The Biggest ‘Wow’ Factors of SharePoint – The Almost – And The Plague

One of my clients asked how I would approach a new project where I had to ‘sell’ SharePoint. In short, I don’t ‘sell’ SharePoint, with or without apostrophes, but if presented properly, SharePoint will largely sell itself.

As such, I’ve compiled three lists of features that are important to have in mind when presenting SharePoint to someone new. The lists are the ‘do this’, the ‘maybe in certain situations’ and the ‘if you value your life and paycheck, do not do this’.

The 3 Biggest Wow Factors of SharePoint

When I show people SharePoint, I try to capture their attention using a couple of ‘wow’ generators. What are ‘wow’ generators? Well, it’s the things you can show off or explain in a few minutes that makes people go ‘wow’. What makes these items especially powerful is that you can create it while the audience is watching and thus adapting the presentation to a particular situation, much like stand-up comedians can take input from the audience and generate quick fun.

1. SharePoint Designer Workflows

Business Process Management in SharePoint is incredibly powerful and may be the single highest ROI feature of all times. It is incredibly easy to set up a simple scenario for saving an organization time and money for processes that most organization do.

How to execute: Pick any process that the organization does today such as vacation requests and use SharePoint Designer to create an illustrative workflow that, if nothing else, tracks the progress of a task through two or three stages.

2. Data Collection/Surveys

Organizations need to gather data from it’s users, whether that is to get food requests for overtime work from the cantina or getting evaluations of bid proposals. Business users can within a few minutes set up simple lists with automatic forms that gather this information.

How to execute (a): Pick a task for which the organization may want to collect data from users. Use out-of-the-box lists as a starting point to illustratively create a simple list to which users can add data. For an additional ‘oomph’, show how to create a task for someone to fill in that data in the form.

How to execute (b): As for (a), pick a task to gather data, but this time, set up a simple survey and show how you can use multiple pages to collect data in stages. Also make sure you show how to share the results.

3. Office Integration with SharePoint

I didn’t actually realize how impressive this feature was until I ‘accidently’ user the feature to show how when you click ‘New’ in a SharePoint document library, that Word pops up with a document ready for writing, and that when you click ‘Save’ the file is automatically stored in the correct location. I guess it’s not impressing me anymore, but others apparently don’t even know it exists.

How to execute: Requires Office installed, but create a new document library (which in itself may be part of item 2 in this list) to which you add a few required columns. Hit the New button and have people pay attention to the Document Information Panel for metadata entry. Then, hit Save and show the audience how the file gets saved back to the document library.

Things That Almost Made This Top List

For various reasons, these items may be impressive but fails to meet the presentation requirements.

1. Search

Search may be impressive but to get a true ‘wow’ factor, requires you to have a specific setup done already. That doesn’t make it situation specific and it would take too much geeking and crawling time to get something that can adapt to inputs from the audience.

2. SP 2010 Social Features

Although impressive compared to previous versions of SharePoint, the social features in SharePoint 2010 won’t impress any audience in these FaceBook savvy times. ‘Everyone’ uses tagging already, so you’ won’t win any favors there either. Shared notes and tags may be useful, but again, it’s not something you can simply show off in a matter of minutes.

I love the new social features, but they aren’t easily ‘wow’-able.

3. Web Part Pages

I really, really love the ability to compose advanced presentation layers by mixing and connecting web parts on a page. However, as for search, setting up a truly impressive web part page setup requires a fair amount of preparation and not something you can whip up in a matter of minutes.

Things You Should Avoid Like The Plague

Finally, to complete the 3×3 grid, here are the things you should never show to any client.

1. Wiki and Blogs

C’mon… Wikis? If you want to do them right, get a proper Wiki platform. Granted, Wikis themselves are incredibly valuable, but SharePoint’s handling leaves a lot to desire. Blogging may seem like a great idea. Get all your employees to write everything they learn and know and then get everyone to read that. Also, Christina and Britney will invite you to their slumber parties, just as soon as you fall asleep and enter the realm of the sandman. For the rest of us, either go with a dedicated blogging platform for those few employees who really have something to contribute, or look for alternate ways for employees to share their inputs. Blogs will not add significant value to your solution.

2. Web content management

SharePoint was never suited to do public facing web pages any more than a Ferrari is suited as a fly-swatter. Yeah, you _could_ use it like that with a bit of effort and some pain, but there are so many better ways of doing WCM that showing what SharePoint does is close to embarrassing. Add to that the SharePoint WCM security issues and you got a recipe for disaster.

3. Team Site

I’ve said this before, so I’m not going to elaborate, but in short, showing your clients a team site will often dictate their requirements and lock their imagination into a single track. “Sure, we need a shared calendar, a shared documents library, a task list, and a list of announcement. Spot on! How much will it cost?”

Obviously, knowing your target audience affects which features you show off – it doesn’t help to show off how incredibly easy it is to generate forms for data entry to someone who doesn’t know how incredibly difficult it can be with other technologies.

Keep in mind, though, that although the last two lists aren’t good for generating the ‘wow’ you want, these features may be good in certain situations. If you have the time to prepare an elaborate setup tailored to the user, any of these features may be exactly what will have your clients’ jaws drop to the floor.

Well, except WCM, that is.


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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

2 thoughts on “The Biggest ‘Wow’ Factors of SharePoint – The Almost – And The Plague”

  1. Bjørn, absolutely agree with you on your top three. To me, it's usually the three keywords Workflows/InfoPath/Office that are most worth talking about with my users/business owners.

    As for wikis, again I agree. They do have their purpose, they can be useful, but in my experience it is only in very rare cases.

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