Friday, 3 April 2009

The Answers to Life, the Universe and SharePoint Projects

We had a phone call at the Officetalk Head Quarters this week that caused a lot of head scratching. The caller simply asked “How long does a SharePoint Project take for 250 users?”. Based on my own experience SharePoint Projects can vary considerably and in fact we have recently completed a project in just ten days, but have another project that has already exceeded six months and is still not ready to Go Live. Of course, a SharePoint Project is never complete as it keeps growing and changing, but for this blog I will take the Project Length as the number of days, weeks or months (hopefully not years) from the date of first Project Meeting until the ‘Go Live’ date. There isn’t a magical formula for calculating project length and it is never easy to work out how long certain people will take to do certain jobs. The only two ways to guarantee that SharePoint projects are completed on time is either to make sure Management ensure that everybody in the business puts SharePoint as top priority, or alternatively give a very generous ‘due by’ date on the Project then add another two months. This ‘how long question’ also got me thinking this week about how long we live. This weekend sees my 42nd birthday and I was thinking how far through my life I am. I mean is 42 middle age? I know people say that age doesn’t matter, but isn’t that just something old people say. If I was a SharePoint Project how far would I have got, perhaps I am just approaching the Pilot Stage. Of course, the great Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy book lists 42 as the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. So maybe after this weekend everything in life will make sense including those annoying questions like why the washing machine only ever eats one of a pair of socks, why women need so many shoes and why when there is a separate Scottish Parliament we have a Scotsman as Prime Minister of England. So back to the length of SharePoint Projects. The most important part is agreeing what exactly will be included in the SharePoint Project. A number of companies have successfully deployed SharePoint by having a ‘Phased’ approach. It is often a good idea to leave the tricky ‘MySites’ out of the first phase. In my experience only a handful of employees will ever use MySites and not always for business related reasons. So what are the stages you need to include in your SharePoint Project? This is a list that I try to work to; 1. Sponsor – Find a top level Management Sponsor for the Project ideally a Director. (1 week) 2. Project Team – Put together a Project Team. (2 weeks) 3. Resources – Find all available SharePoint resources. Officetalk Project Checklist is an ideal start. Also UK SharePoint User Group. (1 week) 4. Information - What have you got already? This should include list of all documents and systems that are currently used. (3 weeks) 5. New Requirements – What extra information would you like in SharePoint that you don’t already have. How about an IT Helpdesk System? (1 week) 6. Get Consultant – SharePoint Consultants should know all about SharePoint and the best add-ons for you. They’ll help you avoid some costly pitfalls. They know them because they have usually suffered them before. I am told Officetalk are pretty good. (1 week) 7. Scope – Agree the final Scope of the project of phase of the Project. Make it clear what is and more importantly isn’t part of the Scope. (1 week) 8. Design – With the help of your SharePoint Consultant create the basic Site structure and sites. (2 weeks) 9. Input – Now fill it with your documents and any other information you want adding. Linking to Active Directory can also have great benefit. (3 weeks) 10. Pilot – A Pilot Group is the best way to start the roll-out because you will find teething problems. Choose a department who will be big users of the system. Maybe HR or IT. (3 weeks) 11. Pilot Review – Allow at least two weeks to review comments from the Pilot Group and make appropriate changes. (2 weeks) 12. End User Training – Even if it is only one hour all End Users should receive some kind of training in the basics. This also helps you sell the system to them. (1 week) 13. Roll-out – Now we ready to go. (1 week) 14. Support – Support especially important after the first month of Roll-Out (4 weeks) So there we have it SPRING’S DIPPERS (the apostrophe emphases’ the importance of the Scope stage as well as getting my old English Teacher happy with my grammar). If you add up the weeks in brackets you will see that it comes to 26 weeks which is six months. This is purely an estimate and project length really depends on the workload of the Project Team as well as the amount of data involved. As with life expectancy the length of projects can vary considerably. Hopefully in my life I haven’t reached the second ‘S’ yet. Now, I am ready for a weekend of birthday celebrations that I hope won’t be dented by Manchester United scoring too many goals against the Villa on Sunday. It is a chance to remember when we beat them at Wembley in 1994 though, preventing them winning the domestic treble.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I guess that if Manchester plays like they played against FC Porto it will be a good birthday weekend :) Now for that client... isn't the main difference here that you can sell SharePoint as a product or as a platform? Sold as a product I can imagine such a question, sold as a platform I'm not sure if you can even give an estimation (?)