DEG Enterprise Collaboration Consultant Nicole (Niki) Adams works as one of the project leads for teams specializing in SharePoint deployments. Her current focus is internal enterprise collaboration sites, and her clients run the gamut, from engineering and retail to insurance and government, as well as nonprofits and finance. Niki has been working with SharePoint since 2009, so she’s familiar with SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010, and now SharePoint 2013.
Niki, describe the big picture of your job as a consultant.
My job is to create technology solutions that solve business problems. That means one of the most important things I do is listen – listen to the client’s concerns and their pain points, and listen to their subject matter experts. I respect their enterprise goals and their vision. I learn about their existing technology investments and infrastructure, users, customer base, workflows, and how they like to get things done. Then my team and I design and build responsive systems where all of these elements integrate effectively. The better our systems, the more productively our clients can do business.
Say more about the members of your team, and what they do.
As a project lead, I’m just the tip of the iceberg. SharePoint is a huge platform, evolving all the time, and no one person can master it all. I coordinate expertise from all over DEG, from development and configuration to user experience and user interface. We even offer support. Before moving to project lead I worked as an engineer myself – my background is in Oracle, WebSphere, WebLogic, BEA, I’ve done both Java and .NET programming. Here at DEG I also have access to additional teams that work on everything from creative to analytics. Our shared experience goes so deep, there’s really no problem we can’t tackle.
How have you seen SharePoint help businesses with enterprise collaboration?
The SharePoint platform itself creates a main forum for collaboration, for centralizing and processing all enterprise information and knowledge. When a business uses SharePoint, it helps them break down internal silos and integrate that expertise and value across the organization. SharePoint can also get business users to utilize more efficient processes that help with overall productivity – document sharing, versioning, alerts, the team sites and calendars, workflows, etc.
But I think the value of working with SharePoint goes past the platform itself. Whether you’re implementing, integrating, or updating, the entire process forces your enterprise to think more strategically about why you do what you do, and exactly how you do it. Our discovery process is designed to help businesses evaluate their internal resources, their content, common user behaviors, knowledge management, and overall approach to business and technology. I’ve worked with so many clients, in so many sectors, that I can help a lot with assessment and pattern recognition. I also know which strategies have already worked well in certain situations, and which have faced challenges.
What are some of the typical obstacles that clients usually face?
Time, resources, and money – but who doesn’t? But one big problem that SharePoint helps solve is knowledge management. Still, I’d say that another problem I see clients come up against is change management. I help a lot with getting users to adapt to using the new systems that we build. I also advise on getting broad stakeholder buy-in. When you are implementing a new system enterprise-wide, you absolutely have to bring everyone along with you in the process. It’ll bite you in the end if you don’t.
Is there any such thing as a typical SharePoint project? Is it ever just plug and play?
Ha! I’ll just say that if you are truly designing an enterprise-responsive system, the answer to that is probably no. For example, every company starts from a different baseline. They all have legacy systems, they all have already made major information infrastructure investments, they all have different content – you have to ask hard questions about updating, integrating, migrating. There’s so many factors to consider.
My job is to tell it like it is and give best recommendations I possibly can. At the end of the day, you’re not there to tell a client what they want to hear – you’re there to tell them the not-so-good news, too. You’re there to present the options, help them consider the pros and cons, the costs and benefits, then to build the best option for their situation and their goals.
What do you like best about this job?
In a field that changes so fast, you have to be on your game every second. You can never put down your book, you need to continually be educating yourself. Not just on the subject or the platform, but on the strategy. You have to keep pushing yourself to take the broader view.