There is an Excessive Learning Curve for SharePoint.
In this blog post where I will address reasons people say they “hate” SharePoint, we will discuss if SharePoint has an excessive learning curve. You may recall from my first post, that I used the analogy of an airplane to explain how one might feel when seeing something they have no familiarity with for the first time. As I pilot, I compare many things to airplanes, so just humor me on this.
As I mentioned before, if you’ve never sat in the cockpit of any airplane before, you may just sit in awe at all the instruments and gauges just wondering who might ever understand it all. The same thing could be true about any new technology you’re introduced to, including SharePoint. But with proper training and practice, you will become familiar with it very quickly. But it does come down to how complex the technology is and how intuitive it is.
With SharePoint, it comes down to how “intuitive” it was designed to be. Obviously, an airplane requires a great deal of training and practice before that first solo, so we could say that it’s not very intuitive. On the other hand, social software like Facebook or Amazon is very intuitive. The designers spent a lot of time and money in making sure that you didn’t have to learn much to hit the ground running. Facebook wants it to be obvious to you how to post a comment or reply to someone in your newsfeed. And of course, Amazon wants you to know exactly how to make a purchase quickly and effortlessly. So, for both technologies, thousands (maybe millions) of dollars were spent on user experience, design, and implementation, not to mention their ongoing evolution.
But what about your SharePoint intranet? How much time and effort (and dollars) were put into user interface design or user experience? If you’re like most companies implementing SharePoint for the first time, there wasn’t a great deal of effort put into these two import factors. Your intranet may or may not be intuitive. And that’s where the perception of learning curve comes from. There is a direct correlation to the complexity of a technology and the learning curve. With no user interface design, SharePoint is a challenge to learn. There are features that are hidden that you may never understand. Take Version Control as an example. Version Control requires configuration and training as there are many options to how it is implemented. While SharePoint may prompt you to remind you about versioning when you save a document, it doesn’t have a wizard to walk you through and explain the entire process like Facebook or Amazon may.
If your site is an intranet site that you simply browse to find information, it may be very intuitive how to find things. Or if your Project Manager has a well thought out and designed Project management site (or even Project Server) then it may be obvious how to tell what work you must do based on the project timeline. It all comes down to how SharePoint is implemented. Again, I will bring up SharePoint Governance. There needs to be detailed planning up-front that includes user interface and design consideration.
So, SharePoint has just the right amount of learning curve based on the objectives of your implementation. If it’s a company intranet full of forms and information for you to search and browse, then it should be intuitive with little to no learning curve. If you have a complex implementation with detailed requirements for version control and document management, then you will need to consider a thorough learning curriculum. If you’re an airplane passenger, it’s intuitive what your role is and how to fill that role. If your role is pilot, then there is much more of a learning curve. Same with SharePoint or any technology where you are an active participant. SharePoint has a learning curve directly proportional to the complexity of the implementation. Since you and your team build SharePoint, you can make it as intuitive as you want it to be, therefore minimizing the learning curve for your team.
You may be starting to see the trend here. Much about SharePoint is a misunderstanding of the technology itself. Some will argue this with me and that’s OK. It’s a platform that’s helping change the way we work for the better. My next blog post in this series will address SharePoint Search and some of the misunderstanding around it.