I’ve always been in favor of rolling out new products to small groups of end-users, especially when a new app arrives and I’m a little unsure of how it might be used. I trust my users to come up with innovative ways of using some of these new products, and I’m not so sure that IT would ever be able to envision all the possible uses. Recently, we’ve done this with both Microsoft SharePoint and OneNote. One of those experiments has turned out well – one not-so-well, but both continue to be works in progress.
When we first began deploying SharePoint, we correctly suspected that it was probably too big for IT to figure out. I don’t mean that we couldn’t figure it out from a technical perspective, but rather that we simply couldn’t envision the twists and turns the deployment would bring. We were correct, and for the most part the deployment has gone very well. The original group “got it” with regard to the application’s purpose, and they were instrumental in helping us launch the product to the entire company. To this day, the twists and turns surprise me, but so far we haven’t run into any major issues or what I’d call misuse of the product.
We tried a similar tactic recently with OneNote – a product which I personally love, but unfortunately this one has taken an entirely different direction with regard to my test group. One of our users has proposed turning OneNote into our primary product for managing all of our workflow, and has even proposed that we utilize it for filing other documents – embedding Word documents and Acrobat PDFs into OneNote notebooks.
This is by no means a disaster. The problem for us is that many of these ideas for OneNote are actually running counter to ways in which we’re just beginning to use SharePoint. It’s certainly something which can be controlled. My bigger fear is creating a perception, especially with a power user, that IT is standing in the way of innovation and new ideas. The trick is keeping the user involved, and getting them to understand why you’re saying no to what they think is a great suggestion.