Betsy Guthrie of Autodesk Proves it Doesn’t Take a Village to Improve Communications with SharePoint

Wow, is it a good thing I don’t have Betsy Guthrie‘s job.

And an even better thing for Autodesk is that she DOES!  As the SharePoint Adoption Lead for Autodesk, a leading provider of 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software, Betsy Guthrie was able to transform her organization’s disorganized, unstructured SharePoint Goliath into a high-performance, user-friendly environment that was easy to navigate for everyone from the unconfident IT novice to the seasoned SharePoint evangelist.  In her presentation, When there is only one of you… Six low-energy efforts and high-return tactics to improve communication with SharePoint, Betsy shared, through her experiences with Autodesk, different strategies that can be employed to tame a seemingly unmanageable SharePoint environment. Whether you have an entire executive committee or are a party-of-one, as Betsy was, building confidence in SharePoint doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, according to Betsy, with proper planning and diligence, it can be as easy as A, B, C…

A = Advertise.  ADVERTISE your self-help SharePoint resource site.

One of Betsy’s first suggestions was to build, and perhaps more importantly, market a self-help SharePoint Resource site. So how does one go about marketing this site to users? In addition to doing something as simple as adding a linked tagline to your email signature, Betsy also suggested enlisting your help desk as a resource. As one of the first places people go when they need tech help, the help desk is a great asset and can help reinforce where users need to be going when they have SharePoint issues.

B = Best Bets.  Improve basic search cheaply and easily through BEST BETS.

Many people are familiar with the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button from Google, but did you know that SharePoint Search offers a similar function? If not, may I introduce you to one of the best inventions ever: Best Bets.  Best Bets allows you to bring the most relevant, “most likely” links to the top of your search results. Easy to create through the Site Collection Administration console, Betsy found that by integrating Best Bets into her SharePoint Search function, she was able to improve basic search for users, thereby relieving a ton of headaches and frustration. In addition, to account for Best Bets she may have missed, Betsy added a form to the search results page that allowed users to request a best bet.

C = Community.  Create and nurture a COMMUNITY of champions.

One of the keys to driving engagement in any organization or group is to build a strong community that can be leveraged to help spread the word about your cause. When it comes to helping promote SharePoint, one of the most important things one must do to build community is to find and recruit champions. So how exactly does one identify and publicize their champions? One of Betsy’s approaches was to use analytics to find out who the most active site users were, as well as who owned the larger, most active sites. Realistically, only about 2% of users, on average, are power users, but this 2% can be the key to building a strong, active SharePoint community.

D = Discussion Board. Get SharePoint questions out of email and into a searchable and dynamic DISCUSSION BOARD.

Sometimes when it comes to being a SharePoint administrator, you need to resign yourself to being the bad guy. This is exactly what Betsy did to help get SharePoint questions OUT OF EMAIL and into a searchable, dynamic knowledge base.  So what does being the bad guy mean? For one, as much as it may hurt, and as nice as people may be, refuse to answer questions that come through via email, IM, phone calls, etc., and instead point users to your SharePoint discussion board. By directing users to the discussion board, not only will you help promote your SharePoint environment and make it more sustainable, you’ll help save time spent answering the same question over and over again. Likewise, to further drive engagement, Betsy suggested posting starter questions for the discussion board and encouraging your champions (remember the big C above?) to provide answers.

E = Events.  Use popular EVENTS to model the use of SharePoint for registration and communication.

We all like company events…from potlucks to carnivals, they are great ways to build community and camaraderie. So why not invite SharePoint to help plan the party? At Autodesk, Betsy did just this. By using SharePoint for event registration and communications, she was able to keep details out of email and make them easier to find and access. Specifically, she recommends building central information pages, as she did for Autodesk’s Kids at Autodesk Day, where users can access centralized event details such as date, time, location, and more. What’s great about using SharePoint to help organize events is that these event pages help to make the process of organizing these events repeatable, which definitely contributes to time and resources saved for future event planning.

F = Front-Line Support.  Build a partnership with the help desk and make them effective FRONT-LINE SUPPORT.

As was mentioned above under “A,” one of the most valuable resources available when it comes to managing a successful, sustainable SharePoint environment is the help desk. As the first place where most people go for help, the help desk provides a critical service to your users.  So how did Betsy go about building a strong partnership with them? One of her first tactics was to designate a SharePoint liaison at the help desk. This person acts as a key point of contact between SharePoint administration and the help desk and provides helpful information such as what questions are being asked most often, what changes are coming up, and more. One of the key benefits of this relationship is the ability to facilitate knowledge sharing. For example, if SharePoint support was able to solve an issue that the help desk couldn’t, the problem solver would walk the help desk through their actions and vice versa. This further helps to build a robust knowledge base where administrators and users can go to get quick answers to questions.

So do you still think that it takes an army to build confidence in SharePoint and manage a sustainable, thriving environment? While at first, I may have been doubtful, after listening to Betsy’s presentation, it all of a sudden sounds like, in the words of the Jackson 5, “A, B, C.  Easy as 1, 2, 3” to evangelize SharePoint and improve communications.

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