ShareFEST – Building a SharePoint Center of Excellence at Shire

Patrick Metlzer of Shire and John Jones of HighPoint Solutions presenting at ShareFESTAt ShareFEST this afternoon, Patrick Metzler of Shire, the UK's largest biopharmaceutical company, was joined by SharePoint consultant John Jones of HighPoint Solutions to present a case study on the creation of a SharePoint Center of Excellence (CoE) at Shire.  Patrick explained that as SharePoint wasn't the first CoE that Shire had created, it became apparent rather quickly following the company's decision to implement SharePoint in the fall of 2008 that a SharePoint CoE would be necessary. 

Running a Microsoft Health Check on Shire's server only underscored the importance of setting up a CoE around SharePoint, which would in turn provide a much-needed opportunity to take a step back and "do this right."  Patrick was hired to set up and manage the CoE for the company, and it was Patrick who brought John Jones of HighPoint solutions on board to assist with the process. 

In answering the question of, "how do we put our arms around SharePoint to come up with a CoE?," Patrick identified the three core components of their CoE as requiring that it be closely aligned with business strategy ("make sure that it's useful and attractive to our business users"); feature centralized management (no "silos" within the organization); and consist of an entirely self-sufficient team. 

John then took over the presentation to discuss how they set about creating the CoE and fixing the problems that were surfaced in the running of the Microsoft Health Check.  Explaining that nothing he was about to divulge exactly qualified as "rocket science," John began his recommendations for the creation of a CoE with obtaining executive sponsorship within your company's IT organization.  Next, it must be determined who will run the CoE, and who among existing employees "have the basic building blocks of a team that can deliver [the required] services," hiring as necessary to fill in any gaps.

Setting strategic objectives is also a high priority.  As John said, "to be successful, [a CoE] really needs to be an ambassador for change."  How the CoE will integrate with IT to leverage the team for success should be key among these strategic objectives.  At Shire, having the CoE align with the existing Help Desk, and working directly with business partners were examples of executing on this plan.  As well, setting up operating level agreements between the CoE and IT so that responsibilities are clear was strongly recommended.

The importance of creating a governance plan can't be overstated.  The governance plan will need to consist of three components: people (roles and responsibilities, skills matrix, signed off objectives, training opportunities, decision as to whether the team will offer "value add" services," and a new organization model that builds internally); process (development/creation of operational controls such as support procedures, weekend maintenance, change management, project prioritization, resource management, customer surveys, etc.; asset management control; and cost of the service model for the CoE platform), and technology (create a supportable, robust architecture for SharePoint, rationalize older versions and platforms, consolidate licensing models; the creation of the governance plan itself, inclusive of SharePoint roles and responsibilities, architecture and platform management, site policies, and specific policies regarding the use of SharePoint Designer and InfoPath within the organization).

Regarding the three components of the governance plan, Patrick said of the people component that it all comes down to whether you "have the people, and do they possess the internal knowledge necessary to support the plan?"  Of the process component, Patrick said that what was key here was the answering of three questions:  "What do we have, what do we do well, and what are we missing?" Finally, of the technology component, Patrick said that ultimately accountability was the name of the game, and the buck stops with the CoE on that score.  Patrick also noted that "governance is just one component of your CoE," and that it's "much bigger than just SharePoint," involving both your people and processes.

Taking the time to document the platform and completely documenting your installation was also among Patrick's recommendations, while at the same time acknowledging that the documentation part of the process is everyone's least favorite aspect.

Having set up the SharePoint CoE at Shire, and with it up and running, Patrick concluded his presentation with a slide that listed the results of having set up the CoE as:

  • Continued executive sponsorship and alignment as a strategic platform.
  • Clear rationalization of the platform, use, and direction.
  • Improved uptime of the platform, use, and direction.
  • Monitored metrics for tracking capacity, usage, new site creations, etc.
  • Improved customer experience communicated by surveys and anecdotes.
  • Increased control of platform, resources, and team structure to expand or contract as required by the business.
  • Defined service catalog with identifiable cost mechanisms, e.g., licenses and work effort.

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