Tuning out the SharePoint naysayers

Sooner or later, all SharePoint enthusiasts encounter the scariest of creatures…the intelligent, the opinionated and the immoveable naysayer. These naysayers exist at all levels of the organization and persist in deriding SharePoint without provocation or apology.

SharePoint enthusiasts fear naysayers for several reasons. First, we fear the naysayers will tarnish SharePoint’s image. Yes, we’re used to defending SharePoint against the typical anti-Microsoft rants. But these ideological rants rarely touch on or impact day-to-day operations. Naysayers present a more immediate threat. If the naysayers are vocal, sharing their anti-SharePoint mantras with project managers, executives and line-of-business folks, they can taint others’ view of SharePoint.

Naysayers can also block the use of SharePoint within key business units by simply refusing to adopt the platform. A few well-placed naysayers can cut off avenues for success, making user adoption a challenge.

But by far, the most insidious and debasing fear is that the naysayers are right. What if the naysayers see something we’ve missed–a fatal flaw in SharePoint’s design or a new Google Docs feature that will change the collaboration landscape? This fear can be crippling, and in that moment the naysayers can be like kryptonite for SharePoint enthusiasts. But remember, kryptonite only hurts if you’re Superman.

Here’s the reality: naysayers can’t really hurt SharePoint. Yes, they can be vocal in their opposition. And yes, they can make us work around them. But their greatest threat isn’t what they can do. Their greatest threat is the impact they have on us–the SharePoint enthusiasts. When we encounter a naysayer and start wringing our hands, we give away our power. And when we spend hours and hours of time trying to build out collaboration features to make the naysayers happy, we bear a huge opportunity cost.

I often talk with users that are struggling to “earn” the approval of their SharePoint naysayers. They work like trojans to try and build the perfect SharePoint site or solution for their naysayers, only to find the bar inextricably raised at every turn. No matter how far they come and how great a solution they build, it’s never quite enough to win the naysayers’ approval. They ask me what they can do to help turn the tide and win over their naysayers, and I always say the same thing–STOP!

Stop trying so hard. Stop contorting yourselves to try and become what others are looking for. And stop chasing after users that are not interested in what you (or your SharePoint platform) are offering. If you’re implementing SharePoint correctly, you should have a healthy pipeline of users requesting your SharePoint help and expertise. Why waste your time on the naysayers? Driving effective user adoption is about building tools and solutions that people want to use. Naysayers (by definition) don’t want what you’re selling. So stop trying to sell to them.

If you focus 100% of your time and energy on the customers that want to adopt SharePoint, you’ll be a success. And if you have a methodology that really works, SharePoint will start spreading like wildfire in your organization. So let the SharePoint wildfire run its course…sooner or later, those naysayers will sound pitiful deriding the virtues of a tool that has been embraced (and extolled) by the entire rest of the organization.


  1. Enjoyed this Sarah! Sometimes the ‘naysayers’ are IT themselves, which was my experience. I could sell SharePoint to users without question, I had their trust and enthusiasm from the start…then IT would swoop in and crush all hope of success. “SharePoint wasn’t adequate for project management. We aren’t a development shop. SharePoint is too hard to learn, this project could never go live in time. Content types are dangerous….” I could go on and on with the excuses I was fed from IT management about why I couldn’t help our organization with SharePoint solutions. In the end they banned me from working with anyone outside my division and demanded that I submit all new development to them for approval (mind you, they never gave me permission to use SPD in production) so in toxic environment like that one, anyone with passion needs to build a portfolio and sell themselves. There is no win left there.

    However, I absolutely agree that leaving a ‘naysayer’ alone is a great tactic! I had one manager in my division who obviously needed my help as she rolled out a new department, she was overwhelmed and I could see instantly how SharePoint could solve many of her problems. In her state of putting out fires, instead of leading change, she only saw me as a pest. However, as she was able to put those first fires out and relax in her role a bit, she began to look around at what I had built for others (which is why I believe it is important for those with related jobs to have access to others’ SP resources) and she began to see the light. She soon was coming to me with great enthusiasm in anticipation of how we could improve many of her processes. In fact, she gave such a glowing review to my boss at the end of the year that he asked if I had in someway bribed her! 🙂

    The problems I had with IT may or not be typical, but what I do know is that they too spent more time managing problems/putting out fires than leading change and seeking out innovation. In that state I don’t believe people can embrace change, since they only see it as a new problem; one they know nothing about. While we all know that SharePoint can probably help those folks, as you say, until they want that change, there is little we can do to help them see the benefits.

    Thanks for reading…didn’t realize I had so much left to say on the topic!

  2. Thanks for another great post, Sarah. I agree with Kerri that IT folks sometimes seem to be the toughest to convince of SharePoint’s worth. My own immediate team has come to view my SharePoint administration role within our organization as a kind of pet project — and I have found that no matter how beautiful a site I build them, in functionality or usability, they just don’t want it. I try not to take it to heart, and have done as Sarah says; focus on the folks who really DO want it and can benefit the most.

    For those new to SharePoint who approach me for help, I make sure that finding the right solution to their problem is my goal; not making their problem fit within SharePoint’s solutions. Employing a SharePoint fix (or at least, attempting to) for everything would ultimately fuel the naysayer’s message, as some of those will not work. Proving SharePoint’s worth is the resident expert’s responsibility first, and that means knowing when and how to do so. Along with ignoring the naysayers, we can’t over-promise (or over-believe) what it can do. I know you practice something like this in your day-to-day, Sarah, with your estimation of potential ROI.

    My personal SharePoint mantras (are people allowed to have two?) are “It cannot be all things to all people” and “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” These sound slightly pessimistic, but I find they are necessary for me to present a more fair-and-balanced presentation of SharePoint, as I myself am pretty tied up in how awesome I think it is. 🙂

  3. Great points Sarah! When doing project work for an organization I ask them to identify the “Gate Keepers” aka nay sayers. We get these people on the project early and let them voice the risks of moving forward. “Oh, that will never work because…”, “That’s just stupid. We already have a thing to do that”

    These people help the team identify and mitigate risks, but you need to handle this in a positive way or the whole group goes downn the negativity hole.

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