The Importance Of Solution Design In A SharePoint Deployment

May 1, 2013   //   SharePoint, , , , ,

One of the things I’m often asked to do is help clients understand what Microsoft SharePoint is all about and then assist them in envisioning what it will do to bring value to their organizations and solve their business challenges. I usually say that Microsoft SharePoint is a big product with a lot of features and capabilities. But the question isn’t “Can SharePoint do X?” it’s always “Of all the many ways SharePoint can do X, which way is the best way to do it for my business?”

It’s generally not hard to figure out at least the high-level business requirements for the most common SharePoint value areas. I typically characterize them as: the company intranet, the document repository and the group collaboration environment. Most organizations can benefit from a solution that enables users to understand what’s going on now, quickly and easily find needed information, and manage group collaboration around conversations and content. All of those things add up to enhanced productivity, for anyone that can even loosely be described as an “information worker.” When you get a little more specific about these things, you arguably have “defined your business requirements.”

So, if defining business requirements isn’t challenging, then why are there so many SharePoint implementations out there that fail to meet those business requirements? And, why do so many SharePoint projects end up taking longer than expected, going over budget and ultimately not accomplishing the project’s objectives?

I have a theory that it’s due to two main things: lack of appropriate design effort during implementation and lack of governance during operations. I have previously published several blog articles on the topic of governance in SharePoint, so I won’t go down that rabbit hole again here. But, I do want to dig a little deeper into why I think solution design (or more specifically, functional design) is critical to a successful SharePoint deployment.

SharePoint is a platform, not a turnkey solution. In order for it to do what you need it to do, you have to build it out. You have to create a site structure that makes sense for your business and is also easy to manage and extend. You have to craft a home page that’s both engaging and useful to everyone. You have to decide how to organize your document repository initially, migrate your content into it and manage its inevitable growth. Finally, you have to figure out what groups need to collaborate about what, and which tools will help them do that without getting in the way. These are all challenges of functional design.

Defining requirements isn’t enough to ensure a successful SharePoint deployment. In fact, it isn’t even enough to determine how much time and effort (and therefore money) it will take to build and implement the right SharePoint solution. Effort can vary dramatically for different approaches to seemingly straightforward requirements. Without defining how the requirements will be met via SharePoint capabilities, or getting buy-in from all the relevant stakeholders that your SharePoint solution design will actually meet the requirements and accomplish the business objectives, your odds of a happy outcome drop significantly. You don’t have to invest a ton of effort on design – a little can go a long way. But ignore it entirely, and your results will suffer. I promise. To learn more about Microsoft SharePoint, please join SWC for our next informative Microsoft SharePoint event or follow Jeff Lanham on LinkedIn.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please take a moment to read some of Jeff’s past posts on Microsoft SharePoint.

Microsoft SharePoint Governance Areas
How will Microsoft SharePoint Bring Value to My Business?
Why Your Business Needs a Microsoft SharePoint Governance Plan
SharePoint and the Used Car Lot
Two Fundamental Approaches to Microsoft SharePoint
The SWC SharePoint Way – Part 1
Designing Your SharePoint Architecture