What Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer means to SHI

 In Microsoft, Software

Upon first reading the rumors that Microsoft would soon acquire Yammer — and that this acquisition was based on Yammer technology to improve the social aspect of SharePoint — I reacted in roughly the same way that Tommy Lee Jones did when Harrison Ford proclaimed, “I DIDN’T KILL MY WIFE!” in the movie “The Fugitive.”

I didn’t care.

It’s not that these revelations weren’t significant. They were. Acquiring the cloud-based enterprise social network could improve the social collaboration capabilities of the next version of SharePoint (possibly in Q1 of 2013), if Microsoft chooses to do so. (As for the other? Well, Ford jumped off a 225-foot dam into an active spillway without a scratch.)

SharePoint has been the backbone of SHI’s company intranet since 2006. Over these past six years, I learned that an effective, enterprise-wide rollout of SharePoint is as much about the business and cultural decisions made as it is the technology itself.

During more than a few webinars and on-site customer visits, I’ve demonstrated the MySHI website to IT managers who were already very well versed in the technical capabilities of SharePoint.

But, they wanted to see how SOMEONE ELSE uses it. Nine times out of 10, clients who toured MySHI came away with a few ideas they could immediately implement. We also received some great suggestions from them, too.

SHI uses SharePoint internally as a company intranet landing page for navigation, company blogs, press clippings, quick sales tips, etc.; for HR and operations information; to access “Partner Pages” (that standardize how the information of hundreds of software and hardware suppliers are placed at our reps’ fingertips); and for “Team Sites,” which help our larger teams support global customers in the IT, telecom, pharma, and financial fields around the world.

To optimize SharePoint for our 1,900 employees, we needed:

  • Executive sponsorship. SHI CEO Thai Lee first made the mandate to move away from the system of posting and sharing documents on Lotus Notes (which we were quickly outgrowing) to SharePoint. She has supported the platform with the resources needed to maintain it ever since.
  • SharePoint Administrators. Not just the people who can help with the technical aspects, but also those who knew the structure of our organization. SHI’s SharePoint admins were almost always promoted from within, being trained on the technology. And they already had an understanding of how their old neighbors SEARCHED for information because they had done it themselves.
  • Power users in each department. HR updates its section all the time. So does accounting. And at SHI, Volume Licensing execs and Hardware Support groups LIVE in MySHI. We empowered and trained at least one SharePoint power user in each department to quickly answer the question, “How do you do this in SharePoint?”
  • Active bloggers and gatekeepers. Our site was originally called MySHI because we thought end users would directly control the content of their own homepages and the site would run itself. The initial result? Well, except for the sound of ME jumping off the dam instead of Harrison Ford, we received silence. Our sales people were too busy supporting their clients to build customized homepages for themselves, and rightly so. (It makes perfect sense NOW.) Fortunately, we quickly tapped into some reliable content contributors in marketing, sales, and sales support positions that created a pipeline of information and helped put a fun and informative spin on the company and the industry.
  • Thick skin. If administrators are looking for praise, managing the intranet is not the place to find it. Someone is always going to think information should be presented in a different way. Feedback is fantastic, but administrators cannot be in a constant state of decision-making. Sooner or later, it has to “go to print.” Every now and then, someone will pass in the hall and say, “Nice MySHI blog.” If the site is running correctly, that’s all that’s needed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to check “Site Actions” and find the report that tracks how many visits the intranet receives each month.

It’s 185,856 visits in the last 30 days, but who’s counting?

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