SPTechCon: ‘The 7 Most Important SharePoint Success Factors,’ with Richard Harbridge

This morning I selected Richard Harbridge's The Seven Most Important SharePoint Success Factors as the appropriate session with which to kick off my SPTechCon, and it set the tone quite nicely.  With a few minutes to spare before the scheduled 8:15 start time, Richard used the time to ask each of the attendees to share a brief introduction, explaining what brought them to SPTechCon and/or to this session, and the version of SharePoint they're working with.  For a non-technical presentation on getting the most out of SharePoint out-of-the-box (based on Richard's seven years of experience working on hundreds of implementations), there was a surprising range of SharePoint roles represented in the introductions shared by attendees.

Addressing the problem of decision makers not having enough information to make a decision, Richard suggested that you need to understand the "why" in making a decision.  Regarding the adoption of new technology, first you need to "map the needs of the organization to the right technology," and Richard candidly noted that, "Sometimes SharePoint's not the right technology."  Next you need to perform product comparisons, realizing that they may even be different Microsoft products you're evaluating to achieve a particular business goal.  Richard shared the need of one customer's which began with a simple shared contacts list, and gradually expanded to include columns, then lookup columns, and as the customer began building it out in SharePoint, and with the realization of just what it was that they were building toward, Richard was able to point them towards Microsoft Dynamic CRM instead of SharePoint as the right technology to meet their particular need.

Richard then acknowledged that, even after arriving at the decision that SharePoint is the proper technology to suit your needs, there's the realization that even SharePoint has multiple options, e.g., online versus on-premises, 2007 versus 2010, and differing licensing versions (Foundation, Standard, and Enterprise).  In parallel with the introduction of a new technology, Richard said that process improvement "often has more ROI" than technology-based enhancements.

Richard explained that you need to define your needs carefully in order to pick the right technology, and that once you've settled on one, you need to achieve buy-in and set expectations, understanding that setting realistic expectations is critical.  Richard said that "IT Services and decision makers are the two key groups that must have buy-in."  Convincing IT Services involves explaining that SharePoint will: allow business users to build business solutions without IT involvement, integrate with technologies you already use, and is extensible; and provides platform benefits such as Services, security-trimming, and out-of-the-box integration.

Convincing decision makers requires explaining that SharePoint will add value and help achieve business objectives.  Taking the objective to "Automate and improve business processes" as an example, Richard asked, "How do we know SharePoint is actually achieving this?"  Richard suggested this requires digging into specific processes, using onboarding as an example, and explaining that unless you break processes down to the lower levels (e.g., onboarding in particular, as opposed to HR in general) where you can apply metrics, "you're going to start to fail."  Ultimately, the business needs to understand that SharePoint adds value by actually helping to achieve many of those objectives.

Next you need to prioritize and plan, or "Map solutions to objectives based off of business drivers." Richard cautioned that the expectation you need to set here is that "It takes time."  Once you've achieved buy-in, "Carefully manage expectations and maintain momentum."

As well, you need to determine and support ROI, and Richard submitted that there are "only two ways of using ROI: for prioritization, and to improve return."  From an ROI perspective, prioritization equates to "Estimated value divided by estimated difficulty," and Richard explained that by assigning a value to each (from 1-10), in many cases, an easy task to accomplish may have a much greater ROI than a more difficult one.  Addressing the "improve return" aspect of ROI, Richard provided leadership blogging as an example of a non-financial measurement.  By measuring pageviews it's possible to monitor and identify issues of interest, and gain an understanding of what types of content are most valued within the organization.

Richard cautioned the need to measure the right thing, by asking, "Are our measurements having a positive impact?  If not, we may not be measuring the right thing."  Richard advised that you don't lose perspective, and said to bear in mind that "Fear of bad estimation is worse than no estimation at all."

Moving on to the topic of implementing successful governance, Richard said that teamwork is key, explaining that there are typically five teams needed: business strategy, technology strategy, and tactical strategy (consisting of tactical operations, tactical development, and tactical support).  Richard explained that alternative teams are also an option, and specified that "On the tactical teams, it's about identifying, planning for, and executing patterns." 

Regarding approaching and supporting SharePoint, Richard said that "the best approach is iterative."  Richard stressed the importance of communication planning, or high-level rules for communication to the organization.  Regarding support, Richard urged that you "Establish multiple tiers for escalation [since] no one person can know everything." 

Speaking to improved user adoption, Richard said that it's important to demonstrate SharePoint's value in a manner that it will be best understood, and as is appropriate for the culture, for example, a video tutorial might be best received within a given organization.  As well, Richard stressed that "high availability, mobility, and accessibility lead to better adoption," as does the creation of an identity and brand for the portal, and making it easier to work with.

Regarding planning for new work and growth, Richard said that you'll need to "Know your limits, grow your team and needs, and cultivate new work."

In summary, Richard identified the seven SharePoint success factors as:

  1. Understand business needs and map to them
  2. Share alignment, vision, and expectations
  3. Use measurements to improve and return more
  4. Use teamwork and execute with patterns
  5. Be iterative, leverage everyone, and respond
  6. Share the value and successes
  7. Manage your capability and priorities


Read our complete coverage of SPTechCon Boston 2011:

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