SharePoint 2013 & Office 365 Training & End-User Adoptions Strategies

Posted by Errin O'Connor on Mar, 19, 2015 08:03

When developing a new training strategy for your organization, it should be approached in a context that matches where your organization is currently at within your overall implementation. If you are developing a training strategy in conjunction with a new implementation effort or upgrade / migration initiative, it is important to tie your training project into your overall implementation and communication strategy. If you already have your SharePoint 2013, Office 365 of SharePoint Online implementation complete or have been “live” for some time and are looking to improve upon or implement a new training initiative, then you can approach this in terms of a more separate or “siloed” initiative.

The landscape of SharePoint 2013Office 365 and SharePoint Online training is vastly different than that of previous releases such as SharePoint 2007 or SharePoint 2010. SharePoint training used to be big business for “training-specific” companies who could convince organizations to have 10 to 20 of their users attend a 4 or 5 day training class for a specific type of user such as “end user training,” “administrator training,” or “developer” training.

I am not saying that this type of offering is not still available or does not offer value as there are many “training-specific” companies still offering these types of courses but the feedback I have received over the years from current and previous clients as well as from those at SharePoint conferences or “user groups” who have taken this type of training has been mixed at best.

On the major issues with this type “canned” training is the mixed user “student” audience that makes up a given class and the vast differences in the level of knowledge they may or may not already have about the technology.

The focus of your organization’s training initiatives should be around your tailored environment (showing your branding, navigation, etc.) and what you are actually trying to accomplish as well as the underlying requirements of your users. This must be done in a manner that ensures the right balancing act of governance and user empowerment by training and related user activities.

Key Considerations and Strategies to Ensure Long-term Training Success

Like any initiative, you must involve key business stakeholders while also being able to not only identify the business need for this training but provide a strategy to ensure it has long-term ROI for the organization. This is going to be a high profile initiative that affects the day-to-day activities of just about everyone in your organization who utilizes SharePoint so it must be done right.

Are there previous technology initiatives that have implemented successful training that you can review to see how they worked with your organization’s user base? I ask this questions because every single organization is different and the culture and users themselves vary in terms of how they “feel” they should be trained. This does not mean you have to follow the same strategy of a previous training initiative as users do not always know what is best for them in terms of learning a new technology and may have preconceived notions around it.

Also when thinking about preconceived notions that users may have, they may have a feeling about SharePoint based on previous experiences in SharePoint 2010, 2007, or even 2003 at a prior job or even a previous rollout and feel that is:

  • SharePoint is just a glorified file share
  • SharePoint is too complex for what I need to do my job
  • Not secure enough to store my documents
  • Ugly and has a terrible interface and not easy or enjoyable to use
  • Not strong enough in terms of search and finding my content

What Type of Training Should You Offer?

There are many different types of training you can offer your organization’s users but which ever path you choose to follow it must be tailored for your organization. SharePoint training can be offered or performed via:

  • Instructor in a classroom type setting
  • Dedicated training site with videos, “one-pagers,” FAQs, etc.
  • One-on-one mentoring
  • Internal user groups
  • Power user workshops
  • Web-based training by an instructor via WebEx or Lync

It is important to understand the end-state result of what you want to achieve from training and apply metrics to it that will allow you to determine its success. Set some initial benchmarks around the method or methods of training you are offering and see which one is providing the best results.

Training must focus on the business goals and what SharePoint 2013, Office 365 or SharePoint Online is being used for such as a:

Training must also focus on the culture and specific details around your organization and its user base and you must develop your training around knowing the answer to questions such as:

  • Where are my users located?
  • What are the organization’s demographics?
  • Does the organization strive to be innovative or “leading edge” or be more structured and “safe” around new technologies

No matter what methods you choose to develop your training around you much ensure it is engaging or users will quickly lose interest and also communicate their opinions to other users. You must showcase the platforms overall solutions and not just specific features. Try to provide use cases or “success stories” around how the platform has helped a specific set of users or department achieve certain criteria.

Internal Power User or Monthly SharePoint User Group for your organization

There are public SharePoint and Office 365 user groups all over the country but you should consider setting one up internal to your organization. I have seen this get great traction and really provide the opportunity for users to share stories about what has worked for them as well as what hasn’t and how they have gone about achieve success.

This helps empower a cross functional user group of end users as well as power users and site owners.

These “internal user groups” help to promote governance as well and users come together in a “home owners association” type manner where they all feel they are on the same team and wanting to improve the overall community.

Focus on a Tailored Curriculum for Your Organization

In most all cases, canned training does not work for SharePoint 2013, Office 365 or SharePoint Online initiatives unless its goal is to ensure that all users are “level set” and have a baseline set of knowledge for which you can then build your training upon.

When you develop tailored training and a corresponding tailored curriculum you must do so in a manner that focuses on your organization’s business drivers and map out specific training roles and tasks. Once you have determined your training delivery methods you can then start to build the components of your overall training effort that includes:

  • Standardized PowerPoint training decks
  • Custom videos
  • One pagers that focus on a specific function
  • Classroom standards on how many students each class should be limited to as well as elements like time limits
  • Breakout workshops around governance or search
  • Leverage your organization’s users who feel strongly about the benefits of the platform

SharePoint & Office 365 Training “From the Consulting Trenches”

EPC Group will continue this series of blog posts in the weeks to come to touch on the real-world “from the consulting trenches” approach that EPC Group has successfully implemented for hundreds of organizations throughout North America.

About the Author

Errin O'Connor

With over 25 years of experience in Information Technology and Management Consulting, Errin O’Connor has led hundreds of large-scale enterprise implementations from Business Intelligence, Power BI, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, IT Security, Azure and Hybrid Cloud efforts for over 165 Fortune 500 companies.

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