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How Evolved Is Your SharePoint Knowledge?

SharePoint Education-In the Right Direction

With the introduction of SharePoint 2013 in August 2012, Microsoft wrote a new chapter in the success story of SharePoint. Regardless of whether the implemented version doesn’t fail from a technical perspective, many SharePoint projects fail because their the infrastructure, organization and delivery aspects of the delivery don’t fit the company’s goals.

The SharePoint Maturity Model

The model presented here has inspired by the pioneering approach of Sadie van Buren which in early 2011, through various channels of the SharePoint community and following the process-based model approach has been developed as a product of system consulting advice by the authors. The model is intended for SharePoint managers who want to ensure that their SharePoint environment is coupled with business objectives. To help support these objectives, the allocation of resources, both in hardware and software and other services must be considered, realistic and cost effective. The maturity levels described in our SharePoint Maturity Model are based on the well-known CMMI model.

This article presents the approach as well as a few examples to assist the reader to understand and apply aspects of the maturity model.

The process model is divided into six steps, and it is intended to be applied cyclically, again and again to match the current level of maturity with your SharePoint strategy. For this purpose, the authors have developed an extensive list of questions based on their practical experience in the European and Asia Pacific markets.

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Figure 1 – The maturity model approach

Basic Frame Parameters

For the SharePoint Maturity Model three main aspects are relevant:

  1. The deployed feature set
  2. The processes and organization of SharePoint
  3. The underlying infrastructure

This division is a deviation from the original approach of Sadalit van buren, but the authors consider the holistic approach most suited.

The deployed feature set considers the possible features sets that can be deployed such as MySites, BCS and publishing. The processes and organization of SharePoint considers aspects such as deployment processes, Service and Support Organization, and guidelines. The underlying infrastructure considers areas such as server architecture, backup and Staging environments.

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Figure 2 – Maturity level

In every area a company can reach several grades which are symbolized by a point value, as is common practice with the well-known CMMI-model.

The following section provides a high-level overview of the 6 steps of the Maturity Model the authors apply when working with their customers.

Step 1: Analysis of the Company’s Individual SharePoint Strategy

The first step is an important basis for the entire approach. Here we should carrying out an analysis associated with company’s SharePoint strategy. It is important that a holistic picture of the company’s goals is created. It is necessary that the consultant receives information about problem areas of the platform and existing solutions. This allows for individual adaptation of the target-maturity based on the outcome of the questions.

The authors have developed a set of twenty common issues that drive the initial strategy questions. The authors have roughly based this on the well-known SharePoint wheel published by Microsoft for release of SharePoint 2010 and their practical experience, allowing for the issues and questions to be expanded and customized where required.

Typical questions asked in this initial analysis step are:

“Does your company plan to establish Social Collaboration on SharePoint?”

The customer can choosefrom four different answers:

  1. Not at all
  2. Yes for blogs and wiki
  3. Yes with MySite and Activity Stream
  4. Yes by using social add-ons (beesy, newsgator etc.)

In addition, comments can be added by the comments as part of a detailed description.

Step 2: Beginning of the Target-Maturity

Based on the results derived during the analysis phase the maturity model is customized to provide a view on the target-maturity. In particular, this includes a forward-looking perspective in order to ensure that the company’s objectives in the short to medium term can be supported as efficiently and cost effectively as possible based on the current state of the SharePoint environment.

For each of the sub-sections of the maturity model objectives are formed and corresponding point values are set.

For example the for the sub-area of deployment; if your customer doesn’t plan on using SharePoint as a development platform for applications, no maturity is needed in the sub-area of deployment and it can be assigned the maturity level value ‘0’. The result is a commented and justified target graph for the target maturity state which is agreed with your customer and further fine-tuned if necessary.

Step 3: Analysis of the Current Installation and Organization

In preparation for the target gap analysis of the current situation any in terms of the three basic frame parameters discussed earlier, another specially developed questionnaire is used. There are 50 detailed questions covering aspects of implementation, the organization and the features set used. An example is:

“Whichpoint best describes how document storage is handled in your SharePoint environment?”

The customer can choose from up to five answer. Through individual explanations, the answers can be detailed with your customer.

  1. Documents are organized in folders in across different areas, without attributes
  2. Documents have attributes instead of organizing them in folders, and they are stored in across different areas
  3. Site Columns and Managed Metadata standardize the attributes for documents
  4. Governance for document management is defined
  5. Central Document Management with personalization for the user

As can be seen the answers correlate with the possibilities already defined in the Maturity Model. This makes it possible to set point values for different aspects of the current situation, in this case, for the sub-area ‘Features’.

Step 4: Define the Deviation from the Target – Gap Analysis

Building on the target-maturity objectives, the analysis of the individual areas are compared and the areas in which improvements are needed are identified to reach the ideal maturity. The areas in which the current installation and organization deviates too far from the company’s target objectives are identified based on their values. As a result, this gap analysis results in an individual goal achievement grid, as shown in Figure 3 below.

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Figure 3 – Result of the SharePoint Maturity analysis in terms of a GAP representation

Step 5: Definition of Improvement Measures

In this final step improvement measures are derived with your customer stemming from the results of the analysis measures that allow for adjusting the current situation to the target maturity that the customer strives for. It is important that measures be developed in dialogue with your customer in order to achieve a good fit for the company specific SharePoint situation.

The action here can be in many different forms, ranging from the simple activation of features, including Metadata Storage, to the adaptation of the service organization, right through to the inclusion of additional Web front-end servers or the integration of Enterprise Search.

A decision template is used and at the end and a roadmap for implementation will be developed and delivered as an integral part of the overall analysis of the customer’s objectives based on the measures identified.

Step 6: Review and Adaption

The authors recommend to monitor the implementation of the measures on a regular basis and to examine the original strategy annually for changes to enable new measures to be developed and adaptations of the target maturity as the business matures. Through this review the business can be assured that the SharePoint service organization and infrastructure is adapted in line with changing business goals and future development is sustainable, adequate and cost-effective.

The following sections illustrates the model based on two example scenarios.

Example Scenario 1

In the first example, the authors have chosen to describe the maturity model process for a large fictious international company called firma.loc. This company would like to use Microsoft SharePoint 2010 primarily as a central platform for collaborative solutions and business applications. For this purpose the following initial position was created:

The Microsoft SharePoint 2010 farm consists of three Web front-end servers, two application servers and one Microsoft SQL database server dedicated to the SharePoint farm. The second database server acts as a backup server and it’s a mirror of the Production SQL Server. The SharePoint farm is connected to the company’s existing domain controllers and the Exchange infrastructure, as you can see from the figure 4. There are two web applications, a web page containing the collections for collaboration and for different business applications. Resource-intensive services, such as Excel Services and Web services are outsourced to the second application server.

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Figure 4 – Overview IT landscape Example 1

The web application for collaboration consists of a loose collection of different Web page collections. For individual departments or divisions, such as Human Resources or IT services, there is one website collection. These were created with a SharePoint 2010 template according to the wishes of the departments. Below a department page, sub-sites can be set up for teams or projects. This is done by a “power user” in the departments and with the support of the central IT. For these sub-sites the SharePoint default templates “Team Site”, “Meeting” and “Blog” are available.

For Business Applications, there is a central entry page that contains a list of applications. Each application is an independent website collection. There is also a news ticker, for example, to provide real time information about maintenance or planned changes. The end user can jump directly from the home page in the single application, or via a central issue tracker, report problems or to track the status of a reported problem. In addition, a central help area was created where information and guidance on standard SharePoint features is available as well as special help sections for the individual applications. A training portal is also offered here for the user to login to directly or via pages in the help section.

Analysis of the Company’s Individual SharePoint Strategy

During the analysis phase a comprehensive analysis of the business goals and individual issues are discussed and evaluated. For example, the question “Does your company plan to establish Social Collaboration on SharePoint?” provides the answer of “the goal of the company is to provide blogs and wikis” therefore the introduction of functions in the “social collaboration” feature set will aid to increase the attractiveness of the already used SharePoint areas of collaboration. Overall, the first impression that the company will continue to place the main focus of the SharePoint environment on the existing collaboration areas and business applications, and this potential for optimizing the use of scenarios has been identified. Further through the conversation it becomes evident that employees are generally satisfied with the existing business applications, but the collaboration area doesn’t meet their requirements.

Beginning of the Target-Maturity

The creation of the target-maturity is a derivative of the different areas of the aforementioned SharePoint wheel. For example, the aim of optimization potential will be demonstrated for complex business applications with links to external systems, as well as optimization potential in the areas of integration and infrastructure which has a target maturity level of 500 and the Business Processes for business applications has a value of 400. From the first conversation regarding target-maturity the following goals, their areas and associated values are:

  • Business Process: Maturity Level 400
  • Collaboration: Maturity Level 300
  • Composites and Applications: Maturity Level 500
  • Integration: Maturity Level 500
  • Infrastructure: Maturity Level 500
  • People and Communities: Maturity Level 300
  • Staffing and Training: Maturity Level 500

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Figure 5 –
Example Infrastructure values

Analysis of the Current Installation and Organization

The next step will be discussed together with a detailed analysis of the qualifying questions asked to the company in order to analyze the implementation and organization of the SharePoint farm.

For the domain of – “How are your Collaboration Websites structured?”

The following questions were answered with a “Yes”:

  • Sites are created with OOB Templates, in different sections
  • It exists an own Web Application for Collaboration sites
  • Different OOTB Site Templates are used, depending on the business needs, e.g. blog or wiki

The following questionswere answered with a “no”:

  • Site Templates are customized, based on business needs, e.g. to manage projects. It exits an central entry point
  • Life Cycle Management process is implemented, including, request, provisioning, de-provisioning and archiving

For the following question:

“How is the Knowledge Management for employees organized?”

All the following questions are answered with a “Yes”:

  • The information for an application or section are shared directly between the users
  • each department or team has its power user, who is able to train users and knows the main structure and content of your SharePoint environment
  • In single sections or applications information and instructions are prepared to guide the user
  • Central help site which provides information and instructions. A central support function is integrated
  • Regular end user trainings are planned based on the special business needs. The user will be informed about changes and new sections

In addition, the following comment was made:

“For the Collaboration section only the first two answers are correct, the Business Application section provides a better Knowledge Management.”

Define the Deviation from the Target – Gap Analysis

Based on the answers received in step 3, the results shown that there is room for improvement in the areas of Search, People and Communities and thus a gap to the target-maturity is present in these areas.

Definition of Improvement Measures

On the basis of the difference between the pre-established objective of the international company and the results of analysis, measures are derived. The basis for these measures is a combination of Microsoft’s recommendations and best practices as well as the authors experience of previously completed projects for other clients. It is important to note here that not all goals can be depicted by fixed measures, so there are times where further company-specific measures need to be developed in the gap analysis representation / table as depicted in Figure 3.

For the company, the following measures shall be adopted:

  • Extension of Knowledge Management on all aspects of SharePoint farm, in which a central help section is created, which also takes into account the aspects in the field of collaboration
  • Increase the usability in the field of collaboration through the introduction of customized templates, taking into account the requirements of the application, e.g. by using special templates for projects
  • Integration of commenting on contents and forum administration of wiki and blog feature sets
  • Integration of defined search scopes to optimize search results, especially in the area of collaboration

Review and Adaption

Most defined measures can be implemented within six months with the company, then further analysis provides hereafter in order to ensure a successful implementation and the other on areas consistently to develop. For example, a next target in the “Collaboration” the maturity level to reach 400, then to another measure would be to implement a central home page with a continuous navigation.

Example Scenario 2

This second example is somewhat smaller, but points to a SharePoint scenario which is very common in practice – namely the use of SharePoint as a document management system only. The SharePoint 2010 farm in this scenario consists of a Web front-end server, an application server and a Microsoft SQL database server.

There is a web application that includes a central website collection. In this website collection, there is a central home page that lists the different areas the user can access. In this case the options available are either central libraries of templates, forms or sub sites for departments or teams for the pure exchange of documents. There are clear guidelines for the user, how and what types of documents must be uploaded to the document management system. The properties for documents are centrally managed by content types or managed metadata. Specific views have been set up in the document libraries for the different department requirements. Documents are published through a release process and monitored as part of Content Life Cycle Management and archived by a third-party solution, moved or deleted.

Since a relatively large number of Excel spread sheets are available in the document management system, the company’s desire to use SharePoint as a Business Intelligence front-end. The individual departments mainly use SharePoint to store reports and statistics directly in SharePoint. So instead of using multiple and above all different data objects provided by a range of different Business Intelligence tools, the target-state is to use SharePoint.

For this application scenario, the target values of the maturity level are in the range of Insight: 300, Infrastructure: 200 and Staffing and Training: 200.

The conclusion, based on the questionnaire results and maturity gap analysis is that the infrastructure and organization is sufficient, but the value for Insights shows that these features should be developed in the first step.

The company should perform the installation and activation of the out-of-the-box features, such as Microsoft PowerPivot and integration of external data sources. Other measures include combining the existing reports and implementation of Drill-Down / Up functionalities will greatly enhance usability.

Conclusion

Based on the preliminary work of Sadalit van Buren, the authors have developed a consulting approach to the SharePoint Maturity Model that enables organizations to allocate the right mix of SharePoint resources before the implementation of SharePoint to maximize the success of meeting company objectives. Using this approach also provides the possibility to examine these SharePoint resources and to optimize them so that the user experience, service quality and maintainability, update and migration capability of SharePoint is guaranteed.

This allows the model long-term help to ensure that regardless of the version of SharePoint employed, a sustainable contribution to the improvement of Collaboration, Document Management and Search and all other corporate goals is assured. It creates the possibility that the organization invests in exactly the areas that are required for the intended use and avoids investments in features and hardware that are not relevant.

About the Authors:

Sebastian BioSebastian Gerlingis Section Manager at CGI Germany responsible for CGI’s Microsoft Business Productivity Consulting team. He is mainly working as a project manager for large scale SharePoint and CRM projects. In addition, he is founder of the Nuremberg SharePoint User Group, leader of the Munich SharePoint User and Cloud Group and is a regular speaker and author for SharePoint publications and at events across Europe.

To read more from Sebastian follow his blog.

Lana BioLana Khouryis the Digital Enterprise SME in the Chief Innovation team for CGI’s largest global account responsible for developing and delivering innovation in the domain of Digital Enterprise, specifically Customer Experience, SharePoint and Salesforce.com. Lana has worked with Sebastian on other SharePoint articles published in the DIWUG e-Magazine (Dutch Information Worker User Group) and presented at the Belgian Information Worker User Group and SP24.

To see what Lana is sharing in her network follow her here.

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