The Softer Side of SharePoint – What’s Your SharePoint Business Model?


When you look at utilizing SharePoint within an organization, there needs to be shared understanding around four questions, which will enable you to steer the usage of SharePoint to support the business and help drive value.

  • What is the future state you want to achieve and what does it look like?
  • Why did you choose that specific future state, as opposed to other options?
  • Who will do what to get you to that state?
  • How will you get to that state?

Running a SharePoint Deployment is Complicated

SharePoint provides unique challenges because the application can morph into something completely differently than you originally planned.  The application’s greatest strength – flexibility – is also its’ greatest challenge.  The following is taken from Lynn Warneke’s article on nothingbutsharepoint.com…

SharePoint, once in place, does not just look after itself.  This is abundantly apparent from even a cursory glance at the myriad of advisory books and blogs available. However many organizations still seem to believe the opposite, and accordingly they seriously under-resource operational management of their expensive SharePoint solutions post-launch. Then wonder why they start to take on water and sink before their eyes.

After deployment, the SharePoint infrastructure and application environment will need to be well maintained and managed.  Many SharePoint environments can grow beyond the capacity or capability of the in-house IT support resources.

But success over time with SharePoint is not just, not even mostly, about technical operations.  End user questions and operational concerns will be purely business related and have zero technical substance.

See the Big Picture

To stay ahead of the future challenges you will face in running a SharePoint deployment, you need to constantly see and communicate the “Big Picture” of how SharePoint adds value to your company, as well as how SharePoint is run on a day-to-day basis.

I believe the Business Model Canvas (pictured below), a free tool available from businessmodelgeneration.com, provides tremendous value to anyone tasked with leading an internal SharePoint organization, as well as anyone involved within the SharePoint organization.

Business Model Canvas

In my opinion, you should view your SharePoint deployment as a business.  Your job is to continuously find better ways in which SharePoint can help your company generate value.  In order to do this, you need an understanding of business models.  A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value.  You also need a way to clearly articulate your SharePoint business model to executives and employees.  The Business Model Canvas is perfect on both fronts.

The Business Model Canvas is a free tool for describing, analyzing, and designing business models.  It provides a visual representation of your business model, which helps:

  • Easily explain your SharePoint deployment from a holistic view to executives and employees
  • Align key staff in order to determine goals and priorities
  • Easily depict cause-and-effect relationships
  • Show the links between day-to-day work and the services your offer
  • Easily explain what areas need improvement

Speak in Your Executive’s Language

Executives understand business models.  With the Business Model Canvas, you will be able to easily speak their language.  In addition, with this tool you will be able to prototype several different models to see potential issues ahead of time.  You will be able to uncover areas where you could provide new value to the organization – and translate the new value into internal operations.

In the embedded PowerPoint presentation, I walk through the Business Model Canvas by constructing a sample SharePoint business model.  The presentation is meant to give you a starting point to think through your organization’s utilization of SharePoint and how changes in the way you want to utilize SharePoint can affect your SharePoint business model.

Additional Resources

Additional Consideration

After viewing the presentation above, give some serious thought to the key resources you need to effectively run SharePoint on a day-to-day basis to help your company generate value.  Looking through the Web, you’ll see several blog articles from SharePoint consultants, with combined hundreds of implementations under their belt, discussing a common need – business focused resources that know SharePoint out of the box features really well.  This is critical for the usage of SharePoint to become operationalized in your organization, which is a key component to driving enterprise-wide value with improved collaboration.

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