Empathy and the SharePoint site owner

Will Kelly
3 min readDec 28, 2019
Photo by Bethany Legg on Unsplash

I’ve come across nothing more hated in my IT career than the SharePoint site. Even as much as I consider myself pro SharePoint, I’m not an apologist for the platform. SharePoint discussions miss out on people in my experience leading to ongoing site issues and the knowledge worker baggage the platform carries.

Here’s how to show empathy as a SharePoint site owner:

Respond to users

A common theme I’ve found behind SharePoint problems over the years was that the SharePoint site owner wasn’t responsive when there were user problems with accessing documents on the site.

It’s ok to break things in SharePoint. Just fix SharePoint issues fast. Lingering SharePoint issues are a top excuse for users working around SharePoint. While you may not fix some problems yourself, you want to be on top of issues. Have your own SharePoint people follow the matter through escalation.

I’ve long been an advocate of decentralizing SharePoint site management. You need to give teams the tools they need to manage their own SharePoint sites as they see fit. When a user has a problem, they can go to designated members of their own department or project team to get a SharePoint question answered or an issue resolved.

Spare the management mugshots

I once worked in a place where a manager insisted on having his profile shot on the front page of his department’s SharePoint site. To add insult to injury, he took over the site administration. At their level, we wondered how he had the time to meddle in the already troubled platform. This executive also didn’t understand site permissions, which led to some inconvenient lockouts.

This executive’s insistence of a photo on the site only added to SharePoint jokes users told. Vanity adds nothing to site usability.

Avoid complexity and dependencies

Keep your SharePoint sites simple. Work with your users and stakeholders to give them the minimum \numbet of steps to get what they need off the site. On a past contract, I called this minimum viable SharePoint (MVSP) to get my point across about site simplicity.

It’s also essential to avoid creating unnecessary dependencies on one person. I always recommend that teams taking on SharePoint site management grant the site owner role to multiple people.

Spare regular users the metadata discussion

When you over-intellectualize SharePoint discussions about tagging and metadata with already disaffected SharePoint users, you aren’t doing your SharePoint efforts any favors. Nor are you changing any minds.

Just make sure the SharePoint site search works. That sounds like a simple request. However, I’ve seen SharePoint not function more than once during my career. Sometimes, SharePoint search was never even set up in an IT department’s rush to check the box that SharePoint was running. It doesn’t matter to the average user if you’ve spent hours creating metadata and tagging. They want site search that works and makes their lives easier.

Hi! I’m Will Kelly. My career has given me the opportunity to write about cloud computing, DevOps, enterprise mobility, enterprise collaboration, project management, and related topics for publications, corporations, and government agencies. My focus is on white papers, marketing collateral, case studies, and thought leadership content. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.