Earlier this summer, our company started a Wellness program. You know, eat right, exercise and avoid bad thoughts and foods. If it wasn’t for the prospect of living longer, this stuff would seriously not be worth it. We did a walking contest, where we divided into teams and counted steps for seven weeks. It was a fun activity, my Systems Analyst clocked in with the highest number of steps, and my team had the most steps of any team (yeah, she was on my team). We tracked the results on SharePoint, but it was a bit of a pain. We weren’t sure this program was going to last, so we tweaked a few custom lists and views on a weekly basis to record activity and show results. Now we are getting ready to kick-off an ongoing wellness campaign, and we want to track it on SharePoint. I was eager to help with that request, because it was an opportunity to show how versatile SharePoint is. Then, the woman managing the program asked “can the site be pretty?” If you have been reading this blog, you know that that’s code for “can we have someone other than Dan working with us?”
My reputation for focusing on “let’s get it to work first and then worry about pretty” was earned over a long time, and even though my opinion is changing, I’m fighting history on this. I do support the idea that this site should have a unique look and feel and I want it to offer a great user experience. The wellness program is meant to be a fun, yet serious activity and the site should reflect that. Wellness is an important non-business-transaction related activity. That means we want people to participate, but it isn’t mandatory. If we can do something with SharePoint to encourage, or at least not discourage participation, I’m all for that – even at the cost of pretty. My Systems Analyst is doing most of the SharePoint work (when you only have three people, titles aren’t that important) and she is a strong advocate of a great user experience. Clearly, getting this site to work the way that we want it to was going to require some help. We are comfortable with defining and building the underlying model, and we are confident we can wire up the workflows to track activity, calculate points, let people choose prizes – oh yeah, prizes; I’ll exercise for free, but there needs to be a prize if you want me to eat healthy. With respect to look and feel, we know what we want, but we’re light on the skills to pull that off.
Unless you just started reading this blog, you can probably guess that we reached out to our friend Marc D. Anderson ( @sympmarc) for help. The reasons for engaging Marc are detailed in an earlier post, but this project fits one of my cases for using a consultant. I use consultants to take care of:
- The stuff I don’t want to know – Some things have to be done infrequently, things like setting up the trust between our internal farm and our Internet-facing farm. Yeah, I hired someone to do that.
- The stuff I do want to know – Huh? SharePoint is a big amorphous blob of a software platform that can be made to do wondrous things. I have seen examples of these things at conferences, in blogs, on websites, and I want to be able to do some of them. Sometimes, we try to figure that stuff out for ourselves, but sometimes we bring someone in to help us get it right the first time. That’s what we want to accomplish on this project.
Let me make sure I don’t violate my major pet peeve, even just by implication. Here’s a quick lesson in business etiquette:
Never, never never never, tell a consultant “I could do this myself; I just don’t have the time”.
First, it’s rude, and second it’s probably a lie. If I could do this myself, I would.
I am not too close to this project. I have been working to prepare for and participate in our company’s Policyholder Meeting so I will let Marc and Doreen fill you in on the details, after the project is complete. I have been part of the conversation regarding the direction and design, and I can say that I think we are going to create a very nice user experience. That means we will be supporting this worthwhile business objective, and we will be selling SharePoint. To get better than that would require adding bacon, and I don’t think that fits with Wellness (but don’t ask me to give it up).