Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Being Picky Has Hurt a Lot of Companies When It Comes to SharePoint – Do you have any examples to share?

by Jeff Cate
I think one of the reasons a lot of companies have had so much difficulty with SharePoint deployments and adoption over the past ten years is simply their “pickiness.”  I know this is true because I have seen it over and over again with my own eyes in my role as a consultant and trainer.
The kind of pickiness I am talking about is related to changing the software just because they would like for it to be a certain way or look a certain way.  To many people in enterprise environments this doesn’t seem wrong.  “We are big, we are important, we are complicated, and we have the development resources.  So, why shouldn’t we get it the way we want it?” 

What they aren’t thinking about is:

·         the additional costs that these changes cause during design and development

·         the opportunity costs related to the delay of getting the benefits from SharePoint until these changes can be properly made and tested

·         the opportunity costs related to the other, more important things their development resources could be working on which would benefit the company

·         (the biggest one of all, in my opinion) the hard costs or opportunity costs that result when three years down the road the company either A) can’t upgrade to the new version of SharePoint at all because they modified their existing version so much, or B) have to spend big again to handle a very difficult migration to the new version because they modified the existing version so much.
There is no doubt in my mind that as much as 50% of the organizations that implemented MOSS 2007 are still in this situation today.  MOSS 2007 was a marketing and sales bonanza for Microsoft.  The penetration of the product in the market was huge in the 2007–2009 timeframe.  But a big number of the adopters during that timeframe came out of an era where customizing enterprise software was what every large organization did.  It was unthinkable to try to use enterprise software like SharePoint out-of-the-box.  The prevailing thought was that “our requirements are just not that simple.”

I wish I had a nickel for every time I have had someone at a large enterprise tell me “our requirements are not that simple.” Nine out of ten times what is really going on is that their organization is so screwed up and complicated and the resistance to change is so great that they just start modifying the software to keep the peace in the company.
I can give you an example of this scenario (this one is from SharePoint 2010 – I couldn’t quickly find a MOSS 2007 environment to get one from, but in general, this kind of thing is even worse in MOSS 2007), and you can use my example to judge whether I would think of you as unnecessarily picky when it comes to SharePoint.

Example: Assume you have a site and have granted some users read-only permissions to the site.  You’ve enabled the publishing features on the site and discovered that your read-only users still see the Site Actions menu and the View All Site Content menu option:

This is simply how the software works out of the box.  There is really no harm in it – if you ask me.  Yes, the read-only user can click on the View All Site Content option and see the list of all objects in the site that they have read access to.  What problem does that cause?  I don’t see any.  Does the presence of the site actions menu and this option cause any clutter or confusion for those read-only users?  Maybe some people would say so, but what a minor issue to be concerned about in the grand scheme of trying to have a successful business!
Would this example be a deal breaker for you or your company?  Would you just “have to have this fixed” before you could roll out this site to users?  If so, I would probably think of you as unnecessarily picky.  If you were one of my employees, I would wonder if you are very good at seeing the big picture.  (Incidentally, here is one solution for “fixing” it.  And, if you implemented this solution it would just be one more thing you would have to take into account at upgrade time.)

As a society in the U.S., I think we have evolved into a very picky population of consumers.  Consumer product companies have fueled this fire with their marketing in their never-ending attempt to win the consumer and get a leg up on their competitors.  I think this mentality has spilled over into the workplace and is costing companies a lot of money – especially when it comes to their use of packaged software.  Why not just learn how to adapt to the software as it is instead of modifying it because you don’t like something about the way it comes out of the box?

Do you think I am nuts?  Do you have any good examples of companies that were too picky about SharePoint and it cost them down the road?  If so, I’d love it if you would share them in the comments section.

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