So I’m at SMB Nation, and was visiting with someone (who shall remain nameless) about Sharepoint. They were just starting to see just how flexible and robust WSS is, and they commented that they thought they’d try to go in to the client next week and customize their Sharepoint site to give them some cool features.
What’s wrong with that statement? What was wrong was that nothing was said about the client’s needs. You guys want to get your customers exited about Sharepoint and get some billable hours from customizing it for them? DON’T show them the “cool” features to do the sell. Most smallbiz customers really don’t care that you can pull RSS feeds into Sharepoint, or that you have the MSNBC web parts for news & weather. Many won’t see the value of a Sharepoint contact list (after all, we’ve already sold them on Outlook / shared contacts), etc.
I suggest starting off small – use Sharepoint to solve a relatively simple problem for the client. Something that may be simple enough that the client doesn’t see it necessarily as a problem – but you see it as at least an inefficiency. Here’s an example: we have a client who had an Excel spreadsheet they used to list their job numbers. These job numbers are classified depending on what type of job they are, so the client has A-jobs, B-jobs, C-jobs, etc., and they had set up a separate worksheet in the Excel file for each job type. The problem was that there were 10 people who needed to access this information to either create new job numbers, or lookup job numbers for POs, time tickets, etc. They had configured the Excel file for sharing, but were getting repeated corruption. While the Volume Shadow Copy was nice, it was still a pain to determine what changes everyone had made since the last VSS snapshot. So, our solution was to import this information into their Sharepoint site as a simple little 6 field custom list. They haven’t had a problem since, and now we’re looking at adding additional functionality for them.
Most small businesses have some sort of data that it seems several people need, but it almost always ends up that they have the receptionist or whomever be the keeper for that data. So you’ve got people either calling the receptionist or coming up to their desk to ask for some sort of info from this data. Another example are those customers who have the notorious whiteboard that has some sort of list / data on it, which may be either static or dynamic – but whenever anyone needs that info, they’ve got to go to the whiteboard to get it. This is the stuff that you should be moving into Sharepoint for your clients. The great part is that it is very easy to train users on this – out of all of your computer applications, the web browser is arguably the environment that all users are familiar and comfortable with, and basic lists are very intuitive to use, especially with the filter & sort options. Once you’re able to introduce Sharepoint to many of your customers as an effictive tool to solve a problem / increase efficiency, they’re going to be much more apt to look at it, and you’re going to get more business on customize Sharepoint than you ever would simply by showing them the “cool” stuff.