5 Ways To Tell If Your SharePoint Solution Is A Success

You’ve invested hundreds if not thousands of hours into delivering the perfect SharePoint based solution. You think you’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. The site looks beautiful, it seems to address the stakeholder’s requirements, and it even got the thumbs-up from leadership. You roll out your solution and “thud.” Maybe you were expecting huge fanfare, and the silence is worrying you. Did it work? Was the project a success? 
There are many ways to tell if your SharePoint solution is a success. Each SharePoint project has its similarities and its differences. The following are the primary tips we suggest when measuring the success of your SharePoint sites and solutions.   

 1) Adoption and usage metrics 

Actions speak louder than words. Let’s face it, your colleagues and end users speak in volumes, even if they haven’t said a word. How do you listen in? Watch the logs!  
SharePoint provides usage logs, and in particular, SharePoint Online offers easy to digest yet reasonably detailed activity logs that can help you determine how well and often your solution(s) is being utilized. We define success with usage. A highly used site is the benchmark for success.  
If you built a solution that wasn’t intended to be used, you can probably stop reading this post ;).  For the rest of us, adoption is critical. The adoption formula works like this: the easier a solution is to use and the more it assists users in their daily tasks, the higher the adoption.  
Consider a traditional organizational SharePoint Online Intranet portal, powered by additional Office 365 components such as Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Steam. If you force your organization to use the portal to submit IT related requests, it is likely you will see some utilization, but is that the only page people are loading?  
High-value SharePoint based solutions also include those that utilize SharePoint’s content collaboration features such as Office 365 enabled modern team sites. Office 365’s toolset powered by SharePoint document collaboration features can deliver a collaboration solution that will increase user participation and should significantly decrease internal email attachments and deep email chains. When you launch your Office 365 empowered collaboration solution, are your users sharing information and collaborating within SharePoint or are they still passing data back and forth via email or storing work documents on their devices? SharePoint = #Success. Email and personal storage = #Fail.  
Your activity logs will help you gain insight into what your users are doing. Users typically only adopt systems that help them get their work done, and they will quickly abandon a solution that hinders progress.  
We could stop here, but you should consider the following subfactors that can help drive adoption and utilization metrics. If you fail on the following key points, you will see adoption drop or fail.  

 2) Permission and Access Management 

File sharing and document collaboration is SharePoint’s bread and butter. Controlling who has access to what is essential for every organization. Senior Leadership must have confidence that their documents are safe and secure. HR needs to control access to specific files for legal reasons. R&D might have research documents that are not ready to be shared.  
On the flip side, when a user needs access to a file or document and they are locked out, have difficulty obtaining access, or must fight through a cumbersome approval process, they will likely revert to email, local storage, or some other less-preferred method. Users will not let your solution get in the way of them getting their job done.  
Permission and access management come down to governance. You want a plan in place that describes who and how permissions will be managed. A plan is a stellar starting point, but it must also be implemented, tested, and enforced. Enforcement should be enabled by auditing and automation whenever possible.  
Without a governance plan in place to manage permissions and access, users will likely be locked out of content they need, or you’ll open too many gates and set yourself up for a data leak or a data breach.   

 3) The Power of Search 

Once a SharePoint tenant has more than a few sites or more than a few hundred documents, i.e., a solution on the path to adoption and success, finding documents quickly and effortlessly will be paramount to overall utilization and adoptions. Do yourself a favor and ensure that you have a Search strategy in place. What does this mean?   

Successful Search Pillars: 

Searching for content, pages, documents, and other files must be easy to start, meaning the search feature of your solution must be easy to find and simple to use. 
When executing a search, the results must make sense and be displayed in a layout that helps your users find what they are looking for or allow for further refinement if necessary. You can assist with results by using SharePoint tools such as promoted results, result types, and query suggestions. If you have a search administrator that is spending even just a few hours a month refining search results based on search logs, you’re doing something right.  
Search is driven by your content. Your content should be routinely re-indexed, thankfully handled by SharePoint Online if you are on Office 365. Old content should be either removed from the index, removed for your tenant, archived, or demoted in results. Curating the proper content in your search index will go a long way in improving search results for your end users, making it easier for them to find what they are looking for quickly.   

 4) Content creation and approval processes 

When your SharePoint solution holds the content users need, they are more likely to use your system, which in turn should be helping them address their roles and responsibilities. Content, including documents and other assets, are driven by content authors.  
Help your content authors with intuitive and straightforward authoring tools. Modern SharePoint goes a long way in helping create a simple authoring experience. Content authors should be able to edit when they need to, and the editing experience should provide the flexibility they need with guidelines. What if your organization requires a content approval process?  
Content approval helps maintain and control messaging and single sources of truth. Content approval is great in principle, yet when it comes to implementation, we have seen hurdles. Content approval must be straightforward and quick. If approval takes days or weeks, there’s room for improvement. With this type of hurdle, authors will abandon your solution, and without the necessary content, your end users are less likely to trust your solution. 

 5) Consistency is Key 

Do not underestimate the importance of consistency of content, workflow, and design. SharePoint solutions should appear as a part of your organization. A successful solution will reflect your organization’s culture as much as possible. 
Traditional SharePoint solutions offered branding opportunities that are currently not available in modern SharePoint experiences such as modern team sites and communication sites. That does not mean you should not use all of the tools available to you to provide consistent branding. 
When branding appears seamless across your solution, tied into your organization’s personality, you are including your solution as a part of your organization, not as some outside appendage. An integrated solution helps tie in the previously mentioned key points, yet do not over-estimate brandings abilities. The most beautiful solution will fail if you do not provide the functionality first, while a more simplistic site design with all of the features your users need still has a great chance for high adoption and overall project success. 

Bonus – Provide your end users an opportunity to help refine your solution 

A successful SharePoint solution continues to evolve with the organization, the technology, and the end user’s needs. Let your end users tell you want they want. 
Two suggestions that can help your end users speak up, allowing you to continue to refine your solutions to match their requirements:
– The quickest, always-on solution is to provide a feedback button in a prominent location on your solution homepage or on a common solution component such as a shared header or footer. Tie this feedback button to a Microsoft PowerApp or simple SharePoint list form. If using a PowerApp, link the form to a SharePoint list. Create a simple Microsoft Flow that helps you monitor and manage requests as they arrive. A SharePoint power user should have no problems implementing such a feature in no time at all. 
– The second suggestion is to every so often, possibly once or twice a year, run a simple survey, asking your users such questions as if they are finding what they need and why they visit your SharePoint solution. You can use free tools such as Survey Monkey, or if your organization utilizes Microsoft Teams, consider a bot such as Polly. 
By listening to your users, you can continue to deliver what it is they need to get their job done. That in turn drives utilization which will prove the value of your SharePoint efforts. 

It is never too late to drive success. 

No matter where you are in the process of building or maintaining your SharePoint solutions, you can always make improvements and refinements to increase measures of success. 
Looking to ramp up your user adoption? Need help uncovering your user’s needs to drive utilization? PixelMill is here to help! Contact us today and we’ll help you transform your SharePoint solution into an efficient and effective tool that your team will love to use.  

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