Protiviti / SharePoint Blog

SharePoint Blog

May 13
Build Happy SharePoint Consumers

In Protiviti’s work to help our Clients both achieve and sustain adoption of their SharePoint Intranet, we have found the necessary activities mirror the work done by successful consumer brands to affect consumer choice and influence consumer activity.

It is well known that consumer brands are required to make significant and continued investments to influence action.   Done well, these investments first result in awareness, then in a transaction and, possibly, after sustained delivery of value, brand loyalty.  The drive to achieve widespread adoption of SharePoint within organizations requires similar focus and execution.  The simple reason?   Prospective SharePoint users (all of us) are consumers.

As consumers, we buy for both practical reasons and emotional reasons.  Of course, the practical ones generally come down to some clear benefit (cost, availability, delivery timeframe, etc.) while the emotional ones are a bit harder to quantify, but very important.  For example, when given the choice between Coke and Pepsi, I’ll always choose Coke because I relate to the polar bear campaign that’s been around for almost 100 years.  That’s a personal choice, of course, some may more closely identify with Pepsi and their “Live for Now” campaign.

The point?  Since we are all consumers, we are accustomed to choice - to having direct input into the way we spend our limited resources, be they time, money or effort.  SharePoint consumers within your organization have that same choice, so the key to unlocking SharePoint’s potential and achieving widespread adoption is to approach the work as if the SharePoint Intranet were a consumer brand.  Let’s think in terms of differentiating from competition and helping our consumers to achieve benefit or avoid loss.   Most importantly, let’s define both the specific value that the individual can enjoy by making the choice to actively use SharePoint and the resulting value to the organization.  

To do so effectively, it’s necessary to document the metrics we want to affect and closely monitor our progress against those metrics as we engage our consumers.

Our Consumer Behavior

We understand that there is a choice in every scenario and the choice we make needs to be justified based on either achieving benefit or avoiding negative consequence.  And, no one had to teach us this outlook; it’s a natural understanding based both on our nature and our experience.  If we ever touched hot coals, we’re unlikely to willingly repeat that same mistake because we want to avoid the consequence.   Similarly, we may be willing and enthusiastic to repeat a decision to volunteer our time based on the benefit it provided to us and others.  The point is that we are not too rigid to change behaviors or embrace something new; we just have to be empowered to make an informed decision.   And that decision will always be about either achieving benefit or avoiding consequence.

Let’s consider this behavior in the context of adopting SharePoint.  What clear benefit can be realized or what negative consequence can be avoided?  Here are some representative consumer groups and scenarios that can guide the approach.

  • Project Managers.  They are likely to embrace collaborative SharePoint features if those features can assist in achieving projects that are on time, on budget and within scope.   If a project team member can’t access the project site when outside the corporate network, that one factor may discourage the project manager and team from leveraging SharePoint.  If the use of SharePoint threatens to delay a deliverable and damage a relationship, then the choice to avoid is easy.  
  • Business Developers.  This team may very well collaborate on proposal documents within SharePoint, but not if that activity takes more time or is more complex than the current process.   In that case, it’s a clear choice to avoid the potential loss of efficiency that could result from the latest proposal version being “lost” in SharePoint.  Negative consequences can be avoided by continuing to use shared drives and email.  Creating new Clients will always be much more important than efficient document management. 
  • Product Engineering Teams.  How about this group that may be spread across multiple continents and time zones?  Wouldn’t they benefit greatly from having a single, web based source for the latest product specifications, design documents and ongoing collaboration among the team?   Absolutely, but they will never find out if sites are too difficult to provision or if access is unreliable.

Much like the consumer marketing organizations that can provide a model for us, we’ll only achieve success by engaging our consumers and determining what it important for them.  Like a corporate marketing strategy, the method for achieving sustainable adoption needs to be clearly defined before consumers are engaged.  As we have all experienced at one point or another, it’s much more difficult to re-engage our consumer colleagues after an ineffective training effort than it is to spend the necessary time up front to make that effort effective.

OK, but we are at work

Since we consumers may collect benefits like an annual salary, a 401K plan, medical expense coverage, etc., we’re not exactly like consumers in all of our work activities.  After all, those benefits provided by the employer should assure the organization of something more than fickle consumers whose activity needs to be influenced at every turn by some brilliant campaign, right?   (Yes, but only to an extent.)  Within enterprise wide information technology, there are scenarios in which we consumers face no choice other than adoption, for example.

  • Entering time.  Whether this process involves simply “punching the clock” or using an ERP system to track specific activities, consumers use it regardless of the quality of the interface or the ease of use.  Why?  Because it is simple for us to understand that the activity directly relates to getting paid or invoicing Clients.
    • The benefit gained?  Collecting salary.
    • The consequence avoided?  Discipline for delaying the invoicing process.
  • Entering expenses.  Anyone who has used personal funds for a business expense is willing to fight through temporary access challenges or an initial lack of understanding to correctly enter expenses.
    • The benefit gained?  Recouping funds.
    • The consequence avoided?  Interest charges, late payments…annoyed spouses (?).
  • Tracking Key Performance Indicators.  If any part of our earnings are variable and based on achieving specific metrics, we will be happy to document those metrics and log progress against them in a human capital management system.
    • The benefit gained?  Tracking achievement to receive benefit.
    • The consequence avoided?  Loss of variable compensation. 

We consumers, being generally risk averse and focused on our day to day professional responsibilities, won’t embrace the new or additional unless the benefit gained and/ or consequence avoided in doing so is made clear.  In the above examples, they are made clear.  So, how to communicate and prove to these consumers already inundated with choice, that SharePoint provides enough benefit or avoids enough negative consequence to be worth the investment? 

Of course, there is substance to the idea of loyalty to the organization that employs us simply because we are team players.  Some of the more self-aware consumers among us may even think “hey, the organization has been good to me; therefore, I’m willing to embrace this SharePoint thing, even if the value to me right now is fuzzy.”

That type of an outlook represents a clear opportunity to those of us responsible for influencing SharePoint behavior within organizations and is a very significant advantage that we hold when compared with consumer marketing teams.   While they need to convince consumers that their brand represents better value (more benefit, less consequence) than tens or hundreds of other brands with similar products, we only need to focus on how our brand (SharePoint) is more effective than a limited amount of known competitors, for example shared drives, email, third party online file shares, general inertia, etc.

(Keep in mind, though, that no one was hired to use SharePoint, so goodwill aimed at the company is no guarantee of patience or performance if SharePoint continues to represent a vague value proposition.)

Another factor in our favor is that we have a captive audience.  There’s really no mystery to the size or demographic makeup of this audience.  We know exactly who we want to influence; we need to determine what is beneficial to our audience and communicate those benefits clearly and consistently. 

Yet another advantage at our disposal is that the communication opportunity is already built in for us in the form of executive updates, monthly or quarterly meetings, regional roundtables and other common workplace meetings.

Now our path forward to helping our consumers realize value from SharePoint is becoming clear.  First, understand that we are in a competitive marketplace (for attention), but that we do have some significant competitive advantages, including:

·         ready demographic information,

·         relationships  with our “captive audience” consumer colleagues,

·         emotional attachments to our brand held by some of those colleagues, and

·         influential leaders who can help to communicate vision and generate awareness and enthusiasm. 

How can you leverage those benefits to help your fellow consumers understand and benefit from the value offered by SharePoint?​

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