Feedback from our people after SharePoint adoption

It’s been almost a year since I took this position of SharePoint Business Architect and Administrator for our division. We have seen quite a bit of use of SharePoint in that time, and we have also seen usage become more accepted and are finding a more positive outlook on this software.

I thought I would share some of the feedback from the site owners around the division.

“We have begun to share resources with team members via SharePoint and look forward to transitioning to that platform along with the Division of Student Affairs!”

“I have had a great experience so far, but have not delved too deeply into it. The challenge is setting aside time to learn.”

“We just need time to sit down and figure out how to implement it for our department.”

“We just need time to sit down and figure out how to implement it for our department.”

“SharePoint can be a little confusing—perhaps not as intuitive as I would like—but I am committed to making the system work because I believe it will be a useful tool for DSA and for our department.”

“We have used SharePoint in the past, we just need to familiarize ourselves with this new program. [We plan to use it] to have a central location for our policies and procedures.”

“I need to be very knowledgeable on this before I approach moving to this direction. This means finding time in my schedule to work with it outside the training I’m receiving. Finding that time will be another challenge.”

“It seems overwhelming at first, but with patience and the courage to try something unfamiliar, it’s a great system to use!”

“I plan to use it to get the word out there about [our] initiatives including resources and how various departments … can be involved. It is a learning process and we can all help each other get there!”

“I think it can be really useful for us. Be flexible and keep trying!”

“[Unfortunately,] on every project we want to use SharePoint for, we have non-VT users/members of that group [making it difficult logistically for us].”

“It has potential to allow us to access important communications within the DSA, as well as storage of frequently needed resources and documents within our team. [SharePoint] is not that scary 🙂 “


Use Case – Scheduling

Virginia Tech has more than 20 residence halls and our Housing and Residence Life area maintains a large roster of resident advisers who monitor their respective residence halls.

Scheduling these resident advisers was accomplished by completing monthly schedules in spreadsheets for each residence hall. Those spreadsheets were then sent to three central communicators who would compile those monthly spreadsheets into a weekly schedule to be emailed to the various stakeholders.

Any changes in schedules would be communicated to those three central folks, who would edit the schedules and email them to the stakeholders. Stakeholders could receive up to 15 emails a week with edits, and keeping the weekly schedules up to date could take up to 3 hours a week collectively. 

We centralized all the information into SharePoint using a variety of lists and data points. The schedules are still compiled on spreadsheets, which now live within the SharePoint site and have been automated to only require the email address of the student. All other information matches the data in SharePoint, and the data is copied from the Excel spreadsheet into SharePoint in the beginning of the month.

From there, the Senior Resident Advisers have the capability of making schedule changes for their respective buildings. The stakeholders no longer receive 15 emails a week; they now can view an up-to-date schedule directly on SharePoint, showing the supervisory staff as well as the resident advisers on call.

We estimate this new process will save the central communicators upwards of 20 hours a month while saving the stakeholders much time in retrieving the information they need.

Use Case – Assessment and Professional Development

Our Assessment and Professional Development team have embraced the use of SharePoint and Office365 for two of their main processes: Program Review and area Assessment Plans.

Program Review

Each department is responsible for completing a program review every five years, much like our campus accreditation process in my previous employment. The process includes reviewers from multiple departments, students, and people from throughout the university.

Starting last year, all the Program Reviews were moved to SharePoint, which has helped everyone stay connected. With everyone able to access and review the documents at any given time, it has cut down on the amount of meeting time needed, and those working more extensively on these reviews are able to work together in the same document as appropriate. The results of the Program Reviews are then kept online in a secure environment, limiting access only to those need to know.

Assessment Plans

Each area in the division is responsible for completing annual assessment plans including missions, goals, and objectives. They work with representatives from each department. Previously, each of the departments housed the plans either on their own shared drives, or within the Assessment shared drive. In both cases, by keeping those documents on physical file servers, they were not living documents, and it made collaboration difficult. By moving those files into the SharePoint environment, all of the stakeholders have access to the files and can work together.

Use Case – Learning Modules

Our division’s Human Resources department was one of the first adopters of SharePoint, and their main focus initially was the development and delivery of course material for three very different courses: DSA Foundations, The Leadership Legacy Certificate and The Service Institute.

They wanted to make these resources available to the participants of the program without making them available on the world wide web. They are able to contain the content and make it available to current and past participants by the use of subsites. Each course has its own subsite, with its own document and media libraries.

By making the resources available on SharePoint, Human Resources has been able to have participants be more actively engaged with the course material. They are able to watch videos on their own time and review course notes prior to attending the next class.

Use Case – Finance Department

Our Finance department embraced one important benefit of SharePoint/Office365 – the ability to transform the financial aspect of the division into a paperless process. The goal for the department is to have all of their processes and files in an electronic format.

During the 2015-16 fiscal year they piloted the process of engaging the various departments within the division into submitting invoices using OneNote. Initially piloted through one of their team members’ OneDrive, where files in OneDrive were shared individually with the responsible parties in each department, they moved the process to their SharePoint site for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Using OneNote for this purpose has helped the Finance department in a number of ways:

  • As new invoices are added by division staff, the OneNote notebook will reveal that change by turning the notebook name bold, an easy visual notification to the Finance team that a new document has been added.
  • All of the invoices related to each month, and each type of expense, are attached to the OneNote file.
  • The invoices are organized by sections with the budget code and subsections for each month, so at a glance, the team can review the current months’ bills for a specific budget code.
  • Invoices are not lost through interoffice mail, and the department’s representative is able to review any prior invoices at any given time.

Prior to moving everything to SharePoint and Office 365, the finance department was buying 10 cases of paper. Not anymore. What a great savings story!

Use Case – Document Templates

One of the first projects I worked on within our division was the creation of a document library featuring document templates. We have an internal student-facing initiative called the Keystone Experience, and departments that work with students are encouraged to submit “Happenings” for our students to attend throughout the semester.

The initial idea of just placing a template in the library for people to download was quickly rejected due to the nature of human error – someone could go in and place their own “Happening” within the template document rather than upload a new file, the result of which would mean lost files.

The solution was to use SharePoint’s Content Type feature and create a template for the document library to use. Employees can simply click “New” from within the document library and a blank form appears for them to use. By using a template directly within SharePoint, we eliminated the need for people to download a template file from the site and thus reducing the margin for error. Users can just create a file, rename it in the black bar, and the committee has all the information they need to approve or reject the “Happenings” and therefore whether or not it is included in the Keystone Experience.

Use Case – Leave Calendar

Several departments in our division decided to implement a leave calendar for their areas. Some decided to use it as a “notification” calendar, where people post their personal time off without the need for approvals, where as some areas wanted to include an approval work flow for their leave calendars.

This good work was started with by a new administrative person who thought capturing the leave request approvals on the team’s SharePoint calendar would be a good place to start. When I asked team leaders if they wanted to attach that to an approval workflow and make this an electronic process, their eyes lit up and we scheduled a meeting to implement this process for them.

We replaced their paper form with an electronic one in SharePoint and set up a workflow that emails approvers the leave requests, provides them a link to approve or reject the leave requests, and then shows the leave requests on the calendar. The requester will also receive confirmation emails of completion with either approval or rejection noted in the email.

Since then, other departments have taken this approach and it’s helped keep track of employee status within their respective areas, reducing the amount of paperwork and tracking.