The Case for a Business Case when Rolling Out SharePoint 2010

Before Migrating to SharePoint 2010 or Implementing SharePoint for the first time – do a business case!

The facts are stark: Almost 70% of enterprises are using SharePoint (Source) however the results of a survey conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) indicate that less than 50 percent of SharePoint implementations were subject to a formal business case, and only half of those that did required a financial justification. (Source)

Even if you’re sure you want to implement SharePoint for the first time or migrate to SharePoint 2010, it’s a good idea to do a business case. Why? Not just because it’s good form.  Unfortunately, organizations that skip this step risk taking steps in the wrong direction instead of rectifying identified problems with elegant solutions.

First, let’s take a look at what a business case is:

  • A document or statement that captures the reasoning for initiating a project
  • An acknowledgement of resources needed to complete the project and an understanding of the net value to the organization of doing the project
  • An accounting of quantifiable and unquantifiable benefits of doing the project
  • An outline of the known risks of doing the project
  • A look at the alternatives to the planned implementation, including doing nothing

SharePoint 2010 is a great product, with many new features including seamless integration with Office, major improvements to Search, and great collaboration features.  So, why is it a good idea to do a business case even when you’re already clear that you want to migrate to SharePoint 2010 or implement SharePoint for the first time?

The act of creating the business case begins to make the successes and impacts of the project a reality. In the case of SharePoint 2010, one of the first important tasks is to really articulate what SharePoint will be FOR YOU and your organization.  SharePoint is multifaceted.  The more focused an organization can be on what it needs out of SharePoint, the more likely its implementation will be successful.

Writing a business case means thinking about the questions of why are we doing this? What are the costs, timescale, benefits, and risks?  Having thought through these questions and their answers, even best guesses at ROI and benefits, and presenting them in a well formed document provides you with something to share and enables you to involve other people. Such a document is a good means of getting buy-in and socializing the changes you want to see, as early in the planning stages. Even when change will bring a positive outcome, it’s never easy to get everyone on the same page for a smooth transition.  SharePoint can never be rolled out by one individual – as a system it will need at least cooperation from just about everyone in an organization, and starting with a clear understanding of why the change is happening and what the benefits are provides a solid foundation for success.

Even in organizations planning a migration to SharePoint 2010, there are multiple ways and reasons to migrate. The costs can be considerable, just like the benefits.  Consider this statement from Rob Helm, an analyst from Directions on Microsoft:  “SharePoint 2010 will challenge even companies already using SharePoint… Even for existing users, there are differences. The way supporting services are managed is different. Administrators and architects will need a lot of ramp-up time to understand the new product version. In some areas, it’s an even bigger jump than we saw moving from SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007.”  (Source)

“Technology provides no benefits of its own; it is the application of technology to business opportunities that produces ROI.”  —Robert McDowell, In Search of Business Value   (Source)

Getting specific on the tensions solved by migrating to or implementing SharePoint 2010 not only allows your organization to do the right thing for its growth, but also to have the means to look back and assess success.

If, like many organizations do, you plan on hiring a vendor to do the implementation or migration, you will want this information prepared to communicate your needs to the vendor.  You’ll be better able to evaluate the vendor’s proposals and solutions if you’ve thought your needs and concerns through. Edgewater does many SharePoint implementation and migration projects and no two are ever the same.  It’s important that you use SharePoint to build solutions to the problems specific to your business. Don’t just skim the surface and fit your needs to a list of features that you know of or that already exist. This will lead to poor adoption and waste of your resources. The better you understand your actual needs, the better your solution can be.

Another important facet of the business case for SharePoint is that it encourages you to focus on ROI – it’s important for companies to really understand the long term costs of a SharePoint implementation.  When implemented correctly, SharePoint 2010 can save your business considerable costs and streamline your processes.

In addition, training is critical to making any conversion a success.  Sitting down to write or review a business case can be the first step in really thinking through what it means to make a successful change, how best to do it, and what it means in terms of specific costs and specific benefits to the organization.

So a good business case:

  • Backs up a decision to transition to SharePoint 2010
  • Forecasts expected ROI and other intangible benefits
  • Provides a vehicle for buy-in for both decision makers and potential users
  • Outlines measurable goals for the business, ensures actions are in-line with ideas
  • Reveals level of effort to implement a new SharePoint platform
  • Is a good vehicle to socialize the thinking and set expectations

A good business case can help your company focus on allocating the right resources, know what to expect, and be clear on what constitutes a successful project completion.  If your business case is convincing at a certain price point, and all your RFP responses come in higher than that, you’ll readily know if the project is really worth pursuing, or what portion of it to focus on first if you’ve written a good business case.

As author J. Peter Bruzzese  puts it, “SharePoint 2010 is jam-packed with new features that matter, ones that will increase productivity if used properly. I predict the number of companies using SharePoint is going to soar with this next release. I’ve been working with SharePoint since its first release (where I hated it) through 2007 (where it was growing on me) on to 2010 (where I can honestly say I’m really impressed by and loving it).” (Source) There are many resources available through searching online to assist with creating a business case for SharePoint 2010, but only someone with real knowledge of YOUR organization can write the business case for you, and ensure you’re using SharePoint 2010 properly to serve your business’s needs.

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Related post on ROI of Enterprise 2.0:
https://edgewatertech.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/why-ceo%E2%80%99s-must-care-about-enterprise-20-as-a-strategic-imperative/

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