Free Yourself from the Tyranny of Sharepoint

Sharepoint is a plague upon the American workforce. This ubiquitous piece of collaboration software has taught millions of people that Intranets are destined to be places where you can’t find anything.

It doesn’t have to be this way, despite what Microsoft may have you believe. There are alternatives to Sharepoint that actually work in ways that ordinary humans can understand.

One of these alternatives is WordPress. You can set up your own Intranet using WordPress with a minimum of technical knowhow.

It’s certainly better than learning the maddening intricacies of Sharepoint, as developer Ben Balter discovered. Given the dreaded task of updating the Sharepoint site, he instead decided to spend three hours to see if he could come up with an alternative.

The result was WP Document Revisions. This is a WordPress plugin that allows teams of any size to collaboratively edit files and manage their workflow. In other words, the core of what you probably would use Sharepoint for if it was actually usable.

Ben wasn’t done. He’s since gone on to craft additional plugins, as he described in WordPress as a Collaboration Tool, a talk he gave at the monthly WordPress DC meetup. The tools he created essentially improve upon all the functions of Sharepoint, but in WordPress, so you don’t need expensive licenses or pricey database experts to keep the whole thing from crashing.

By using WordPress, you turn “add this information to the Intranet” from a frustrating task into something as simple as blogging. And just think how good your Intranet could be if people actually wanted to contribute to it.

Improving internal communication does more than just lead to happier employees. It contributes to the bottom line by saving the time of staff. Do you want people spending hours trying to figure where their document disappeared to on Sharepoint or do you want them to do, well, something productive?

Most of us, however, have no control over what software we use at work. I asked Ben what to do in this case. He replied with the truism that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. He also demonstrated what WordPress could do and developed internal support for it. When presented with a credible alternative, rational decision-makers will make the right choice, if they can.

There’s a lot of caveats in that last sentence. I know. Big organizations choose big software for reasons that defy reason.

But life’s too short to use bad software. Investigate the alternatives. Anticipate objections. Present your case. Just something is ubiquitous doesn’t meant it’s right or destined to last forever. The way we work is changing, and software should change with it.

Update: I cross-posted this to GovLoop, which prompted a great deal of discussion from govvies.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

3 thoughts on “Free Yourself from the Tyranny of Sharepoint”

  1. Camille, Great Question!! (I will addess your IA qusiteon, directly, near the bottom but first, allow me to share a few of my experiences.)This is a big conversation and you will hear many people recommend that companies dedicate a headcount to configuring and managing search full-time. Obviously, this is a luxury for most companies, but if you can do it, I would recommend it. My experiences have led me to handle search in cycles , so I will provide some guidance in the form of shorter answers at first. If you want to discuss in more detail, or come see me at the SharePoint Conference in Anaheim (Oct. 3-6) if you’ll be there. I will be at the Global360 Booth, in the Exhibitor Hall. Suggestions: I would recommend letting SharePoint do some of the work for you. In SharePoint Central Administration, you can enable SharePoint Search Administration reports that will show you who is performing the majority of your site’s searches and where they are (in which sites or Site Collections) when they conduct the search. This is powerful information, as it tells you how far the Clickers got before they ran into a snag (taxonomy issue), or on which teams Searchers are doing the most contextual searches (Information Architecture / Metadata). My short recommendation is to focus on the following: Get your Information Architecture in order (addresses the Searchers ) I belive this is what you were originally asking for. (See below for more on this)Get your Taxonomy in order (clickers)Add Keyword terms and Best BetsCreate a Noise Word FileManage MetaData PropertiesSome Resources: Information Architecture: In , I stress the importance of conducting end-user surveys and building your IA before you build the portal (document it, even). You’ll want to know from the mouths of the users what terms they use for different things they do from day-to-day. Depending on their job roles, users may have different Terms for the same things. For example: Search, find, look, seek, research these all mean something very similar, but not all users are using the same term in their search queries. In order to build a better IA, you’ll need to understand what those terms are that are being used. You did a good thing by trying to put it on a form in your site. Some users will find this intuitive and useful (not all). Having multiple channels to gather this information is not a bad idea. Here are some other ways you can gather information architecture terms after the fact:1. Survey users (point them to a specific survey with specific qusiteons) I would be happy to help you come up with some qusiteons that could be effective. 2. Schedule meetings with key groups and interview them (either as a group, or individually) be careful if you do this as a group, these discussions can get lively if people are passionate about their jobs. 3. Improve your Taxonomy (this should be an ongoing excercise anyway). The better (more intuitively) your site is laid out, the easier it is for users to find things. Intuitive navigation gets people 90% of what they need without having to perform a search. Trust me, Camille, I could go on about this topic for days. Read the above and let me know what your thoughts are. I’m more than happy to discuss further. Shoot me an email if you want to talk via phone or in person. We can schedule some time together if necessary. Thanks for the inquiry!Brett

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