Would Your Users Vote “YES” for Sharexit?

If your users were asked to vote on a “SharePoint Exit”, would they vote “YES”?

We’ve all heard the impact of the recent Brexit vote and impending consequences for the UK, the EU, and the rest of the world. This got me thinking…what if we asked SharePoint users to vote on staying with or leaving SharePoint?

How confident are you that a Sharexit vote would turn out better for your SharePoint environment than it did for the EU?  For those of you who are not so sure, I’ve gathered five things that you should do now, just in case your SharePoint deployment is ever put to a vote!

Vote “NO” for Sharexit – Tip #1: Abandon the default UI and make sure you do little things to help improve user experience   

If you’ve not branded your SharePoint site and your users are still seeing the default SharePoint UI, then this is for sure something to look at.  UI frameworks and design patterns change rapidly.  Applying a fresh coat of paint to your SharePoint environment will breathe some fresh air into it.  Introducing support for mobile, or customizable landing pages, gives users better access and better control.  You should also identify easy UI add-ons that can help deliver value to your users.

A great place to start is by providing more than the out of the box refiners. Follow this link for more information on that strategy.  Other things to consider are improving type ahead and search suggestions, as both are small improvements to the search box that have huge payback. If you decide to do this, then you should do it without customization. We have a tool kit that does this for you.

Vote “NO” for Sharexit – Tip #2: Give your users an Identity

Identity politics played a big part in Brexit.  It seems a lot of UK voters felt their identity was lost in the larger EU conglomerate.  Many SharePoint users probably feel the same way.  They think, “This system doesn’t know who I am… It doesn’t take into account my country… It doesn’t tailor its content based on who I am…”  They are right, it should do all of those things and embrace their identity.  This can be done in SharePoint through personalization. Now, by personalization, we don’t mean add some text that says “Hello Sean” to your home page.  Real personalization drives content directly to the user based on who they are, what they do, and what the systems understand they may want.  Simple things like “My recent documents” coupled with “Content you may be interested in” go a long way in making SharePoint contextual and relevant to the specific user.  Another level of personalization factors in user profile data and past history into search results, removing “noise” that users would typically see.  Any interaction a user makes with content can likely improve with a level of personalization and give them back a feeling of identity.

Vote “NO” for Sharexit – Tip #3: Ask for, and react to, feedback

You probably already have an email that users can send feedback to, or a contact us form for help.  This is not the kind of feedback this tip is talking about.  The real way to gauge overall user satisfaction is to make contextual feedback easy and available in a number of places.  Simple things like “Rate the usefulness of this content” or “Did you find what you were looking for? (yes or no)” makes it easy for users to send quick feedback, and for system owners to judge the overall satisfaction of the users.  You could also ask them to “Please tell us your ideas for new features/enhancements.”  This makes it easy to identify future improvements that can deliver big value to users, by addressing the specific problems users are facing with the system.

A more automated and sophisticated approach would be to use meaningful analytics to really understand what the users are doing and use the results to improve the platform. You do it for your website, why not for your SharePoint implementation? Are your users not citizens? We have done free POCs to accomplish this through our Smart Analytics product, and would be happy to do something similar if this is of interest.

Vote “NO” for Sharexit – Tip #4: Who should I listen to and where are the experts? 

In Brexit nobody was really sure which politicians are experts and which aren’t.  And people had to go to many places to get information. Most SharePoint users have the same problem.  Documents are over here, discussions over there, people are that way, and then I don’t know who the experts really are.  You can make your Intranet a whole lot smarter, or dare we say “intelligent”, if you take advantage of this information in an integrated fashion, exposing your users to connected, but different, information.  You can connect documents to the person who wrote them, then to that person’s expertise and connected colleagues, enabling search for your hidden experts. The ones that can really be helpful often reduce chances for misinformation, repetition of work, or errors. To do this, expertise location capabilities can combine contributed expertise with stated expertise, allowing for easy searching and expert identification.  You can read more about that solution here.

Vote “NO” for Sharexit – Tip #5: Make SharePoint the epicenter of the information universe 

If the UK was the epicenter of Europe, would Brexit have happened? Same for SharePoint. If it is not the epicenter of the world and the desired information is missing, then users will Sharexit. In this case, you do want to provide access to “foreign” information, meaning content that is not residing in SharePoint, but in other systems. You need an active visa waiver program, but make sure security is respected. If users come and can’t find the information they need, then they will not return. The most successful SharePoint implementations enable 90% of the users to find what they are looking for through search in just a few minutes. Our experience suggests that average users come back and use the system more when they find the information they need. BA Insight’s off the shelf connectors can power your visa waiver program and easily integrate this foreign information, all while making your user base love SharePoint.

If you are already doing some of these things, then great, you’ve got a head start.  If you’re not, then these are easy ways to boost user satisfaction of a SharePoint environment and ensure it is delivering real business value.  Feel free to share your top tips in the comments, as these five are just a beginning.

Remember, Vote “NO” for Sharexit!

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