My home page in Internet Explorer is set to my Flickr site, so I received a pleasant surprise Tuesday morning – Flickr’s long awaited upgrade had arrived. A lot of people prefer the old look, but I think the new layout is a step in the right direction. Having been a member of Flickr since 2007, I hung in there as other photo sharing sites got their makeovers and as Instagram and Pinterest made Flickr look old and tired. I hung in during the period when you had to perform some iPhone gymnastics to get Flickr’s mobile home page to refresh. I complained, but I stayed. Now I have been rewarded but, as is my nature to do so, I am looking for lessons to be learned that I can apply to SharePoint.
Value Proposition – When I think about why I stayed as a professional member on Flickr during the dark time, I realize that the value was always there. A ‘Pro’ membership gave me ad-free viewing, unlimited storage and most important, no daily upload limit. Better yet, it was $20 a year! I spend way more than that on my frequent detours to Great River Park. Flickr has always allowed me to store high resolution images, share with people without making them join Flickr and they have always provided a decent set of tools for me to manage and organize my photos. Outward appearance was lacking, but the behind the scenes capabilities have always been there. Hmm, that sounds like SharePoint. Still, it just became abundantly clear that an improved image makes a huge difference in user experience. That is a lesson I will try to apply.
Here There and Everywhere – For the longest time, Flickr’s mobile experience was awful. I remember a period where I would email photos from my iPhone to myself, so I could upload them from my desktop; that’s how bad it was. Fortunately, they improved the iOS app long before they improved the entire site because they came close to sending me to the competition. I wouldn’t have left Flickr, but I came close to setting up an Instagram account, and I did start sharing more photos on Facebook. Mobile is critically important to the success of information management solutions today. Mobile cannot be ignored, because there are lots of mobile options. This is perhaps more the case for SharePoint than it was for Flickr. I can store content in a wide variety of places, and I already have accounts with Box, DropBox, Evernote and I have a SkyDrive account. I know, SkyDrive is a Microsoft product and that it’s being integrated with SharePoint, but information managers need to treat SkyDrive like the arrogant cousin that you have to invite to family functions; it’s not all one-big-happy. If you’re using SharePoint to support business processes, you need to make sure that your users can access SharePoint when they need to, from whatever device they may have handy.
Solid and Reliable – I don’t ever recall trying to access my Flickr site and having it be unavailable. I have a picture of a time when Internet Explorer said Flickr was “not responding” but Chrome had no problem taking me there. I have almost 3,400 photos on Flickr, and I’ve always been able to find the one I want when I’ve needed it (like every Saturday when I stick one on this blog). Sets, Collections, Tags and descriptions have been established, have stayed in place and not one thing has been lost in almost 6 years. I value that reliability and I know that our SharePoint infrastructure has to offer the same consistent stable experience to our users. We have moved things around during upgrades and when we realized that some stuff needed to be in its own site collection and when we realized that some stuff was just in the wrong place. Each time, we checked to make sure that we moved everything – the content, the metadata, and the permissions. We made sure that the links in other places were updated and that workflows still worked. These are the stupid little things that, if you mess them up will cause your users to lose trust in SharePoint.
Service providers (that includes those of us providing SharePoint) can rely on inertia to keep customers in their place for fairly long periods while they/we react to changing market conditions. This is ultimately why I stayed on Flickr. This is why I’m not buying a Windows Phone. This is why I’m still living in Connecticut. On the other hand, all that is needed to overcome inertia is the right amount of energy. Energy can come from the joy of a new experience, the frustration of stagnation, the anger of being ignored or the pain of having damage occur to our property. I will be paying attention to all of these things.