VisualSP Webinar: When cookie-cutter user adoption doesn’t cut it

I’ll be presenting a free user adoption webinar for VisualSP on May 12, 2016. The webinar explains the science behind user adoption failures and offers practical tips for examining how your users, your culture and your Collaboration goals impact your success. You’ll leave the session with a framework you can use to build a custom user adoption framework for your organization.  Interested in attending? Click here to register.


Webinar recording: Creating effective business process solutions

The recording of my November 2015 webinar on usage of SharePoint as a business automation platform is available! If you are a VisualSP subscriber, you can view the recording at (For more information on VisualSP’s content and subscription model, visit )

In the webinar, I summarize the business process challenges we all face, identify the forgotten layer of content management in our organizations, explain how I built a successful SharePoint automation practice with an annual ROI of $550,000+ and provide a roadmap to get you started on your business automation journey. You’ll learn how to design solutions for voluntary and involuntary users, how to find that ever-important first project and how to effectively gather requirements for your new business automation solutions.

Session abstract:

Are you caught in an infinite loop of overgrown, outdated processes? Are your end-users stuck in a rut, copying data between an endless string of Excel spreadsheets? If so, this is the conference session for you! We’ll explore common process engineering methodologies, outline the “universal truths” that will help you relate to your business users and expose the “forgotten layer of content management” that exists at most organizations.

Then it’s GO TIME! We’ll outline a formula for finding your alpha project, provide a streamlined storyboarding/requirements gathering process and show you how to incorporate ROI valuations into your project timeline. You will leave this session with a “couch-to-success” plan for building effective business process solutions.

Innovation Games: An Introduction

Let’s start with the obvious question–what are Innovation Games?

Innovation Games are a set of simple games you can play with your customers, your peers and your project teams to build shared understanding. There are a wide variety of Innovation Games; each game is designed to elicit a different outcome or data set. Some games can help you uncover unmet market needs. Other games are geared to driving product design, building/repairing relationships or creating strategic plans. The games themselves are just tools; a set of gaming principles and best practices you can leverage to gather qualitative information. The data gathered through Innovation Games can be used to shape strategies, gain momentum and build bridges with core constituent groups. Bottom line: Innovation Games are a fun way to engage your customers, your employees and your teams.

In September 2015, I led an introductory workshop on Innovation Games for MNSPUG (the Minnesota SharePoint User Group). The session introduced the concept of Innovation Games and highlighted how Innovation Games can help teams gather requirements, build consensus, drive strategic direction and recover broken work streams and projects. MNSPUG attendees were able to see Innovation Games at work firsthand. Don Donais, Liz Sundet, Matt Ruderman and I facilitated a live version of the Low-Tech Social Network and four separate iterations of the Speedboat game during the 3-hour workshop. Check out the pics of our completed games below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the MNSPUG session recording below. (A big thanks to the folks at Avtex for providing the recording.) To help you navigate the lengthy session, track times are outlined below.

07:48 – Kickoff of the Innovation Games session
11:29 – What are Innovation Games?
15:45 – Why use Innovation Games?
26:45 – How do Innovation Games work?
34:08 – Introduction of the Low-Tech Social Network game
44:33 – Introduction of the Speedboat game
59:00 – Summarizing the results of your game
01:15:30 – What types of other Innovation Games are there?
01:32:07 – Resources/Recommended Follow-Up Reading
01:34:00 – Video of MNSPUG attendees playing the Low-Tech Social Network game
01:35:52 – Results of the Low-Tech Social Network game
01:39:00 – Video of Sarah teaching attendees how to facilitate a Speedboat innovation game

The forgotten layer of content management

An old, abandoned house in the woods, overgrown plants

Many organizations have Content Management Systems (CMSs) in place to house their business-critical content. CMSs offer a deep set of features and capabilities, including content creation/storage, provisioned access based on user groups or roles, compliance tracking/reporting and content metadata tagging for content retrieval and re-use. The type of content stored in a CMS varies by industry, but may include case files for law firms, documentation for software firms, digital image assets for photography studios, and UPC/SKU content for retailers.

Although CMSs serve a critical function, they cannot stretch to house and govern all the data generated by business users. Think of all the e-mails that users create and send on a daily basis. These emails are often a critical part of ongoing work efforts, but the emails themselves are not managed effectively. A single work issue may result in a series of inefficient emails sent to multiple users. Add in all the critical work data sitting in Excel spreadsheets on shared drives and you have a huge mass of unstructured, disorganized content.

Why do users create all this unstructured content? Because they need to keep business flowing. Remember, business users are responsible for keeping the wheels of motion turning. If they don’t have the time, tools, or expertise to design automated solutions for their information management problems, they fill in the gaps with manual processes built on e-mail, Microsoft Excel, etc. These gap measures are often critical to the success of the business, but the processes themselves are not regulated or optimized. The data trapped inside these gap measures is the forgotten layer of content management.

We’ve identified the problem. Now we need to bring our business data into the light. If we can standardize the content and drive consistency in when and how it is captured, we can build repeatable processes and workflows to automate our core tasks. If we store the data in a single location and route it to employees on an as-needed basis, we will reduce the noise our employees wade through every day. Reduction in email volumes alone can save hours a day per employee.

SharePoint can be an incredibly effective toolset to store, route and manage this forgotten layer of content management. If we structure our content in SharePoint lists, map out workflows to standardize our processes and use filters, views and audience targeting to route data to people on a just-in-time basis, we can streamline our work processes and automate manual tasks.

The table below outlines WHAT we need to do, WHY we need to do it and HOW we’ll build successful replacement solutions in SharePoint. Check out the related links below for details on how to choose your first project, gather your requirements and calculate the cost of your business processes.

Forgotten layer of content management - 01

Related Blog Posts

A visual approach to content type tagging for your document library

In a previous post, I dove into the scary underbelly of file repositories. Most document libraries are a hoarder’s paradise, complete with hundreds of sub-folders and thousands of files. These document libraries are 1-way streets. You can easily upload your content to them, but it is virtually impossible to go the other direction and find/retrieve files. In order to maximize usefulness and value, we need our document libraries to support 2-way traffic–file upload and easy file retrieval.

Document uploads are relatively easy. Most of our business users can figure out how to upload a document (or know someone with a few SharePoint skills that can teach them how to drag-and-drop in SharePoint 2013). Content retrieval is much harder. It relies on “advanced” features like metadata, content types, document sets and information policies to make documents find-able and retrieve-able. Unfortunately, metadata is often a tough sell. We try to convince our end-users that metadata can help them with document retrieval, but getting them to consistently apply metadata tags to the documents they upload is a nearly impossible task. Unless you’re working for a company (or industry) that requires document metadata tagging as a fundamental job requirement, your only lasting hope is to make metadata tagging simple, easy or automatic. This post walks through an everyday business scenario for document storage and outlines an out-of-the-box metadata tagging solution that was built to support it.

Business Scenario

You’ve just been assigned as the project manager for a new software development project. Since you’ve worked on other project teams and seen firsthand the challenges of storing project documents in gargantuan file repositories, you know you want to implement a metadata tagging scheme for your project content. The goal is to tag each project document as it gets uploaded to SharePoint, and then use the metadata tags to build a browse-able document navigation tree for your SharePoint site. The challenge is figuring out how to design and use tags that reflect both the document’s purpose and the project lifecycle stage that the document pertains to.

You sit down with your SharePoint SME (subject matter expert) to find a solution to this tagging conundrum, and together you devise a graphical model of your content:


Your model breaks down all project documentation into 6 categories: project discovery, project scoping, solution building, solution testing, solution deployment and iterative change management.

Each of these 6 content categories have different information needs. Discovery and Scoping documents, for example, need to be tagged with the assigned business analyst resources that will write/finalize solution requirements. Build documents need to be tagged with code review/release dates and Test documents need to be tagged with test status and tester assignments. All content categories need to be tagged with the release/version number they apply to.

Your SharePoint SME suggests using content types to organize your metadata fields. He plans to build one content type for each of your six project categories. Each content type can present targeted metadata fields that are specific to each project category AND provide default values where applicable. And because you’d be using content types and metadata fields to tag your content, you could store all your project documents in a single document library with (gasp) no file folders! The trick is designing a quick and easy way for users to upload and tag their project documents.

The approach

We know we’re building a single document library with six custom content types. But how do we quickly and easily enable users to specify which content type their file(s) belong to? An out-of-the-box solution doesn’t cut it, because we know our users won’t go through the process of selecting their appropriate content type when they upload their files.

Your SharePoint SME goes back to the drawing board and comes up with a creative idea. How about displaying buttons on the main page of your site….and make each button a clickable link? When users click on a button, they’d be taken to the document upload page for that corresponding content type (effectively bypassing the need to select the content type of the document they are uploading). Yes, your users would still need to add in metadata that applies to their document’s content type, but we’d be able to sidestep the content type selection in its entirety. We can also plug in default column values for each content type, simplifying the metadata tagging process. Sound interesting? Let’s take a look at the steps for building this out.

Part 1: Creating your new content types

  1. Click on Gear > Site settings.
  2. Under Web Designer Galleries, click on Site content types.
  3. Click on the Create button.
  4. In the Name field, type Discovery.
  5. In the Select parent content type from field, select Document Content Types.
  6. In the Parent Content Type field, select Document. Your page should now look like this:
  7. Click OK.
  8. You will be taken to a configuration page for your new content type. Click on the Site Content Types page header to return to the Site Content Types page.
  9. Repeat steps 3-8 to create each of your new content types.

Part 2: Setting up your document library

  1. Click on Gear > Add an app.
  2. Select the Document Library app.
  3. When prompted, enter a name for your new document library.
  4. When you are returned to the Site Contents page, find and click on the blue icon for your new document library.
  5. While in your new library, click on the Library subtab and the List Settings icon.
  6. Click on Advanced settings and set the Allow management of content types field to Yes.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Go to the Content Types section of the page and click on the Add from existing site content types link.
  9. Locate the dropdown field that controls the content type groups being displayed. Change the dropdown value from All Groups to Custom Content Types. Your newly created content types will display in the Available Site Content Types box.
  10. Select one of your new content types and click on the Add button. Repeat this step until all your new content types have been added (as shown below).
  11. Click OK. You are now returned to the main list settings page.
  12. Go to the Content Types section of the page and click on the Change new button order and default content type hyperlink.
  13. Uncheck the checkbox for the Document content type and click OK. Also make sure your content types are ordered correctly. Since we want our content types to be listed in the order of our project phases, our content types appear in the following order:
    • Discovery
    • Scope
    • Build
    • Test
    • Deploy
    • Change
  14. Now it’s time to create all the new columns for your document library. As you create your columns, be mindful of the new Add to all content types checkbox that now displays on your column creation page. If you leave this box checked, the column you are creating will automatically be added to each of your 6 project lifecycle content types. If you leave the box unchecked, you’ll need to manually add this new column to the individual content types where you’d like it to be used.
  15. Once all your columns are defined, it’s time to determine which field(s) should display for each of your content types. To get started, go to your List Settings page and click on the hyperlinked name of one of your content types.
  16. When the content type detail page appears, click on the Add from existing site or list columns hyperlink.
  17. Add the fields you want to display for this content type.
  18. Use the Column order link to define the order in which the content type’s fields should display.
  19. Click on the Settings link in your page’s breadcrumb to return to the list settings page.
  20. Repeat steps 16-20 to define the metadata fields for each of your other content types.
  21. Now it’s time to set up the default values for your metadata columns. This step requires a bit of extra work in SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. Go to your List Settings page and click on the Column default value settings link.
  22. To enter a default value for one of your columns, click on the column name and follow the on-screen prompts. After entering my default values, my column default value settings page now looks like this:

Part 3: Determining the upload URLs for each of your new content types

Now we need to build a custom upload URL for each of your project lifecycle content types. These are the URLs that we’ll associate with your document upload buttons. The first step in building these URLs is turning off the Minimal Download Strategy feature via your site features page. The Minimal Download Strategy feature impacts the length and character of your site’s URLs, making it harder for this solution to work.

  1. Go to your Site Settings page by clicking on Gear > Site Settings.
  2. Click on the Manage site features link under the Site Actions heading.
  3. Scroll down and find the Minimal Download Strategy feature. If there is a Deactivate button next to the feature, click it.
  4. Click on the Deactivate link to confirm you want to deactivate this feature.

Now we’re ready to build your custom upload URLs. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  1. Go to the Library Settings page for your document library.
  2. Copy the URL that is displayed in the address bar of your web browser.
  3. Open a text-based editor on our computer (e.g. Notepad or WordPad).
  4. Paste your copied URL into your text editor.
  5. Find the word listedit in your URL and replace it with the word upload.
  6. Go to the end of the URL in your text editor and type &Source=
  7. After the &Source= string, paste in the URL for the home page of your SharePoint site.
  8. Go to the end of the URL in your text editor and type &ContentTypeID=
  9. Return to the Library Settings page for your document library and click on the name of your first content type.
  10. Look at the URL for your page and find the string &ctype=
  11. Place your cursor in the URL and copy the entire string of characters that follows the &ctype= string. This is the unique ID for your content type.
  12. Return to your text editor and paste your content type ID after the string &ContentTypeID=
    That’s it! You’ve now built a custom upload URL for your first content type. Here’s a picture of the end result. All the parts of the URL I customized are shaded in yellow:
  13. Now it’s time to test. Copy your newly built URL and paste it an Internet browser window. Validate that you can upload a document, have it auto-tagged with its corresponding content type and that all your default column values work as expected. If the link does not work as expected, re-build your custom upload URL to make sure it is working correctly.
  14. Repeat steps 1-13 for EACH content type in your document library. In the end, you’ll end up with a unique upload URL for each content type.

Part 4: Creating your upload images

Now it’s time to build the images you want to use as your document upload buttons. Feel free to create the buttons in whatever program or design you like—just make sure that you end up with 1 image file for each upload button.

I opted to create the following circle images in PowerPoint. I right-clicked on each image in PowerPoint and selected Save as Picture to save each circle as a separate .PNG file.


Part 5: Adding upload buttons to your site’s home page

There are thousands of ways you can lay out and style your site’s home page. The steps below provide one suggested way of laying out your upload buttons. Feel free to customize.

  1. Go to your site’s home page.
  2. Click on the Edit link in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
  3. Click on the Text Layout button in your Format Text subtab and choose the One column with sidebar option.
  4. Place your cursor at the top of your page’s sidebar. Select the Heading 1 style from the Format Text subtab and type Upload Center on your page.
  5. Hit the Enter key and type Click on a circle to upload a document. Your sidebar should now look like this:
  6. Hit Enter again.
  7. Click on the Insert subtab and then the Table button. Add a table with 3 columns and 2 rows.
  8. Place your cursor in the left-cell of the upper row. You’re now ready to insert your first image.
  9. Click on the Insert subtab. If your images are already uploaded to your SharePoint site, select Picture > From SharePoint and select your first image. If your images are not uploaded to SharePoint yet, select Picture > From Computer and select your first image.
  10. Your image will now be displayed in your table cell. If you want to resize your image, change the Horizontal Size and Vertical Size settings on the Image subtab. Since my images were a bit large, I’ve resized them down to 100×100 pixels.
  11. Now it’s time to add the upload link to your image. Click on your image to select it. Then click on the Insert subtab and select Link > From Address.
  12. Copy the upload URL you created for this content type and paste it into the Address box of the Insert Hyperlink dialog box.
  13. Click OK to save your changes.
  14. Click on the Page subtab and click on the Save button to save your page.
  15. Now it’s time to test! Click on your first upload button and validate that you can successfully upload a document. Validate that the document gets auto-tagged with its corresponding content type and that all your default column values work as expected. If the link does not work as expected, re-build your custom upload URL to make sure it is working correctly.
  16. Repeat steps 9-15 to upload your remaining images and link them to your custom upload URLs.
  17. If you’d like to remove the gridlines from displaying around your table cells, edit your page, go to your Design subtab, click on Styles and select the Table Style 1 – Clear option.

Here is my page now:


Part 6: Building your document library views and navigation

You’ve now built an easy way for users to upload documents and have them auto-tagged with metadata. Now you need to consider how your users will browse for and find documents that have been uploaded. Will you build out views for each of your content types? If so, how will your users access these views?

I recommend creating new views and adding them as links on your site’s Quick Launch bar. The results may look like the example highlighted in yellow below. Of course, you can get more detailed and elegant in building out these document library views. The important thing is to provide your end-users with easy-to-click-on links that provide a queried short list of documents that meet their specific information need.



A big thank you to Matthew Ruderman (SP_Geek) for serving as a technical editor on this post. Without you, Matt, these manually generated upload links would have looked awfully ugly…

Land of Confusion: Why are our business processes so bad?

Work processes, like road signs, should be clear and direct. They should evoke a series of concise responses to effect a specific, desired outcome. The problem is, humans are organic. We start out defining a new process that will make our work lives easier. The new process may look like our straight line here–simple, efficient and productive.


But then we’re asked to do more and more things. In an effort to meet business objectives, be more efficient and manage our time, we load up our processes with too many steps and too many desired outcomes. Unable to stand under the weight, our processes devolve. They morph into a convoluted string of manual tasks that everyone performs but no one understands. The result looks like this:


In the end, we hate the very processes we hoped would save us. But the underlying need for the processes doesn’t disappear. So, inevitably, the cycle starts again. We abandon the overgrown processes we have come to hate, clarify our business needs, and voila! A new process emerges. Sound familiar? This is proof you are not alone! Process pain and mismanagement are epidemic. They exist in all industries, in all organizations and with a wide variety of toolsets. To prove the point, let’s go back to our road sign analogy. Here’s a road sign that works:


When you approach a STOP sign, you know what the process is:

  1. Bring your vehicle to a complete stop.
  2. Wait for traffic to clear.
  3. Proceed.

Are you ever confused by these steps? No. Do you ever think you should add additional steps to this process? Maybe get out and check your tire pressure or check to see if your brake lights are working? No. The purpose of this sign is clear, and there is no value in adding additional steps to the process. Now take a look at this road sign:


Are you confused? You’re not the only one. What are we supposed to do after seeing this sign? What’s our process? It looks like we should be sitting, but then do we wait to be impaled by a rectangle? I have no idea.

Now relate this back to the processes in your organization. Could you create a clear diagram or roadmap that outlines all of your common processes? What about stakeholders, key steps and end goals? All too often, our processes are nebulous. They don’t have a clear start, a clear end or a clearly defined singular purpose. As these inefficient processes grow in length and number, our employees start feeling boxed in (both literally and figuratively). They face a wall of work each day that keeps them from doing higher value-add tasks.

We also tend to forget the underlying cost of our inefficient processes. Every hour spent on a wasteful process costs your organization money. Money that goes to benefits, salaries, license costs, hardware costs, facility costs, etc. And let’s not forget the opportunity cost of having your time taken up with these arduous processes. Time spent circling the process drain is time you can’t spend on other value-add tasks. In many cases, that loss of time can result in a loss of revenue for your organization.

Calculating the cost of your inefficient processes

Every process in your organization has a dollar value. If you knew the dollar value of the processes you completed every day, would it change your perspective? Do you think your management team would want to “buy” those processes if they knew their true cost? For many of our required work processes, the answer would be a clear YES. Yes, we need to follow regulatory processes like HIPAA and PCI. Yes, we need to get payroll out regularly and file taxes. But what about all those processes with nebulous results and purpose? The ones that get bogged down with lots of additional steps that everyone follows but no one understands? Would your management want you to keep those processes if they knew their ultimate cost?

Here is a simple formula you can use to estimate the cost of your work processes:


Here are some definitions for this formula:

  • Time to complete 1 iteration = The amount of time (in hours) it takes to complete the process one time end-to-end.
  • # of iterations = The number of times per year the process is completed. For a monthly process, the number of iterations would be 12.
  • Hourly rate = This is what an hour of time costs at your organization. I recommend working with your Finance department to arrive at this number. It should represent all appropriate costs, including salary, benefits, hardware and software costs, facility costs, etc. The rate should also be an average that spans all job grade levels and covers both full-time employees and contractors. (Having a single hourly rate to use in all process calculations will provide uniformity and enable you to easily compare process costs.)

Let’s walk through a simple example to show you how the formula works. Pretend you have a weekly process that takes 4 hours per week to complete. Let’s also say you’ve worked with your Finance department and determined that an hour of someone’s time at your organization costs $50. We’ll plug this data into our formula as follows:


Based on the data provided, this weekly 4-hour process costs the company $10,400 per year. Now for the key question–can this process be optimized? Can you use a tool like SharePoint to eliminate manual steps from this process, thereby shortening the 4-hour time frame?

Let’s say you were successful in optimizing this work process. You eliminated a bunch of manual copy/paste steps by moving the data to SharePoint where everyone can access it. You structured the data in a single SharePoint list and built a workflow that notifies people when they need to take action. You also built filtered list web parts to give employees a work queue. This enables them to quickly find the tasks that are assigned to them. In the end, you were able to cut the process time in half so now it takes only 2 hours per week to complete. When you plug these updated process numbers into the formula, you now get a process cost of $5,200/year.


If you take the difference between the BEFORE cost of $10,400 and the AFTER cost of $5,200, you determine that these process improvements save your organization $5,200/year. Now for the key questions–how much are your processes costing your organization? And can you use SharePoint to streamline them?

How do I disable the Edit link on my SharePoint 2013 pages?

Did you know that granting your end-users Contribute level access in SharePoint 2013 enables them to edit wiki and web part pages across your site (including your site’s home page)?

Site pages are stored in the Site Pages library by default. Since this library automatically inherits its permissions from the site, anyone with read/write access to the site also has read/write access to all site pages. Users with read/write access will see the Edit link shown below whenever they navigate to a site page.


So how do you grant your users Contribute (aka read/write) access to your site and ensure they don’t get an Edit link on site pages? You change the permissions for your Site Pages library. If you grant users Contribute access to your site but read-only permissions to your Site Pages library, they will be able to view all your site pages but not edit them.

Here are the steps to modify the permissions for your Site Pages library:

  1. Go to your site.
  2. Click on Gear > Site contents.
  3. Find and click on your Site Pages library.
  4. Click on the Library tab and then click on the Library Settings button.
  5. Click on the Permissions for this document library link.
  6. Click on the Stop Inheriting Permissions button on the page’s toolbar.
  7. Say OK to confirm you want to customize the permissions for this library.
  8. Modify the library’s permissions as desired.

TIP: Make sure you give users read access to your Site Pages library. This will ensure they can see and access your site’s home page.


Finding the RIGHT first project (aka solving the SharePoint “bad hair day”)

Bad hair dayIf your SharePoint implementation is the equivalent of a bad hair day, listen up. You are not a lost cause. It is not too late to make a (new) first impression.

You are going to have to make some changes, though. You may need stronger IT support or a new executive sponsor. You may need to start planning your SharePoint upgrade or shore up the performance of your existing farm. And if you don’t have end-users banging on doors wondering how they can learn more (and do more) with SharePoint, you need a better plan for driving user adoption.

Too many SharePoint owners ignore user adoption, bequeath it unicorn status (making adoption the stuff of urban myth) or decide that mandating adoption is the way to go. Here’s the bottom line: User adoption is not a decree. You cannot wish it into being, legislate its growth or assume that an investment in tools will provide a corresponding user adoption “lift.” User adoption is also not a byproduct of system health. Yes, building a pristine SharePoint farm with solid disaster recovery and well-rounded admin/migration tools can help your cause. But IT strategy alone will not spur your business users to engage/champion SharePoint.

The best way to jump-start some SharePoint enthusiasm is focusing on the delivery of one key project. Consider this project your inaugural step in building a new user adoption strategy. You need to deliver a solid solution that saves time and money and turns your first customer into your first follower.

Why is a first follower important? Because your first follower is the person who will teach others how to follow you. Your first follower validates your vision and shows others how to jump on the bandwagon. If you invest in this first follower—delivering a SharePoint solution that meets that customer’s needs perfectly—he or she will become your first champion. And a champion is what transforms you from a lone SharePoint nut into a SharePoint leader.

Here’s your key to selecting this all-important first project:


First, you need to find something that causes people pain. You’re not looking for something that is mildly annoying. You’re looking for the soul-crushing, spirit-destroying work that makes your users want to gnaw off their own arms. A two-hour, 104-step process for logging time sheets would be a great example.

You also need a succinct problem that hits a lot of people. Your purchasing system may be hellish, but if it doesn’t impact a large number of people and can’t be broken up into small logical chunks for optimization, it’s not the right first project.

To maximize your efforts, you want to look for repeatable processes (processes that have a daily or weekly business rhythm). Optimizing frequent processes greatly amplifies your return on investment (ROI).

This inaugural project will be a partnership between you and a business owner or business team. Since you are hoping this first customer will become your first follower and your first champion, it is crucial you select the right customer. You want to work with innovators and early adopters. These are the people who like the bleeding edge, the people who are always the first to adopt new technology. They will be willing to go out on a limb, to take a chance and see where it leads.

But it isn’t enough to just find the early adopters. You need your first customers to be key influencers and change agents as well. They need to inspire the masses to follow them onto the SharePoint bandwagon. How do you find these key influencers? Look around your organization for the people everyone goes to when they have a question. Key influencers tend to be the informal help desk for their department. They are the ones who have all the contacts and know where to go and find more information.

Once you find the right process with the right people, you need to make sure the solution can be built quickly and easily with out-of-the-box features. You don’t need a complex solution with brilliant customizations. You need a reliable solution that you can build within a couple of weeks for FREE. As you’re building out this solution, remember that it will serve as a demonstration of what you (and SharePoint) can do. Consider the first impression it will make.

And let’s not forget the all-important ROI. This first project will serve as a calling card—a testament to how SharePoint can help your business achieve its goals. You need to be able to quantify and qualify the benefits this solution offers. Build an executive abstract that summarizes the business need, the solution you built and the benefits (both hard and soft) the solution provides. And don’t be stingy–share this project summary with your customer and ensure they get kudos for partnering with you. If this ROI summary makes you AND your customer look good, others will notice.

Now it’s time to begin the cycle again and find another “first” project. While you’re focusing on building the next great solution, your first customer will be doing their day job. Other people may see them using SharePoint and ask “what’s that?” The customer will innocently say, “This is my new XXX solution. Sarah Haase built this for me.”

Congratulations! SharePoint just made a (new) first impression.