The three worlds of SharePoint
Categorised under: Intranets
SharePoint is steadily working its way through organisations, and there is a huge industry of suppliers that has grown along with it. Despite its success, SharePoint isn’t a simple platform, and a diverse range of skills and knowledge is required to deliver a successful solution.
When looking for external suppliers, or building internal skills, it can be useful to think of there being three worlds of SharePoint, each with its focus and skills:
- strategy & design
Within each level, there is a substantial body of knowledge and expertise. There is also overlap between the worlds, with each level informing the others.
Read on to explore the three worlds…
1. Strategy and design
This world looks at the business, identifies needs and opportunities, and designs appropriate solutions. Activities include:
- conducting user research and needs analysis
- developing business requirements
- determining overall strategy
- finalising scope
- designing solutions, apply using experience (UX) techniques
- establishing operational governance
- planning deployment and adoption
The outcomes are typically a set of requirements, strategy and scope, roadmap and plan, and a design. (This work should be at least 10-15% of a SharePoint project.)
Informed by: implementation. The strategy and design must be developed with a strong understanding of the SharePoint platform, to build on strengths, and to deliver a solution that aligns with the overall technical architecture. (In particular, UX work done in isolation of the technology leads to big problems down the track.)
This world produces the end solution that is seen by staff and the business. It involves:
- developing a functional specification
- project planning
- platform configuration
- custom development
- integration of third-party solutions
- testing and handover
- establishing technical governance
- ongoing technical support and incremental improvements
This is where the bulk of work occurs, particularly for a development-heavy platform such as SharePoint. In-depth expertise is required of the product, and how best to work within its complexities. Strong project management capabilities are also required to deliver on-time and on-budget.
Informed by: infrastructure. Many decisions need to be made when implementing to ensure that satisfactory performance, reliability and scalability are delivered. These rely on careful alignment with the underlying infrastructure of SharePoint, including the configuration and management of the server farm(s).
SharePoint isn’t a product or even a platform. Behind the scenes, it’s a collection of systems and services that sit on physical (or virtual) servers.
Getting the infrastructure right at the outset is crucial, lest deployments be hamstrung by poor performance and technical constraints. Unfortunately, many important decisions need to be made on day 1 of setting up the infrastructure, and deep technical knowledge of SharePoint makes a big difference.
Three worlds, pick one
Each of these worlds is equally important. All three must deliver great work for a SharePoint solution to be valuable, reliable and sustainable.
The challenge is that the skills, knowledge and mindset required is completely different between the three worlds. Strategy folks are typically poor at project management. Don’t ask your typical implementer to understand staff needs or to step back and think strategically. Infrastructure folks are naturally details oriented.
As a result, any one company (or individual) is rarely effective in more than one world. At the other extreme, narrow specialists are equally limited, as design and decisions are informed by an understanding of the other worlds.
To address this, we’re seeing more experience organisations seeking assistance from a mix of partners, and managing the relationships, so the pieces all fit together. As expertise grows in the industry as a whole, this will become easier and easier.
At Step Two, we live in the strategy and design world. We don’t implement, but we do know the SharePoint platform well enough to be effective. And nobody knows more about intranets than we do.
Where do you fit in the three worlds of SharePoint?