SharePoint – An Internal Communicators Guide

Microsoft SharePoint enables important documents and business processes to be stored in a central information hub. It can also be a powerful communication and collaboration tool. However, a SharePoint implementation can also have a disruptive and resource intensive impact on an organization if it is not managed effectively. During times of recession, it is all the more important to find ways to work smarter with less resource.

Follows these tips to maximize the value gained from your SharePoint implementation:

Think of SharePoint as a development platform…not a product

It is a common mistake for people to assume that SharePoint will give them what they want without customization. As a sophisticated software application, SharePoint has many different features and plug-ins which can be confusing. Deployments easily can go wrong if IT teams just turn on additional modules without considering the business case, requirements, and training needed to make them part of an ongoing business process.

The more comprehensive functionality available from SharePoint has to be built by an IT team (or a third party vendor) using SharePoint’s.NET development tools. Hence it is more appropriate to view SharePoint as a ‘development platform’ rather than an ‘out of the box’ product. Representatives from various parts of the business will need to work together with the IT team from the very start of the project. The project team needs to clarify the business requirements and all technical and functional needs of the SharePoint implementation before starting the project.

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Use low cost, plug and play discussion forum tools to enable project teams to share and capture ideas as they crop up prior to, and during, a SharePoint implementation. External discussion forum channels can be simple to deploy, secure, low cost and available on a short term license basis.

Utilise company wide surveys to assess what’s working and what’s not with the existing Intranet and to gather information regarding the tools and resources people would like to see included on the new SharePoint Intranet. Consider using survey tools that can be pushed directly onto employee computer screens so do not get buried in email in boxes. Built in survey reminders can help drive participation which can ensure that all views are represented in the research…including the important but often ‘silent majority’ who perhaps do not have extreme views or agendas and would ordinarily be less motivated to participate.

Target staff surveys to specific groups of employees, for example, managers and heads of departments. Such individuals can be asked questions such as “what specific business value does / could your department derive from an effective Intranet?”, “How might this be quantified?” For example, a sales manager may say it is the number of accurate proposals that sales people are able to produce. This research will provide an important perspective to help you make the SharePoint implementation effective and also help you quantify its value at a later stage.

Start simply and take an iterative approach

Companies that get the SharePoint implementation right, often start simply, with many of the features disabled. Break a SharePoint implementation up into stages and leave the ‘bells-and-whistles’ until last.

For example:

1. Start by simply replacing the existing Intranet. 2. Add document management 3. Add forms management. 4. Add business process and workflow management 5. Start sharing business intelligence dashboards and enterprise reports 6. And so on.

Keep in mind your short term and long term objectives and work with IT while they download SharePoint. Clarify what is required of SharePoint now, what possible extras might be useful and what may be required in the future.

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One of the keys to the successful implementation a new technology is to drive user adoption and regularly gather feedback to evaluate progress.

  • Staff Polls, surveys and discussion forums provide effective ways to gather qualitative and quantitative feedback from staff. Communicating the successive stages of an iterative SharePoint implementation needs to stay interesting for staff, so adopting an engaging and innovative communications campaign is essential.
  • Promote your evolving SharePoint implementation through multiple channels and monitor readership to make sure you’re hitting the mark
  • Short ‘news’ articles in Staff E-Mags can inform readers of new information and the availability of new tools, as well as allowing readers to click directly through to specific SharePoint pages.
  • For project ‘wins’ that you want to profile with more impact, try using digital signage on screensavers. An image is worth a thousand words. For example, an image of a deck chair on the beach with relevant text and a click through link is a powerful and engaging way to notify staff that leave forms are now available via SharePoint.
  • For messages that need high cut through, consider using Desktop Alerts or Scrolling News feeds on staff computer screens

Fill gaps in functionality

By taking what comes bundled in SharePoint, companies can end up compromising on critical functions compared with best-of-breed tools. Light-weight web 2.0 tools such as wikis and blogs appear to be late addition ‘throw-ins’ with functionality that appears to be considerably less than you might expect.

SharePoint does not provide any ‘push communications’ channels. The closest it gets is ‘e-mail alerts’, that are auto generated and can be easily become buried in inboxes, and RSS feeds, that require staff to opt in. Often due to high work loads or a lack of interest, emails have low cut through and staff fail to subscribe to RSS feeds meaning that important updates may never reach them.

Push Communications channels form an important part of an internal communications strategy. This is particularly the case for urgent or important messages that need high cut through.

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Augment SharePoint with other functionality:

  • Use plug and play’ social media channels specifically built for secure employee communications. Select channels that are low cost, easy to use and require very little IT resource to deploy, customize and implement. Some web 2.0 channels can send automated desktop alerts to moderators which will achieve significantly higher cut through (and faster response) than SharePoint’s email alerts.
  • Use RSS tools that allows administrators to push out existing RSS feed sources, via an on screen news ticker (or news aggregator), to targeted staff groups. Hence for important RSS feeds you can remove the step within SharePoint requiring users to opt in. o Snap Desktop Alert provides a means to push out urgent or important communications to targeted staff groups. This desktop alert format bypasses email and pushes content directly onto employee’s computer screens with configurable persistence and recurrence options and helpful reporting features.

Clarify Governance

It is important to clarify the roles and responsibilities for managing a SharePoint site. For example; what are the respective roles of Corporate Communications and IT? Who should ‘own’ the site? Who should be empowered to manage the site? A content management strategy should be developed by a team of representatives from key business areas and cover areas such as:

  • The metrics for content creation
  • Policies regarding when to use, and when not to use, SharePoint
  • The balance be between user generated content, and general ‘corporate’ content
  • Who will manage what content? How?
  • Levels of moderation for different parts of the site
  • How will cross-functional content be managed and monitored?
  • How much time should staff spend surfing and posting SharePoint content?

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Use hosted discussion forums as a quick and easy way to discuss and evolve the governance of SharePoint.

Manage Content

For a successful SharePoint implementation, good site administration and content management are essential. A site administrator needs to manage content, carry out periodic evaluations and act as a facilitator in sustaining participation. An administrator will also need to decommission parts of the site that are no longer required.

SharePoint has relatively light-weight content management capability, additionally, collaboration tools within SharePoint can add user generated content to the chaos. A proliferation of ‘team spaces’ can also serve to create too many silos. The search interface of SharePoint is also considered by some to be weak.

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Not all content needs to be delivered by SharePoint. This is particularly the case for content that may have a short ‘shelf life’ due, for example, to it being associated with a specific campaign or project. Prioritize content and think about its ‘shelf life’ and purpose. Does it really need to be on SharePoint or will it simply add to the chaos?

By eliminating non essential content or content with a short shelf life, the search results from SharePoint are more likely to return useful information.

  • Emags are an excellent way to distribute short shelf life content (e.g. news and admin updates). Chose a format that allows users cato submit their own articles
  • Desktop Alerts and News Tickers can provide message cut through for urgent business updates.

Provide good training and support

Some internal communicators describe SharePoint as ‘clunky and not intuitive’. To ensure you maximize the value derived from SharePoint, it is important to provide adequate training and support to staff. Training for the IT team and administrators can be expensive and time consuming (probably at least a one week ‘boot camp’). Selected ‘power user’ staff will also require 2 to 3 days of training. Even at the departmental level it is useful to get a few people trained in how to use web parts. Once SharePoint becomes available to the wider staff population, they will also need training on how to use the various features that have been enabled on SharePoint. Think twice about launching a site if you can’t provide this sort of effort and resource in terms of training and support.

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Implement a discussion forum as quick and easy means for people to ask questions in an appropriate online ‘helpdesk’. If the format allows it, nominate moderators for each ‘helpdesk’ and set them up to receive desktop alert notifications when new questions are posted (note that SharePoint content alerts are email based which can have low cut through rates and associated response times). Moderators can answer questions directly or point the person to information sources where an answer can be found. Each specific question should be tagged and searchable, meaning that past questions and answers can be easily located in an evolving repository of knowledge.

Use Staff Quizzes as a means to run a SharePoint education program. Business and product focused quizzes can contain links to the Intranet allowing users to research each question before they answer.

Drive adoption and usage

Employees don’t typically seem to like using SharePoint. It’s not intuitive and not particularly exciting. SharePoint pages are often dull and boring. There are some options for making pages more exciting, but pages tend to end up looking similar regardless of customization. In addition, due to SharePoint’s sheer complexity, an implementation can seem to go on forever and users can start to believe that glitches will never be ironed out.

Effective communication is key to acceptance, adoption and effective usage of SharePoint’s features by staff. Changing how people work takes effort. Employees need to be engaged in order for them to use SharePoint effectively.

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Liven up the perception of SharePoint by using a range of dynamic ways to promote the site and drive participation:

  • Digital sigage on screensavers can raise awareness of new information on SharePoint by turning employee screensavers into dynamic interactive bill boards. An image is worth a thousand words. For example, an image of a graduation cap with some relevant text and a click through link is a powerful and engaging way to notify staff that online, self-paced training programs are now available on the Intranet.
  • Staff E-Mags can deliver news updates in a readable and engaging format which include hyperlinks back to SharePoint content (or other information rsources)
  • Ensure any electronic communications channels contain click-through hyperlinks links and therefore act as promotional tools to stimulate interest and drive the usage and value of SharePoint. News feeds, desktop alerts, interactive staff quizzes and surveys can be engaging ways to drive traffic to SharePoint content.

Allocate sufficient budget…and watch the hidden costs

Costs can easily expand with a SharePoint implementation so beware of what you are getting into. There are three levels of SharePoint:

1. Basic version of SharePoint which comes free with Windows server, allowing organizations ‘try before they buy’ 2. Paid version (License fees vary depending on the type and size of an organization) 3. Premium version designed to deliver features such as search.

You may end up paying more than you initially anticipate due to confusion about what features reside within the different SharePoint versions and license fee bands. Additionally you may need to buy SharePoint add-ons which were not previously considered or budgeted for. Other things that can blow out overall project pricing include:

  • Implementation costs
  • Customization costs
  • Systems integration costs

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You can augment SharePoint with inexpensive tools that do not require IT resource for them to be set up and managed. This allows you to try concepts out, test uptake and evolve the approach without the need for ‘big project’ budget, resource or timeframes.

A Few Common Auto Lockout Tools

Getting locked out of our automobile is one unplanned situation that can lead to frustration and anxiety. Consequently, some people at times are tempted to scrounge up whatever we can to utilize as a tool to get access to our automobile – a coat hanger or maybe even a brick. Granted, emergency situations sometimes require drastic measures. However, when we’re not faced with an emergency, getting back into the vehicle is sometimes best left to the experts. Nonetheless, it can still be helpful to understand precisely what a few of these tools do that the locksmith uses to achieve this.

In auto lockouts, the Slim Jim is a tool you’ll often see used on older cars more so than newer models. The reason being is some newer model automobiles have built in internal defenses that block the use of the Slim Jim to prevent auto theft. Dependent on on the expertise of the locksmith, your automobile can be unlocked within a matter of minutes using a Slim Jim. Technically, the Slim Jim tool cannot be regarded as a lock pick tool as it does not actually work with the lock mechanism in the vehicle. Instead, it allows one to control the link that unlocks. One drawback of using this type of tool is an inexperienced user might actually disconnect the linkage to the door lock. If this happens, even the original key will not unlock the door.

Another commonly used tool of the auto locksmith is the inflatable wedge. This particular locksmith tool has rounded corners which allows easy penetration between the vehicle door and frame. After you slip the wedge in between your door and frame, an air pump is utilized to inflate the wedge and create a seam so that other unlocking tools can be utilized, like a Slim Jim, to open the door completely. It can be handy for not only the locksmith profession, but also the police, fireman and other emergency personnel. Built from of non-marring vinyl, it is considered safe for use on any vehicles.

A Jiggler is actually a thin piece of metal cut in the general shape of a key. The Jiggler slides into the key way of many locks and most car locks. Jigglers come in a group, having a variety of basic cuts that vaguely resemble cuts on keys of specific manufacturers. A Jiggler is slipped in the lock and moved around, much as using a rake type pick, until the lock opens. If one Jiggler does not work then the next one in the set is tried. The chance of success depends upon the skill of the operator and some luck.

When being locked out of an automobile, the anxiety and frustration of the situation can quite often cause people to make hasty decisions to gain entry to their vehicle. The last thing you want to do is cause damage to your vehicle and then have to pay a locksmith for their services anyhow. If you do not have the proper tools or have limited or no knowledge of the tools you’ve got, it is best to speak to a reputable locksmith in your town to help you get back into your vehicle.

The Global Market Place of International Professional Marketing

International professional marketing is the byproduct of the global acceptance of international trade which makes the globe one huge market. Global trade continues to grow in scale due to several reasons. One of the biggest fuels of globalization is technological advancement. Improved communication and transportation has made trade more practical than ever. Access to the very best products from all around the globe now has almost no limits. The rapidly changing technology has also forged strict competition between firms as to which is fastest in developing and producing the newest in technology.

Countries in the past decades have all taken several steps to promote global trade through various trade agreements such as the General Treaty on Trade and Tariffs, and trade organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the European Union (EU) as a means of accommodating the realities of an economy gearing towards one global market.

Stages in the International Involvement of a Firm based on International Professional Marketing
A firm may go through several stages before it becomes fully able to compete across local boarders and into the international scene. A business generally starts as a purely domestic firm, focusing full attention on its home market and has no current plans of offshore expansion and does not consider any material threats from abroad. Such firm may eventually receive orders from abroad. Such orders may be seen under two different lights. First, the firm may see them as a hustle especially in the case of small orders because of the great deal of effort and expenses required in relation to the very modest related revenue. Second, the firm may see them as new opportunities, realizing that potential to expand and enter the foreign markets exists.

The firm that possesses the second view will eventually begin to export more and more. It soon fully enters the export stage where little effort is made to market the product overseas, although the number of offshore orders continues to increase.

The firm may then opt to enter more countries sequentially, with the aim of establishing a network of markets over a geographical group of countries. The firm can begin with the country from which the most overseas orders come and start developing the products popularity there. Little learning and marketing efforts are going to be shared among countries and the firm will likely have branch offices or subsidiaries focused only on the market of the country in which they are located.

The firm upon reaching the multinational stage will then engage in standardization across a certain region such as Central America, West Africa, or Northern Europe to make its activities and processes simpler and easier. Developing a standard marketing mix that will work for a certain group of countries is likely to generate more revenues through greatly decreased costs. Such marketing mix can be made possible with international professional marketing.

The firm upon multinational success will eventually reach the global stage wherein all focus centers on the entire World Market. Decisions will be made with the aim of optimizing the products position across the global market as a whole. The home country as the center of the product completely becomes a thing of the past. An example of a truly global company that makes use of international professional company is Coca Cola.

These stages demonstrate the growth from a fully local point of operations to a completely global scale. The journey is not easy and companies may fall in between these stages, get stuck in one stage or even fall back to one of the stages it has already passed. Certain parts of the firm may possess the characteristics of different stages such as the pickup truck division of an auto-manufacturer may be largely domestically focused, while the passenger car division is globally focused. A global focus is generally fitting for large companies, but such may not be the case for smaller companies as some hindrances may prove to be too big to conquer. For example, manufacturers of ice cubes may do well as domestic, or even locally centered, firms.