What do organisations do to get more from their Solution Provider?

My favourite discussion at the Locknote at the Melbourne event (see details below) was the one around “What should customers do to get more from their Solution Providers” – this question was also reversed to explore similar themes from the Provider side, i.e. “What should Solution Providers do to get the best outcomes for their customers?”

We didn’t get time for as much as I would have liked on this topic; hence I thought it was worthy of a blog post to expand on a few of the comments and themes, plus a few more personal thoughts in the process.

** Share the vision – an organisation, are you clear on the vision for whatever the project is? Share this with your Solution Provider so that anything planned or changed aligns with this vision and the associated objectives.

** Solution Providers should provide multiple options – this was debated from a couple of viewpoints: one being that as the experts, if consultants have correctly interpreted the needs of the client, they should be presenting the BEST option in any case; to the other view that customers may need to understand there is MORE than one solution – and this could be time, cost and quality-related.

** A customer should understand the company – so a customer needs to research into the capabilities and skillset of the Solution Provider they are engaging with – are they dedicated to SharePoint or do they consult in multiple disciplines?

This is equally true of consultants, who should do their own research into the customer organisation: ask about prior experiences, projects, what went well and what didn’t – to perhaps gain insight into the culture…how projects run within that organisation, how sponsors/execs play a part, what challenges they have with change or introduction of new technologies…

** There should be mutual trust between the consultant and customer.

** Does the consulting company USE SharePoint internally? Ask them to show you, how and by whom; personal experience as an end user has to be one of the biggest advantages for any sort of consultant, trainer, or person engaging in a SharePoint Project.  Find out how much experience they have in dealing with user adoption, usability, and recurring issues.

** Ask them to show you, not tell you – ask to see working prototypes or other examples of the solution proposed – especially the bits that are important to your business and are highly visible. This is often not possible, given the examples may be on private customer sites, but should provide more detail that is easier to put into a business context, than a design document often gives you. Partners also have access to fully-populated demonstration sites – they can use them to demonstrate things, but also provide customer access for a limited time (in some cases).

** Include the right people in the right phases – this might not be who first springs to mind! Yes, there is value in having some management involvement in the decision-making process, but don’t forget about the end users (think testing and scoping). When you are asking someone to maintain the home page or another key piece of your intranet, then get them involved early. Make sure they know what is being implemented, have an opportunity to provide their input, and more importantly what is expected of them to maintain it.  When consultants hear first-hand from people in your organisation (and from the right people), they can add further value to your implementation.

** Don’t assume your IT team know everything – SharePoint is a complex beast. It takes a lot to come up to speed, if SharePoint is a new technology for people or to bridge the gap with existing skill sets. One of the most valuable things you can do, is have members of the IT team actively involved with the consultants for knowledge transfer during the project. It will lead to better outcomes for everyone when your IT team are confident in understanding the solution and can support it effectively, it reduces the need to go back to the service provider to implement small changes or pass the buck to the end user to figure it out. If IT are expected to provide help to end users, then give them the same training end users get so they fully understand what  it is end users are trying to do.  Invest in educating your staff

** Training and Communication – ensure everyone: the customer team and the consulting team, are all on the same page for plans around training and communication. Are the messages consistent and clear?

Locknote at Melbourne SharePoint Conference

We tried a different type of session to close the Melbourne SharePoint Conference this year… and I liked it! We had some interesting feedback from the survey, to show some also thought it was of value (and others didn’t!). The idea was that we asked questions, that are usually avoided, or people don’t want to answer, and we tried to encourage the audience to also participate … in fact, some of the comments from the audience were most valuable to the overall theme.


Rebecca Jackson did another awesome job of a sketchnote for this session (see below) which captured a few of the key points. Thank you to Paul Culmsee who did LIVE issue mapping of the outcomes, which resulted in showing a few emergent themes, and the variety of opinions and thought streams from those on the panel. Paul has also provided a more detailed summary of the locknote, in the link below.