When last Saturday’s post was published, I was enjoying refreshments on the beach under 75° sunny skies. After relaxing on Saturday, our company’s Annual Meeting began on Sunday with this life-long Steeler fan being forced to watch the Ravens chalk up Super Bowl win number two (I’ll worry when they have 6). Not much fodder for this blog, but I knew that we had a meeting scheduled with the administrative support group regarding our recent decision to put a lock on lock shared folders. The message that was delivered:
“Someone formed a landing party and the K: drive was wearing a red shirt”
The meeting went much better than I had feared it might go, but we learned a lot from the questions and comments we received. If you are planning a migration from shared folders to SharePoint, and if our experience is common, here are three things to prepare for:
The SharePoint Trifecta – The three biggest changes when migrating away from shared folders also represent the three hardest things for people to understand about SharePoint – Permissions, Sharing (vs. copying) and Navigation. These surfaced in the question: “How do I control who can see my documents, and how do people find the documents I want to share with them?” I gave into the dark side and asked “how do you do that now?” …protracted pause… “oh, that’s right, you don’t!” I wasn’t being snarky. I understand why, on the one hand, nobody wants to give up the near-useless shared folder, but on the other hand they complain that SharePoint isn’t perfect. It’s not that we’re dealing with whiny users; it’s that they don’t understand how it will work. If you don’t know where you are going, it’s easier to imagine getting lost than it is to imagine a successful journey, so it’s natural to question the recommended route. So, we reassured them that we will be their guide. Then we talked about the many ways we can make all these scary subjects easier. Then we talked about the solutions that are in place today. Nothing helps people understand SharePoint more than actual working examples. Show people enough of those, and watch their confidence rise.
Metadata – I am convinced that people simply don’t like metadata. I think that’s because when they think about metadata, they focus on the work involved in setting it as opposed to the benefit of having content defined by it. They particularly worry about having to set metadata on backfilled content, this was evident when I pointed to a shared folder with over 75,000 documents. The other bit of push-back against metadata stems from search. People seem to feel that if search worked as well as it did for IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy, we wouldn’t need metadata. Search is great for one-shot lookups, but metadata is required to sort and filter and to run workflows and to build views, and the ability to run workflows and build views are two of SharePoint’s most powerful features. We reminded our crew of the benefits of metadata, we showed them how views make life easier and we demonstrated Classifier to show that we can make the task easier, too.
Lists vs. Documents –The hardest thing for people to imagine is the way some documents have clearly become obsolete. We talked about the documents we have today that are nothing more than lists of names and contact information, and how they will be replaced by Custom Lists. This is nearly impossible to imagine if you haven’t seen it before. For someone who has spent many years maintaining a set of contact lists in Word, the concept of putting that information into a list and being able to find everything easily is a tear in the fabric of space. The benefits of SharePoint lists are easy to describe, but keep in mind that most of the people who maintain lists aren’t the people who use those lists, so they don’t always appreciate those benefits. We explained how lists work, and we emphasized that, with the aid of SQL Server Reporting Services, we will be able to produce, (sigh) printed copies.
Moving from an era of network storage to one of information management is as much about allaying fear as it is about changing behavior. Practitioners tend to play to the consumers of information, showing off SharePoint’s strengths and talking about all that soon-to-be-added value. Meanwhile, the curators of information are quietly panicking. If consumers don’t adopt SharePoint, they feel that they will suffer guilt-by-association with us (IT) and that their job will become harder. Success requires that we work to make both groups’ lives easier.