I returned last week from the SharePoint Fest conference in Washington, DC, energized and even more enthusiastic about the challenge of SharePoint adoption. I met many wonderful people who are working really hard to spread the word about what SharePoint can do for their organizations, and who reinforced that our approach and tools will be helpful to them in improving adoption.
But I also heard a lot of people lament that their business users were using SharePoint as “just” a glorified file share. I found myself agreeing with them, frustrated that people aren’t adopting more capabilities at a faster rate, that users “aren’t getting it.” I then took a step back. While SharePoint is certainly capable of far more than sharing files, using that as your launch pad is a natural place to start, and may help spur the adoption you’re looking for.
Change of any kind disrupts the “four Cs:” control, comfort, competence, and confidence. Consider what happens with change like having your files moved from a server to SharePoint. Unless you’re the decision-maker, this change can reduce – however slightly – your sense of control. And there will always be some amount of productivity dip as users build competence in using SharePoint.
So starting with an initial goal of using SharePoint “just” as a file share, showing how files are in a relatively familiar structure or organization (having of course converted folders to metadata), and allowing users to become comfortable with its navigation, is a perfectly valid way to ease the transition. Even if you’re not making widespread use of lists, workflows, and social features, you can still take advantage of one of SharePoint’s greatest capabilities – Search. And once users see how powerful and helpful Search is, that will build their confidence to try other capabilities.