There’s no getting around the fact that a lot of people hate SharePoint. If you don’t believe me, just type the words SharePoint and hate into a search engine. But it’s also used by three quarters of Fortune 500 companies, and it shows no sign of going away. So how can something so widely used by so many successful businesses inspire so much hate? SharePoint is a complex platform designed to handle a wide array of business functions. It’s really a multitude of independently designed solutions brought together in a single platform. Depending on what you’re using it for, and depending even more on how you’ve implemented it, you may have either a great experience with the platform or a terrible one.
To make the most of SharePoint, you usually have to do a lot of planning. And the nature of the planning, along with what happens after the platform is deployed, go a long way toward determining how useful or frustrating users’ experiences with it will be. SharePoint isn’t a ready-made solution; it’s an enormous collection of tools. If the way the platform is implemented isn’t focused on how it will actually be used by people in the company, then it should come as no surprise when users end up getting lost.
But another thing to keep in mind is that SharePoint is at the center of many companies’ daily functioning, so what may appear to be dissatisfaction with the specific technology is often really frustration with technology in general. There’s a base level of complaining you’ll get no matter what company’s platform you use. And technology that works wonderfully can count on being taken for granted.
Let’s look at some of the more specific reasons people cite for hating SharePoint, arranged according to their roles:
The first thing that needs to be said is that IT people tend to be much more satisfied with SharePoint than business users do. And the divide highlights an important distinction in how each of the two think of the platform. Tech people look at SharePoint and see a bunch of great tools they’re excited to use—and to have everyone else use. But end users usually only care about tools insofar as they make their daily tasks simpler. So IT comes in and sets up the platform expecting everyone to take time out to explore what all it can do, but instead they end up hearing complaints from users who can’t figure out how to use it at all—and from managers who complain about how few people are using it.
The reason so many businesses rely on SharePoint is that it can be tailored to address a huge variety of specific challenges. If you only need a few collaboration functions and prefer a quick and easy implementation, there are some good alternatives to SharePoint. But if you want to get the most out of SharePoint’s wide array of tools you need to begin with proper discovery so you know which of the tools to give users the most ready access to.
Some versions of SharePoint are also harder to work with than others. The 2013 version’s development architecture makes it much easier to create and deploy applications.
If the SharePoint platform you’re using wasn’t designed with you in mind, then it probably won’t make your daily tasks as easy as if it had. SharePoint planning needs to begin with use cases if the solution that’s eventually developed is to be successful. The whole point of a custom intranet platform is to make it as simple and straightforward as possible for people to find the information and documents they need, collaborate in creating and editing those documents, and make them available to whoever needs them. If the users have to spend more time searching for the right site or the right document, or if they have to go through extra steps to access or revise the documents, they’ll probably use some other available sharing tool, like email or OneDrive folders. In the same way, if every time they sign in to the company homepage all they see is useless and irrelevant information, then signing in becomes an unnecessary step they’ll eventually start to avoid.
So the reason many users complain about SharePoint is that it makes what they need to do too complicated. And the reason they run into these complications is that the solution wasn’t designed with users in mind. This situation can be avoided by making use cases a central part of SharePoint planning and custom implementation.
And there’s another important step in the process—training. Everyone has their established work routines. Even if SharePoint is properly planned and implemented so that it could potentially make workers’ lives easier, they’ll probably still need some help overcoming their old habits. And they’ll need some encouragement as they learn to use the new tools. But too many implementations are completed and handed off without any follow up whatsoever, leaving workers with a platform they don’t know how to use.
You can get a good sense of what managers complain about when it comes to SharePoint from the first two sections. First, they too often start implementations guided by IT people who are more focused on flashy tools than on business use cases, with the result that they end up with all these neat tools in place that nobody uses. They’ll get little payoff for the project because adoption is so low. Management also usually has much greater administrative access across all the different sites for the company. That can lead to them having even more trouble locating information and documents because there’s so many more places for them to look. So higher ups benefit even more from tailored implementations.
The recurring theme here is that many of even the bitterest complaints about SharePoint could have been headed off with proper planning and implementation. The version of the platform you’re using matters too. The 2013 version has several updates that make for a more seamless user experience. And future developments in the cloud hold promise too. On that front, Microsoft is already making strides toward standard tools that are much easier to use. With Delve in Office 365, for instance, you can find all the SharePoint documents that are most likely to be important to you in a feed that’s as simple to scan as your favorite social media sites.
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