The Cheapest Way to Implement a SharePoint Intranet

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Introduction - Why I wrote this post

I wrote this post for several reasons:

  1. If you’re thinking about a SharePoint implementation I want you to be successful from the start.
  2. I wanted to share my SharePoint implementation experience that comes from working with technology professionals from various companies throughout the years.
  3. I wanted to share my understanding of failed SharePoint implementations and user frustrations.

What does this post cover?

This post will cover the most cost effective way, in my opinion, to implement a SharePoint intranet the right way. It covers SharePoint implementation from a business perspective. It does not cover technical advice or procedures. From the start I’ve made a couple of assumptions:

  • You’re thinking that SharePoint may be the right option for your business
  • You’re interested in advice on what to do and what not to do

If my assumptions are correct, then I hope you find this post valuable and worth your time.

How much is it going to cost?

This is by far the most common question I’m asked when meeting with new clients. The problem is, I don’t have the answer and I don’t like not having an answer. Don’t ask this question yet. Chances are that you can’t provide enough information to get a reliable answer and I don’t want to mislead you. Besides, how do you answer when asked how much your product or service costs? Unless you’re selling something where one size fits all, your answer is going to be “It depends”. So, read on so you can help answer this question.

What you need to know about SharePoint before you start

Before you even think about installing SharePoint, you need to understand some basics:

  • SharePoint is a product
  • SharePoint is a platform
  • SharePoint is a business tool for business users

The #1 Rule

The #1 rule for a successful SharePoint implementation is that it requires the business to direct IT – not the other way around.

The #2 Rule

Even the most basic SharePoint features shouldn’t be given to users without proper planning and instruction. You’ll set yourself up for failure if you don’t do this. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The FREE Version

SharePoint Foundation a.k.a. the “free” version is a great way to try it before you buy it or run a pilot implementation before you purchase licensing for one of the paid versions. However, there’s a couple of assumptions here.

  1. Your evaluation of SharePoint is not dependent on features that are included in the Standard or Enterprise versions, which would not be included in SharePoint Foundation.
  2. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean that you won’t take your implementation seriously.

Let's Get Started

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s get started.

What you need to ask yourself

Before you commit to a SharePoint implementation, you should ask yourself these questions:

Why do you want to adopt SharePoint in your business?

If you’re not sure how to answer this question or if the answer isn’t anything more than a casual interest in one of the SharePoint features, then you have some homework to do. I talk to clients all the time that say they want to use SharePoint, but they’re not sure about what all it can do. In my opinion, that’s putting the cart before the horse. Sure I can tell you about all of the great SharePoint features, but if you can’t make the connection between the feature and the value it might provide in solving a specific business problem, then all is lost.

What business problem are you trying to solve?

As mentioned earlier, SharePoint is a business tool for business users. Its features are meant to solve business problems or inefficiencies that drag down productivity. Basically, that’s it. If you don’t have a specific problem or inefficiency to address, then adopting SharePoint at this time probably isn’t a wise idea – this is the number one reason for failed implementations and user frustrations. It’s also worth mentioning that this is the exact opposite of a cost effective SharePoint implementation. It’s a waste of time, money and resources.

Start Small – Make the Business Case

Start small. Focus on a specific business problem that needs to be solved. This is what you should do for any SharePoint implementation, but it’s especially true for a cost effective implementation. The business knows what they want, but they may not know how to express their needs in terms of technology. Are you prepared to give them what they need? They need more than software. They need a solution. Focus on a quick-hit-win that delivers real business value – not just a SharePoint feature - from day one. This approach is going to go a long way in determining just how successful you will be. It’s going to be the bottom line figure used to prove just how cost effective your SharePoint implementation really was.

What not to do

Don’t roll out SharePoint to the entire business at once. If at all possible, focus on an intradepartmental solution instead of an interdepartmental one. There’s just too many moving parts.

Get Buy-In – Know What You’re Getting Into

Now that you have a specific business problem to focus on, it’s time to get buy-in from your users. This means that you and your users need to work together. Assemble a team that represents the users who will be using the solution. Get requirements. Generate some excitement. In addition to starting small, getting buy-in from users can be the next most important factor for determining the cost effectiveness of your SharePoint implementation. There’s no sense in spending the time, money, effort, resources, etc. if your users can’t or won’t use the solution.

What not to do

Simply don’t make any assumptions about your users, the requirements or the solution. There’s just too much at risk.

Where’s The ROI?

Now you have all your ducks in a row, so to speak. How do you measure ROI? How do you know if your SharePoint implementation will be viewed as a success? You might want to think about how you’ll respond if / when higher-ups in the food chain ask these questions. Will ROI be measured by increased productivity? More sales? Better management and insight over business processes? If you know ROI will be a factor and how it will be calculated, of course you’ll need to consider it from the start. However, you’re well on you your way to a cost effective SharePoint implementation after reading my post – The Cheapest Way to Implement a SharePoint Intranet the Right Way.


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