5 Tips for Measuring the Success of Your SharePoint Implementation

You’ve got a burning sense for the fact that your SharePoint project hasn’t gotten the adoption you want.

Perhaps it’s your ears burning as others talk about the failure of the project to meet the adoption goals, or perhaps it’s just a fire in your belly that tells you there’s more to be had. Here are five tips to help you measure your success.

1. Know what measurement is. Sometimes we get lost in the idea that measurements must be precise – an exact measurement. However, no measurement is perfect.

Measurements simply need to be accurate – unerring. Unerring is to say that it cannot be systemically wrong. It has to be useful to indicate something.

2. Measure as close to the end goal as possible. Ultimately, you want to know how much value your SharePoint implementation is bringing to the organization. Don’t get hung up with adoption as the only metric.

Adoption is a leading indicator. Greater adoption generally leads to greater value for the organization but this isn’t always the case.

Statisticians speak of correlation – how frequently one thing leads to another. Almost no correlations are 100 percent. So the further away you get from the goal, the less accurate the measurements will be for your goal, and in business, greater value to the organization is always the key measure.

3. Use sampling to get close to total business value. One of the common concerns is “How will I measure direct and indirect business savings from SharePoint – for every project?” The answer is you don’t have time for that, so use a Fermi Estimate.

A Fermi Estimate is where you use known quantities with some reasonable questions to come up with a reasonable approximation of a value. Enrico Fermi got his class to reach a relatively close approximation of the number of piano tuners in Chicago based on the population (known), the number of people in a household (estimate), the percentage of people with pianos (estimate), and the number of hours to tune a piano (estimate).

You can do the same thing. You need to know the number of business solutions on SharePoint. You can estimate this as a fraction of the number of site collections you have. You might take a random sampling of site collections and see which ones seem to have solutions built on them and which ones are abandoned or are being used for basic collaboration.

The second number you’ll need is the amount of business value from each site. Pick a few sites that have solutions and work with the business to estimate the amount of savings or benefit of the solution.

Benefits are usually broken into hard and soft costs. Hard costs are those costs where the business gets real dollars – or saves real dollars because of the solution. Soft costs are the intangible benefits such as saving someone time – because the users will still have a job and therefore the business doesn’t see the benefits directly.

Multiply the number of solutions and the estimated average value and you have an estimate of the value of SharePoint.

4. Use the hard numbers to validate your estimates. One of the problems with Fermi Estimates is that if you don’t know enough variables in the equation, you end up with a useless number that's equally as useless as making up the answer.

Consider the Drake Equation, which is designed to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations. The problem with the Drake Equation is that every part of the equation relies on us to make an estimate for which we have no basis.

For instance, you need to know the average number of planets around stars, and the number of planets that can support life, and the number of those planets that will do develop life, and so on.

For each of these estimates we have only one reference point… eight planets (and a Pluto), one which can support life and one that did… and that life is intelligent. We simply don’t have enough information to make educated guesses (estimates).

For SharePoint, the hard numbers come from the number of web requests to the server. Typically we’ll look at this from the perspective of the number of visits and the amount of activity per visit.

If your estimate from above says that there are 100 solutions, each of which are supporting 20 people and creating value, so you should be able to see at least the 2,000 visits you’re claiming. If not, there’s an error somewhere that you’ll need to go find.

5. Look for unique ways to get valuable answers. Sometimes the techniques above just don’t seem to come together. So, create your own way to measure your SharePoint success.

If you’re interested in engagement (as I believe you should be), you might want to measure the number of new site collections being created. Perhaps it’s the number of new sub-sites.

Maybe you even want to measure the number of new lists and libraries created. These might not tell you about direct business value, but they will tell you -- in concrete numbers – the number of people that are trying to create new solutions in your environment.

There’s no such thing as a perfect measurement. Try to create a measurement of your SharePoint success that helps you create a plan on how to move forward and how to get more value out of the platform.

Note: You might find Susan Hanley’s Whitepaper “ A Practical Framework for SharePoint Metrics ” useful as well.

Robert Bogue is a Microsoft MVP for SharePoint, an internationally renowned speaker, and author of 22 books including the SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide for End Users. You can find out more about Robert’s work to encourage business value out of SharePoint at The SharePoint Shepherd or more about his technical solutions at Thor Projects.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Dec 9, 2011
As more and more organizations adopt SharePoint for collaborative computing/ digital sharing, achieving "success" with end-user adoption is becoming a hot topic. Fundamentally, proper planning (ahead of the SP deployment) is at the root of successful adopters by end-users within your firm. The first three tips you've shared all seem like smart planning tasks to help ensure success- and tips #4 and #5 would be wise method for measuring/testing that level of success. Additionally, it's important to note #2 and #3 are focused on the business side of SharePoint deployments. After all, business goals and workplace efficiency should be the driving forces behind choosing SharePoint. But that may mean your organization needs SharePoint planning that extends beyond the scope of many IT departments and IT professionals. A SharePoint-savvy business analyst might offer important strategic insight to maximize the value of a SharePoint implementation.

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