I recently came back from a great lunch, but this was no ordinary lunch, this was a celebratory lunch. So, what were we celebrating? The completion and successful launch of one of the biggest projects that Softlanding has undertaken.
This was a migration project, in my opinion one of the most involved and complex projects a person can hope for. We were going from SharePoint 2003 to 2010. On the ride back from lunch, I got to thinking. Putting all technical details aside, what made this project so successful? Don’t get me wrong we had our share of issues, late nights, “workarounds”, etc… but in the end the solution was what best fit our client’s needs, and the project was deemed a success. So I thought, it would be interesting to showcase some of the things that led to the success of this project.
Buy in from high up
It truly is disappointing to be a part of the project where no one knows why we are doing the project to begin with. If this is the case, it usually means there were no goals defined for the project, and there wasn’t any communication around the most important question, WHY? Why is the company investing so much time, money, and resource effort into this project? Why should I care about this project? These are essential questions that will inevitably come into the minds of your end users and/or stakeholders. It is essential that your executive sponsors believe in the project, they believe that what you are trying to accomplish with this project will directly benefit the organization and those that work there.
In our case, for this project, we had amazing executive buy in. Not only was there consistent communication to the entire organization from the CIO and project manager, but there was actual visibility from the CIO. What do I mean by actual visibility? Well to give you an example during one of the training sessions I was delivering to content champions, the CIO stopped by before the training and gave a five minute briefing to the entire group. He let them know how important it was for them to be there, and how the project was doing. It was thanks to efforts like this that the entire organization was able to see that this initiative wasn’t just implementing technology for the sake of implementing technology, rather it was something that would benefit everyone.
Let there be training
As intuitive as we want to believe SharePoint is or is not, you simply can’t expect for your end users to login to the brand new site and start being highly efficient users, and take advantage of the features that are offered. This is where training comes in, but not just any training. Training shouldn’t be about showing the shiny features of SharePoint, it should be to outline how people can do their work and how SharePoint can help. Focus on process rather than feature set, that’s what leads to making an effective user base.
We were lucky to have a training team at this client that we were able to bring into the mix of the project team. We had about four different levels of training:
1. Content Champion Training: The content champions were an extremely important group, they were spear heading the SharePoint content for their respective departments/business units. We made sure that these content champions felt comfortable with working on their sites. This meant running two workshops in which content champions were given a hands on training session working on a training site which best replicated what the final product would look like.
2. End User Training: Using webinars, end users were brought up to speed in quick sessions that outlined the new Information Architecture, and how to navigate around the new site.
3. Content Migration Training: This was first and foremost a content migration project. The content migration was complex, a combination of automated and manual process. For the manual process, the group of content migrators needed to be brought up to speed as to what was the process of migrating content. This very specific training was delivered to these migrators, making sure the delivery was very close to the actual migration date, so that the training was fresh.
4. IT Training: We wanted to make sure that long after the project was over the client was able to be self-sufficient. This meant from a technical point of view the client’s IT folks needed to be brought up to speed, this meant some administrator training.
Right people for the right job
Looking back, this project was not completed by a small group of people. Everybody had their part, from content champions, project managers, developers, business analysts, content migrators, trainers etc… When all was said and done we were looking at a team of 50+ people. It is important to be realistic with scope and resources.
At the same time, you can’t just pick 50 random people and throw them at the project. It is important to know people’s strengths and weaknesses. Choose the right people for the job, these people will be the factor that determines whether or not a project will be a success.
Create integrated teams (no us and them, just all of us)
One of the important pillars of Softlanding’s project delivery is to ensure an integrated team. This means that we do not come in as simply consultants, rather an extension to our client’s workforce. This means a high level of communication and trust between both teams.
We were fortunate enough to have a great working environment with this client. There was no us, and them, there was just all of us, the working project team. And with such a big team, it was imperative that things don’t get lost in translation and toes are not stepped on. From weekly update meetings and all the way to the project finale lunch where everyone including CIO and CEO (again the buy in from the top), the team was a great fit which meant any problems and tasks were dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
Now this is just one example, and just a small subset of things that made this or any project a success. However, if someone were to ask me, what would be THE one underlying thing that drives any project or implementation? I would simply say, direction. Have clear goals and a powerful reasoning for what you’re doing and the enthusiasm for doing it will come.