How We Achieved Sustainable SharePoint Adoption at Visa
In 2012, I was appointed to lead an IT team at Visa, a financial services company with about 15,000 employees. Our task was to help employees use SharePoint. We aimed to improve usage and achieve sustainable adoption of the platform to an extent that a reasonable return on investment could be attained.
We were very successful. Within four and half years, the company saw 451% growth in the number of site collections and 178% lift in the number of unique site owners. Over 2,700 no-code customizations—such as forms and workflows— were built. Subsequently, our adoption success extended to Office 365 use in the company.
When we started, the company’s two on-prem SharePoint farms (with version migration in progress) had nearly 350 site collections and 100 unique site owners. Enthusiasm for the platform was low and adoption was stagnant. After our user-adoption plan was fully implemented, the farms had more than 1810 site collections and 236 unique site owners. These numbers kept growing as more people requested site ownership, indicating a broader scope of users’ personal investment in the platform.
Here is how we did it.
Taking the simplest path
Experience had shown us that—tasked with solving current and future challenges—IT teams and change managers usually tend to build solutions to problems that don’t exist yet or may never exist. This partly explains why in many companies IT solutions are often built unnecessarily complex. Hence, simplicity needed to underpin every strategic step that we took at Visa.
For the first step, we wanted simple, common-sense governance policies that made life easier for our end-users.
Developing simple governance policies
Good governance policies don’t create roadblocks. They bring order to chaos.
When making rules for SharePoint usage, it’s easy to forget a user’s needs. For our IT teams, it’s usually tempting to just copy-and-paste template-based rules.
To make sure that we didn’t create complicated governance policies that would block or slow down adoption, we followed a few guidelines:
- Every imposed limitation should have a compelling reason
- For every prohibited tool or process, an alternative should be provided
- “We’ve always done it this way” should not justify a rule
- Every rule should be clear enough to be fully understood by everyone
While the entire team followed these guidelines, we designed common-sense rules that would prohibit less and guide more. Our aim was clear: every end-user should have a frustration-free, pleasant experience when using SharePoint. The results were very positive.
For the second step, we simplified the quantification and measurement of usage growth of the platform.
Using simple adoption metrics
We’ve seen many IT teams deploy complicated applications that measure almost everything (including indicators that don’t reveal important details), in an effort to measure usage across their SharePoint farms.
At Visa, we focused our attention primarily to the number of unique site owners. That metric would show us that end-users were actually creating their own sites instead of simply using others’ sites.
Other simple metrics became useful as well: number of site collections, support tickets per week, and PowerShell no-code customizations.
We specifically considered the site collections count a “trailing indicator” of user adoption. We knew that people had to first use existing sites before they requested to have their own. The fact that more and more people were asking to have their own sites was an indication that usage is improving.
The number of support tickets we used to receive per week was also a good indicator. When we received a lot of tickets that denoted complaints, we knew that something had to be fixed immediately. Whereas, when we received an increasing number of tickets that requested guidance, we knew that we were bringing more users to the platform.
We paid attention to other metrics, but these four were our focus. From these numbers, we were able to understand how quickly adoption was improving.
Based on the number of support tickets asking for help, we understood one thing: if the number of tickets is too high, either the solutions that we built are not user-friendly or users have no clue how to navigate the interface. So, implementing the third and fourth strategic steps would prove essential—we had to build simple solutions and provide help efficiently.
So the third step was to build simple user-support solutions that actually solve real-life problems.
Building simple solutions
From the start, we studied the problems that the highest number of employees were facing and built visible, simple solutions to address them. We knew that if a user didn’t understand the recommended decision-making options before getting something done, the solution has no value.
Every organization has some tools or processes that employees hate. We strived to avoid this at Visa. Every low-to-no-code solution that we created was made and re-made to be simple to build and easy to use. From site request forms to annual employee surveys, simplicity remained the key attribute.
Our efforts definitely paid off. As our tools and processes continued to support SharePoint adoption in the company, executives as well as entire staffs became interested in having their needs met by the platform.
Finally, the fourth step was to help end-users find their way throughout the platform. So we provided help that was actually helpful at the moment of need.
Providing the help they needed
This was the most important step. We started by asking ourselves the following questions:
- How can we provide help that is actually helpful to users?
- How can we provide support as efficiently as possible?
- How can we automate training, help, and support to reduce the workload on our IT team?
- How can we deploy the right guidance exactly at the moment of need so users don’t have to leave the application to search for tutorials?
- How can we help users get the most out of training and coaching sessions?
Studies have found that, for adult learners, formal training accounts for around only 10% of their skills improvement, informal training accounts for 20%, and experience accounts for 70%. Hence, for us at Visa, it was crucial that we focus on the two strategies that account for 90% of skills growth.
To help end-users learn by doing, we knew that a contextual help system would help. So we installed VisualSP, a plug-and-play add-on application to SharePoint and Office 365. The help system tab appears on every page of the SharePoint and Office 365 interfaces, ready to give guidance right within the users’ environments.
With a contextual help system, end-users gets help instantly while it works in the background to filter tasks and provide short, to-the-point tutorials that are relevant and applicable only to the feature, tab, or page being used. Any time a user doesn’t remember how to proceed, a simple click on the tab displays a help item. The user can view the help item and continue with their work without the need to leave the workspace or call for help. This allowed our employees to use SharePoint without prior knowledge of the application and without the time-consuming, frustrating tasks of contacting the IT support team or searching the web for answers. Task assistance follows the user; it’s instant and always in-context.
In addition, VisualSP content customization capabilities allowed us to easily build and add our own help items to the system. Every workflow that we created had walk-thru bubbles that guided users through a process—step by step, click by click.
As a result, by following our philosophy of simplicity, we’ve made self-training, self-support, and self-help possible.
To further improve users’ skills, we rolled out programs that allowed users to learn during Q&A and coaching sessions. Q&A sessions were scheduled weekly or monthly, but coaching sessions were offered anytime a solution needed to be built. These events were extremely popular with end-users. At times, people were happy to wait in long queues just to have a chance to ask questions. And many employees preferred face-to-face discussions over back-and-forth emails. At these events, users learned from other users as well as from input by my IT team.
As we implemented these four strategic steps, we learned a crucial lesson. We discovered how to drive SharePoint adoption efficiently.
Finding the four tenets to successful user adoption
At Visa, the guiding principle of simplicity led us to deploy four key steps:
- simple governance policies
- simple adoption metrics
- simple solutions
- user support that actually helps
Interestingly, at some point we started to neglect building simple solutions and running coaching sessions, and as expected, the adoption growth rate started to drop. This is when we realized that the four strategic steps we implemented were actually essential to SharePoint adoption success. As long as all four were followed, user adoption kept improving. As soon as we neglected one of them, the growth line started to turn downward.
I call these four strategic steps “the four tenets to successful user adoption”.
In addition to the Visa experience, I’ve continued to help many companies improve SharePoint adoption. When starting a new project, my starting point is to find ways to simplify things and implement these four tenets. They always work; they work very well.
How can you experience the same success we did at Visa? Find out how we can help with SharePoint adoption in your company—contact our SharePoint and Office 365 expert Michael Blonder at email@example.com.