How to Guarantee Successful Office 365 & SharePoint Deliveries: Our Consultancy Approach

Office 365 and SharePoint

As I am nearing 5 years working as an Office 365 and SharePoint Consultant with AMT Evolve, I decided to take the time to reflect on the high level approach we use to ensure that our deliveries are successful in meeting our clients needs and objectives.

We have delivered many projects, both large and small, for a wide variety of differing business sectors. However, at the core there are 5 high level phases that we utilise to ensure the continuation of positive feedback and client retention through delivery of systems and services that make a difference.

The Discovery Phase

This phase allows a consultant to embed themselves within an organisation, and really get to learn the way they work, the company culture, their motivation and the current perspective of Office 365 and SharePoint.

Meeting with a variety of key stakeholders through meetings, workshops, desk based interviews, floorwalking and observations leads to increased understanding of the way that the organisation works, and sets the gears in motion for the identification of new processes that could be introduced, utilising the Office 365 platform.

I believe that when consulting there can never be too much information gathered in the early stages, as a minor piece being missing can impact on the success of the project. For example, some clients may be extremely visual, meaning that a simple selection of the wrong colour could put them off accessing a new system that increases their efficiency (to me it’s crazy, but I have seen it happen!).

Gap Analysis is an important technique that is used throughout the discovery phase, as this can assist in understanding the current state of the organisation in comparison to where they want to be within a set Timeframe.

During consultancy days you are not always looking for what IS happening, but you are on the lookout for things that are NOT happening. Sometimes the things that you haven’t seen give you a lot more information to work with. For example, you may recognise that users are not corresponding with one another via Instant Messaging, why is this? Is this because of their culture, guidelines or just because they have not yet been introduced to the greatness of Microsoft Teams?

The Discovery Phase is not just all about the consultants! It is also important that the organisation and the core stakeholders get a chance to experience a deep dive into Office 365 and SharePoint. This allows for them to make fact based decisions on what they have seen, what they like and what they dislike, as well as building inspiration amongst users and stakeholders who may move on to become your SharePoint champions.

The Design Phase

You wouldn’t build a house without a plan (or at least I hope you wouldn’t!) and the same rules should apply to developing Office 365 and SharePoint. At this stage you have received lots of information and data, which then needs to be moulded into a design that will fit the needs of the client and their project objectives.

It is during the design phase where you need to consider the following items;

–         Governance

–         Site and Library Structure

–         Folders and Metadata

–         Security

–         Migration

–         Adoption and Implementation Plans

Additional meetings with teams, functions, stakeholders and champions will also continue throughout the design phase, with specific questions posed to extract relevant information that influences the delivered system.

We would also recommend the creation of a proof of concept (POC) and prototypes, as these can aid in providing users with a clearer understanding of what is being achieved. Seeing demonstrations of generic Office 365 and SharePoint builds can help but being able to see it work within the environment that you are used to, using your documents and improving on your processes delivers a greater level of inspiration and understanding.

The Build Phase

A successful Discovery and Design Phase will lead to a much easier build phase, as much of the decision making has been complete.

The build phase may differ based on organisation or project, as to the project methodology that is utilised, therefore an agile approach may be taken if required. This has usually been defined from the Discovery and Design phase or is based on the common methodologies used by the consultancy organisation.

Scheduling of the build elements is extremely important, as the utilisation of additional development resources building in parallel can lead to quicker implementation and delivery. Once again outputs of the Discovery Phase assist here, as they will clearly define how the build should be progressed meaning that any development resource can make use of it and deliver the same output.

Just because the build will be performed remotely (in most cases) does not mean that communications with the client should suffer. In fact, it is just as important throughout the entire Build Phase to continue to build user buy-in, as well as allowing for progress updates and management of change/scope creep.

The Build Phase also covers internal testing and quality assurance, to ensure that the product that is released to the client is of a high standard and works as expected. This can then lead to User Acceptance Testing, which allows clients to get their hands on the applications and put them through their paces. This aids in identifying and ironing out any bugs, but also can lead to changes or new requirements to improve the system even further.

The Implementation Phase

So, the systems have been built and will now start to be handed over and properly implemented into the organisation. It is important to note that implementation is not the same as hand over, it is much bigger than that.

Implementation covers an upskilling approach for the core project team and system users, through delivery of differing training approaches e.g.

–         Administrator Training Workshops

–         End User Training Workshops

–         Train the Trainer

–         Training Guidance Documents

–         Training Videos

–         Onsite User Adoption Support/Help Desk

–         User Adoption Floorwalking

A successful delivery of a SharePoint and Office 365 build/application requires it to be implemented correctly. If a system is built to specification, given to a client and then never used can you really call it a success?

The Maintenance Phase

Maintenance is all about giving those extra services to a client, ensuring they are fully supported and have access to further training as required. This also includes gaining access to regular Office 365 and SharePoint updates e.g. what was new at this years Microsoft Ignite Conference and how can we benefit from it?

We also provide ongoing audits, health checks and catch up days. This is a great benefit to organisations as it allows for experts to review system usage and help guide them on ways to continue to improve user adoption.

There are many differing types of projects that require the Office 365 and SharePoint Platform, so a strongly defined strategy ensures that they all can be a success. As a final point, I would advise that any process that is used is reviewed on regularly and improved based on lessons learnt of each project delivery.

Want to discuss this blog further? Thinking of delivering a SharePoint and Office 365 project within your environment? Thinking of taking your first steps to move to Office 365 and SharePoint? – please get in contact and we can help you on a successful journey. Alternitavely, check out our free Office 365 Discovery Workshop.

This blog post was written by Steve Glasspool, our SharePoint Consultation.