader concepts in SharePoint, like site collections, content types and the different access groups. Once again, these concepts have to be explicitly related to actual business tasks performed by the users.


The main group that needs to know how to use SharePoint is, of course, made up of the users themselves. They represent the potential gains, and potential failure, of SharePoint adoption. Remain true to the idea that training should be in the form of using SharePoint for specific business tasks, and users should know how to evolve these processes or add new ones over time. A system that cannot evolve with user needs will lose its value and ultimately be rejected.

Because SharePoint is so closely coupled with an organization's daily tasks, the training has to be mapped directly to those processes. If it is not, it will be too generic and vague to be of any use. Also, because SharePoint is a user-driven tool, ownership of it has to be closely held within the teams that will maintain, own and use it. By involving users in the initial design and configuration of the system, you give them direct insight into how it works and how specifically they can use it. This is the difference between taking a class or reading a book on how to drive and actually getting behind the wheel with a knowledgeable instructor and getting out on the road yourself.

Stephen Cummins, founder of, is a SharePoint consultant and has been a SharePoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for the past seven years. He lives in Kildare, Ireland, with his wife, daughter, two dogs and an ever-changing number of goldfish.

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