Evolving Company Culture Starts With a "SharePoint"

One of the most difficult tasks that IT departments and businesses have with managing a company is to evolve culture.  

cul·ture   (kul'ch?r)  Pronunciation Key

    1. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
    2. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.

Each company has its own way of doing things whether it is phrasing emails for internal communication to sharing information across workgroups.  The challenge arises when companies do not improve their workflow practices and behavior.  Take, for instance, a simple process of exchanging marketing material.  The 1990's way of doing things was to use the company's Exchange server and Outlook, the problem nowadays is that rich content is much larger then it was in the past and more frequent.  Exchange was never suited to optimally handle 10-20MB files.  With the advent of the USB flash drive, many employees took it upon themselves to backup and move information themselves because the tools they possessed were just not adequate.

The last universal cultural change occurred with email becoming mainstream.  The next dramatic shift will occur with a powerful collaboration infrastructure not Starbucks i.e. SharePoint.  More and more companies are realizing the importance of developing a managed collaboration environment. 

So what is SharePoint?  SharePoint is essentially three things:

1.  It is an online portal and search engine

2.  It is an enterprise content management system

3.  It is a collaboration and business intelligence platform

Chances are if you are a business, you are looking for one of these things.  The reason is because there is a need to change the established culture of the company.  The current practices are not conducive to growing the business.  Let's go back to the original problem around USB drives and sharing information.

If there was a company culture that provided everyone a USB stick and it was the preferred way of sharing data, then there would be absolutely no problem with this, however, if this was effectively a grassroots movement developing in the company, you would have some rogue employees doing something out of the mainstream.  In of itself, there is nothing wrong with grassroots culture.  The difference between a grassroots approach and a managed approach is the ability to track progress and have "success indicators."  In this scenario, it would be ideal to deploy a company-wide SharePoint environment so that intellectual property is managed securely while still allowing quick and easy access to files.  Give the workers the tools that they need, and they will work better.  woo!!! ROI!

Let's take another example of business communications culture.  As a company grows beyond 10 employees, people lose the day to day information flow that would accompany a small team.  As companies grow, the typical "word of mouth" approach fails to fully capture the state of the business.  Expand this to a mid-size business with multiple siloed departments and you have communication gaps easily appear.  Finance is no longer interested in the day to day dealings with marketing, nor should they be, but the important thing they do lose is the business intelligence.  The ability to holistically view what each department values is critical in breaking down silos.  Having an intranet portal that educates all employees about scorecards and events in areas of the business provides creative insight, knowledge, and objectivity.  Preserving the visibility of organizations so that employees can discover information prevents social fragmenting, hence avoiding the creation of destructive sub-cultures.

Finally, you have every IT administrator's worst nightmare--how to manage content securely across multiple disparate systems without impeding productivity.  Sounds a little vague.  Here is an example.  The problem surfaces when Sally is responsible for updating a customer presentation deck.  Phil needs to access the latest material, so he looks at the marketing "share" that is set up on the server and downloads the deck.  Now Sally, who is Phil's friend, knows that he will need the updated slides and rightly emails Phil the new deck, but what about the other 20 sales associates who aren't friends with Sally?  For that matter, why should Phil have to rely on an individual when he should be relying on an automated system or workflow?  Why should the company have to have manual naming conventions in place to deal in document versioning?  God forbid, what if Sally is new to the organization?   Wouldn't it be great if there was a methodology that would guarantee the latest up-to-date information?-- Does your company have this type of culture?

SharePoint has the extraordinary flexibility to allow workers to work the way they want.  It is the platform that empowers them with the tools and resources they need to collaborate effectively using "best practices" of the business while being managed well by IT.  Now, I am not preaching that SharePoint will solve all your problems; in fact, it may not solve ANY of your problems without an understanding of what needs to be improved, but I will leave you with a quote. 

"Deploy SharePoint and good things will happen."  --Darren Strange


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