It was a fairly typical week in the office last week. The week had started with a very good blog post from Tony Byrne at the Real Story Group about how to avoid the enterprise SharePoint surprise, echoing comments made by attendees at a SharePoint symposium in Washington DC late last year. By the end of the week four intranet managers had contacted Intranet Focus Ltd because they were in the position of being told that it had been decided that SharePoint 2010 was going to be the platform for the new intranet and they had some concerns. Could we help them to understand whether this really was the best solution, or if not help them make a counter proposition?

Let me be clear from the outset. It is perfectly possible to build good intranets with SharePoint 2010, but the best ones I have seen have been built by companies with considerable SharePoint 2007 knowledge and enough in-house development skills to ensure that when external assistance is required it is correctly specified, tested and documented.  One of the key lessons they have learned from their experience with SharePoint 2007 is that governance, planning and understanding user requirements are fundamental building blocks of a successful project. There is also a good sense of the costs and timescales involved. Even companies that should know better have not learned these lessons. Late last year we were invited to bid on an intranet project by a multinational company with a global reputation. The company’s IT had been rolling out SharePoint 2010 for four months, and there were about 200 Site Collections containing around 800 sites. The briefing contained the statement “SharePoint 2010 does not have a business owner and governance is weak”.

When people call me about SharePoint I go into question mode. I have a checklist of ten questions that I run through with them which are my way of assessing the extent to which their organisation is ready for a SharePoint 2010 project. Sadly few organisations are able to answer more than three or four of these questions. I now have a new tool in my toolkit thanks to SharePoint consultant James Love. He has posted a list of the development skills needed for a SharePoint project, skills needed by neophyte developers when faced with a SharePoint 2010 development project.  It is quite a list. It goes into a tool box that already contains Michael Sampson’s post on total cost of implementation and a superb book by Scott Jameson, Susan Hanley and Mauri Cardarellli entitled Essential SharePoint 2010. When you have been through every page and have put a tick at the bottom to say you understand the benefits and implications you will then understand why starting a SharePoint intranet project from a zero knowledge base is a seriously challenging task. With SharePoint the devil is very much in the detail, as Susan Hanley illustrates with advice on naming conventions.

So this week will see us starting two new SharePoint 2010 projects. That’s not a bad conversion rate. If you have just received an email that contains the title of this blog post please do call us, and have a piece of paper ready for my ten questions. At Intranet Focus Ltd we also have the answers. In the USA speak to Susan Hanley and in Australia speak to James Robertson.

Martin White