Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SharePoint for Training Purposes

My real intent for writing this post is to get ideas from others for how they’ve used SharePoint to collaborate and manage a training project. Normally I’m a stellar Google-er, but in this case, the results are bogging me down. There’s just too much out there touting SharePoint and combined with the work training, oh my. So please, share your examples with me!

My Goals

I’m just getting started with using SharePoint with my clients, so I don’t have much to share yet. I have two goals for applying this technology for my training projects.
  1. Reduce the emails in my inbox and to save a tree or three.
  2. Make it so I can find what I’m looking for by creating a centralized location for our work.
Getting Started

By now I’m sure everyone and their mom has used SharePoint, but I’m quite new to it. I have participated in a few “large” projects using SharePoint, but those sites were created and maintained by others and my role was reactionary. Establishing a site for my own projects was quite a different perspective.

There are a lot of options, as well as limitations in what you can do. And some features (hello, lists!) are more complex than figuring out how many miles your food has traveled to your plate. This is especially where I’m hoping to get a few comments from you with ideas.

As I mentioned, the documentation out there is quite frustrating. So a lot of what I’ve been doing is trial and error.

One Example – Project Site

The first site that I made was for a one-time training project. I proposed it as an alternative to email and let me client know that we could abandon ship if needed. We’re still working on the project, and so far using SharePoint has been successful.

Two of the features we use the most include:
  • Shared Documents – I use this to store archival material as well as meeting minutes and agendas.
  • Wikis – As a collaborative space for task lists, objectives, hashing out job aids, etc.
Features that haven’t taken hold yet:

  • Calendar – I set up a calendar, but it’s actually clunky to get it to sync with my Outlook calendar (probably because of versioning). Hopefully this gets fixed in an upcoming upgrade.
  • Announcements – I make announcements, but I’m not sure that they’re read and my clients don’t add any, so it feels very one way.
  • To Do lists – I hope that we’ll use these more, but it feels more as if I’m assigning work than tracking who is doing what. I think I need a better way to manager this part.
  • Discussion board – This is still the beginning of the project, so we’re still having in-person meetings. Even so, I’m sensing it might be difficult to transition from meetings to the discussion board. I guess we’ll see.
Unexpected benefits that are really cool:
  • Transparency – There’s no hiding out on my behalf with the status of the project. My progress is visible and I like that.
  • Organization – I was hoping for a way to keep track of things and not lose decisions in buried emails. But I had no idea how clean it would be. I don’t even have a file folder for this project. It’s all on the site! And my email file is super tiny.
  • Bugs/usability – Sometimes I just can’t figure things out. In my Shared Docs, I found that it’s difficult to move a document once in a folder, so I had to redo the entire thing to use “categories” instead. I’ve run into a few similar things where it’s the interface that makes it hard.
Another Example – Team Site

Another project that I haven’t got off the ground yet is to find a way for a team of people with training-related functions to collaborate and communicate. When I went to set up the site I realized the “project” based site wouldn’t fit the need. This situation was different because it doesn’t have a start and an end – or phases along the way. I still haven’t figured out exactly how to achieve all of my goals.

I want to be able to:
  • Track tasks for different people – But I can’t decide if this should be done per person, by type of work, or all in one big list.
  • Make a single place to document upcoming training sessions – This I think I may have figured out. For each new training session, I’ll create a wiki where we can document things like dates and times, location, student names, facilitator names. This should be great. One big challenge right now is that this information changes to the last second, so having one place to go will really help.
  • Make a place to document decisions about various training programs and courses.
  • Make it so that if I or other people leave their roles, the site will continue on without disruption.
I can post more as I get the site set up. Definitely send ideas if you have them. I’m sure I’m not the first to cross this bridge.

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