Podcast: BestBuy.com Collaboration Manager Guides SharePoint Users To Success

Is SharePoint a tool just for end users or should IT be involved?

My podcast interview with Sarah Haase, Collaboration Manager for SharePoint at BestBuy.com, touched on one of the central SharePoint questions most IT organizations deal with. Microsoft SharePoint is a much different tool than just about any other software product you'll provide end users. Probably the closest collaboration analogy to SharePoint are wiki's since they too can be created, built, organized and maintained by end users. While it can enable users to create their own solutions, SharePoint also brings complexities that often must be solved by outside consultants or IT.Part of Sarah's role at BestBuy.com is to be the go-to-person when users want a new SharePoint site, under the BestBuy.com SharePoint site collection. Rather than giving end users full reign with admin privileges, users work with Sarah to come up with a design that solves some business problem. I say business problem because Sarah emphasizes using SharePoint to implement business processes, not just to act as a glorified file server with check in/out and versioning. Part of Sarah's process is to help users figure out how SharePoint can automate business processes, and then go about creating a design and putting together the application for those business users. Sarah also helps quantify the business value the SharePoint site provides, whether it be in dollar savings, time savings, cost reductions, or speedier business processes. She does this using a basic one page business case PowerPoint slide. Not a bad thing these days to be able to show the bottom line value your work brings to the business.Is Sarah's situation at BestBuy.com commonplace, with IT developing SharePoint applications or is SharePoint provided to users as a platform to do their own thing? I've come across both cases, while BestBuy.com's situation is a bit more structured than most. During one meeting with a Fortune 1000 company, the head of IT told me he had little visibility into what users were doing with SharePoint. He just kept the servers backed up, running, and stocked with fresh terabytes of storage.A big part of SharePoint's appeal is end users' ability to create what they want, avoiding typical development cycles and prioritization processes. Business organizations often hire their own SharePoint consultants without IT's involvement to customize SharePoint or create applications for them. In other situations, IT themselves call on outside SharePoint consultants to bring in the needed expertise and resources.In BestBuy.com's case, I think Sarah brings a lot more value than just being the IT administrator. Guiding users through to a solution with SharePoint can avoid some of its complexity, idiosyncrasies and help create SharePoint sites that can meet the needed performance requirements (often a complaint with applications are created without the needed SharePoint expertise.) The visibility across BestBuy.com's 32 SharePoint sites helps illuminate what makes some SharePoint sites more successful than others, and that knowledge can help new sites. Putting together the business case for sites increases the likelihood of continued funding and support for sites business users really depend on. It would be too easy for those not in the know to think SharePoint was just being used as a document repository or as business group's internal website, missing the fact that essential business processes are support using SharePoint. Just because it wasn't put together by IT doesn't mean it's not important or even critical to the business. THat's something IT has to get used to with SharePoint and SaaS applications.Every IT shop is different but I think all of us can find some valuable ideas in Sarah's podcast interview about how IT can support end users in their use of SharePoint.

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