For the record, I am not a developer or a SharePoint administrator. I am an end user. Perhaps I could consider myself a bit more than that - a “power user”, maybe. Definitely a line of business owner. I think of myself as a key decision maker in an organization, when it comes to business solutions based on SharePoint. I have substantial influence over the tools we use for sales and marketing, both internally and externally.
There is nothing more important than making the right business decisions about technology and finding solutions that will work within your company’s environment, with your own resources and with your business model. I don't use SharePoint for everything. This site (SharePoint Reviews), for example, was built on Joomla. But when it comes down to it, there is no better option than the SharePoint platform for the portal and intranet.
I can proudly say that I was lucky enough to work with the most talented people in the industry. They always had the answer to every deployment question I may have had. Which is great, because there is an overwhelming amount of information available to help people like me to get started with SharePoint. And who has time to filter through all of that? When I first started, nothing prepared me for the massive amount of functional capabilities that are offered with SharePoint out-of-the-box. Luckily, with a simple configuration option, I was able to launch our content library for our sales department and make our events calendar accessible to the whole company - with notifications and views set for their users' own events, all logistical details provided and all needed materials nicely organized.
In 2009 I got my hands on Robert Bogue's book, The SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide for End Users. This book is unique in that it is written specifically with end users in mind. At that time, it was written for SharePoint 2007, but when we rolled out 2010 at BA Insight, the first thing I did was get myself the new edition of Rob's book, thankfully now available for SharePoint 2010.
I can't claim that this book is on my night table next to my bed, but I can say that it is always within reach in my office. I refer to it every time I start a new project on SharePoint. Sure, I could spend my time poking around and figure out a thing or two, but I choose to be smarter and not waste my time. My life is easier when I refer to The SharePoint Shepherd's Guide for End Users. This guide has absolutely changed the way I work.
The book has a huge number of screenshots, and every step is explained clearly. I have to admit - I started with the back of the book. All available List definitions are listed in Appendix B, and gave me some ideas for what I may be using while developing the plan for rolling out a project. For example, I learned that the Translation Management Library template would come in handy for organizing and managing translated documents and that I could import an Excel spreadsheet instead of having to rebuild one from scratch directly in SharePoint. I actually never read the Guide cover to cover (though I did scan through it when I first got it). I refer to sections that are relevant to me as each new project arises. Every time I start working on a new project (currently, deployment of a Wiki page for corporate marketing) I go back to this guide. I do so to ensure that all the proper steps are followed and that I know how to handle each task, but most importantly I use it as a checklist before I ever begin executing. It helps me get answers to every task prior to roll out.
I learned the hard way that having a good plan on hand will ensure that you deploy your project accurately and with all the needed features for your comprehensive project. Each of my plans include permission settings (with proper groups and user accounts), columns and options, schedules, training pointers and much more. My Sites is an example of a previously failed deployment. This takes me back to 2010 or so. Working at a small firm, I rolled it out to my sales and marketing team. I pretty much left it up to them to update their profiles. Since I didn't provide the team with any pointers, most never made an attempt to update and use their My Sites and the project was completely ineffective.
I know better now. I used the Guide to help me develop a “My Site Getting Started Guide” that our HR folks now make available to every new employee (granted, it is stored on our SharePoint portal). I also send the link to Rob's book to all department heads that have sufficient permissions to roll out SharePoint-based projects, sites, etc. so that it can help them as much as it helps me. Every new employee gets specific instructions for how to connect a SharePoint Library to Outlook, how to integrate calendars with their Outlook and how to use SharePoint's basic functionality. Having tight resources, it’s not possible for us to train every new employee in as much detail as we would like. However, we found that providing some needed guidance in the form of the Quick Start based on this guide is extremely useful.
If you work for a large company, you may choose to send your power-users to training classes. There are quite a few very good ones out there and I have no doubt they are extremely useful. But for a handy reference that is available whenever you need it, on-demand, there is nothing better than a step-by-step guide. And the one I depend on over and over again is Rob Bogue's The SharePoint Shepherd's Guide for End Users: 2010. Buy a copy for yourself. For companies, I suggest taking advantage of the corporate license SharePoint Tutor 2010 - digital content of the book in a Wiki + Screencast format - so that you don't have to have books sitting on everyone's desk but can enable your users to search to find the right information for a given task at any time. Here, you can see what's included, and a few samples.
Have you read this book? Do you have any other recommendations? Would love to hear from you.