Why a SharePoint project is like building a house (or should be) – Part 1

Simon Tyrrell, nSynergy Chief Strategy Officer

One of the things I enjoy most about my role is that I get the chance to sit back and take a big picture view of our business, and come up with ways to improve processes. For the past two years I went through the very interesting experience of designing and building a new house, which led to a series of blogs shared with my colleagues – and ultimately resulted in a change in how I consider the projects we do and how we go about engaging with our customers.

I wanted to share my insights from this period with you, in the interest of demonstrating how it is important to constantly analyse the way we do things, and to learn from experiences that may help us to deliver even better SharePoint solutions.

My wife and I employed a Building Designer to create us a brand new house. Throughout the process – and if you’ve ever undergone a major house build you’ll know it is quite the process – we obviously grew more and more excited about our new home. But the experience resonated strongly with me due to the many parallels to running a major IT project.

Let’s walk through my experience and compare it the SharePoint model historically used on most projects.

The Vision

The vision for our new home started with a single page of dot points my wife and I wrote down, plus a scrap book of things we had liked in magazines. It was very high level, with statements like ‘lots of natural light’, ‘take advantage of water views’ and ‘low profile on block’.

We then had a number of phone calls with the designer, where he asked a bunch of leading questions, and met with him face-to-face once, before he turned our ideas into a three page design brief. The purpose of this brief was to determine whether he had correctly interpreted what was important to us.

What’s SharePoint got to do with it?

Had this been a traditional SharePoint project, the process would have virtually worked in reverse. The SharePoint provider would have jumped straight into business requirements, with an eagerness to bring their technical proficiency into play straight off the bat.

The Concept

After a series of emails with questions, clarifications and then a survey of the land, we met with the designer again and he took us through a 3D visual concept of the direction he was heading. He then provided us with some still frame images to refer too, like this example:

Images courtesy of Clever Design: www.cleverdesign.com.au

Images courtesy of Clever Design: http://www.cleverdesign.com.au

Underpinning this concept was the beginnings of the detailed plans. However, these were of little relevance to us. What we wanted to know was: would this house achieve what we wanted it to?

The ability to see the early concept in 3D (and even walk through it) showed us it would.

What’s SharePoint got to do with it?

Had this been a SharePoint project, it would still generally have been considered too early for design concepts, which means a lost opportunity for all players to enjoy an early visual reference point. Vision is, after all, the most dominant sense for human beings!

The Detail

During the next few months we heard very little from the designer. However, when we did, we were amazed by the level of detail that had been completed. We soon had 16 A2 size detailed plans, taking us through every possible piece of detail about how our house would be built – including slabs, framing, steelwork, foundations etc. These were the important details we needed to provide to the builder and the council – in other words, the technical experts:

Images courtesy of Clever Design: www.cleverdesign.com.au

Images courtesy of Clever Design: http://www.cleverdesign.com.au

Obviously this level of detail required either industry expertise we didn’t have, or a lot of study. If these 2D drawings were the only thing in our possession we would have had little idea of what the house would be like to live in. But luckily, we had our 3D walk though of the final design.

These were hugely important to my wife and I, because they allowed us to imagine what our home would ‘feel’ like at different times of the day. We were able to gain an immediate appreciation for design decisions as well an understanding of the geometry and space of the building.

What’s SharePoint got to do with it?

Again, IT solutions in the SharePoint space are largely focused on lengthy specification documents and technical detail. Rarely are users given a means to ‘experience’ the end result early in the process. Not only does this help inform their decision, it enables early buy-in to critical design decisions.

Stay tuned for Part 2 soon, when I will be talking about how my house experience and SharePoint aligned on an even deeper level during the build phase. I will also be sharing some key learnings which changed how we, as a business, tackle our projects.

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2 thoughts on “Why a SharePoint project is like building a house (or should be) – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Why a SharePoint project is like building a house – Part 2 The Build « The nSynergy blog

  2. Pingback: BYOD: A little less conversation, a little more action, please « The nSynergy blog

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