After a week of fantastic spring break skiing at Whistler in British Columbia, I returned to work and was reminded that training alone is not enough to help users successfully build their own SharePoint collaboration sites. It’s a bit like my friend Drew describes learning to snowboard, which he says is “easy to learn but difficult to master.” I’m now convinced that SharePoint has this same characteristic – easy to learn but very difficult to master. Why? ...
...Because most organizations end up with just enough time to train users on the basic features and functions of the tool, not on information architecture and design best practices so that they can optimally build sites. You know, the kind where people can actually find information instead of having it buried in the same useless folder hierarchy that existed on the file shares SharePoint is replacing. Training in the “how to” functions in MOSS 2007 is not enough – site builders, who in many organizations are not going to be IT folks but rather “regular” end users, also need to understand information design best practices.
Here are just a few concepts that can improve the end-user designed sites I have reviewed:
SharePoint is a fantastic end user tool. The “no code” capabilities are a great way to empower end users to create their own collaboration sites, without requiring IT intervention. But, IT can’t just provide basic skills training in the features of SharePoint without also helping site designers learn to master the best practices of site design. Drew tells me that any downhill skier can probably learn to snowboard almost as well as they ski but they have to really devote 3-5 solid days to master the techniques enough to fully enjoy the experience. They clearly can’t be an expert in 3-5 days, but they can certainly have more than just the basics. I think that’s how we have to look at SharePoint training – all site builders need to learn the basic skills first, but then they absolutely have to dedicate enough time to learn the best practices for site design and information architectures or their sites will just not be usable.
Susan Hanley is an independent consultant and president of her own firm, Susan Hanley LLC, where she specializes in helping organizations build effective portal and collaboration solutions using SharePoint as the primary platform.
She is co-author of Essential SharePoint 2010: Overview, Governance, and Planning. Read a free chapter of the book.