The launch of a new portal is an exciting time for an organization with hopes of fast adoption for your user base, whether you are focusing on students, faculty, staff or community relations. From our experience, the implementation group is usually the most passionate about this new technology offered and it can be difficult to spread that enthusiasm to the end users. This is could be because they had no idea the change was coming, they like the "old" way or they just can't imagine what value the portal will give them. To help you get your audience engaged and using the new SharePoint site, we've put together some tips that will help with usability, awareness and adoption.
Develop FAQ Beforehand
One of the biggest hurdles for new users is understanding the Microsoft SharePoint platform. There can be several, if not hundreds of questions that can tie up your IT team's time and budget, preventing a successful launch. Before your site is launched, take some time to write down all of the questions that a user may have. If SharePoint is second nature to you, then sit down with first timers and see how they maneuver through the program. Write down every question they have and you'll soon understand how they see things. Are they more focused on creating their My Site? Do they want to know where to access documents? What are some key applications they use daily? Once you have an extensive list of FAQs developed, make sure they can be reached from the homepage of the new site. Encourage new users to bookmark this page so your IT team will experience fewer help calls and empower the user to find the solution on their own.
Hold Training Workshops
If you're dealing with an introduction of SharePoint to a group that has never used a portal, such as college freshman, it may be wise to hold a training workshop. This can be done in person, or virtually via a webcast. Going back to the college freshman idea, holding them hostage during orientation would be a great way to capture their attention (just kidding on the hostage part). But seriously, holding a series of webcasts that are coordinated through counselors, department heads, etc. would be a fantastic way of getting the word out and demonstrating how useful this new tools is for them. Taking it a step further, running a webcast focused toward faculty on submitting grades, uploading tests and creating homework assignments could be the first part in getting your faculty on board as well. This content could then be recorded and stored online in a resource center for new faculty, students and staff to refer back to.
Good Ole' Marketing
We know, this sounds redundant. However, follow through on this idea for just a second. So you've created this amazing, game-changing portal that can be used a thousand different ways to disseminate information, pull together your audiences and make their world a better place. Next question is: How are they going to know it exists if you don't capture their attention? This could entail outdoor advertising, direct mail, email marketing, press releases and social media. There's a lot to be done in a successful campaign and we suggest working with your marketing department to see what resources are available and put together a communication plan. Be aware that a good plan can have a six month lead time, so start talking with them well before your intended launch date. If you don't have a marketing department to handle this type of need, the consulting firm handling your implementation should be able to point you in the right direction or discuss further consulting services.
Now that your end users are aware of the new tool, have been through training and see how it can radically improve their life, you're still stumped as to why they don't use it on a regular basis. People need a little push to stay consistent with new technologies until they become habit. A great way of keeping them engaged is to create an incentive program. For example, send them on a virtual treasure hunt. Put together a road map, give them assignments (click paths, completed actions, etc.), and lead them to a prize. If your organization allows, the winning prize could be the first one there gets a $100 gift card to the spirit store or a free ticket to the next football game. The prize doesn't have to be grandiose, but they want to be thanked for participating. So, thank them and revel in the fact that you got them to achieve the feat of getting through a specific task such as scheduling a new event, creating a project site or using the search feature accurately.
We are social beings. Microsoft realized how important this aspect is to those who work or study together on a daily basis and created My Site in SharePoint 2010. Everyone now has a fantastic way of staying connected and remaining productive all in one place. Users are able to setup a customized profile page, create status updates and store their personal documents in one location. To top it off, you can even brand the site with your organization's logo, color scheme, etc. and create an extension for your audience to enjoy being a Georgia Bulldog or a Florida Gator, for example.
Develop a Governance Plan
Setting up a Governance Plan has a few benefits to the organization as well. First, you can be sure the new intranet that your team worked so hard to implement will continue to function smoothly and the way it was meant to. It also provides a chance to gain buy-in from various departments within your organization. It always makes sense to interview future users in order to find out pain points that SharePoint may be able to solve. Highlighting that you heard them and you created a solution always seems to go a long way. A high visibility pilot group is useful as well since SharePoint adoption can be a viral process in large organizations, and user adoption can often come from someone seeing what another group has and begins to use it for their group.