I was at a meeting recently where a simple screenshot and story about a SharePoint social and mobility project had a prospective client saying, “I want that. If you could share that story and image with our users, they would be jumping at this project, but sadly today they are retreating”.

Now I’m sure we are going to be able to help this organisation out, but once again it demonstrates the difference a business approach to projects makes.

In this case the existing SharePoint consultant working with this organisation is simply too technical. Users don’t want to hear about “What a list is” or “What a site collection is”, or words such as “server farm” even widely accepted terms such as “metadata” for many just screams “Technology! Change! Fear! Retreat!”

Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with having the best technical resources in town, I believe I work with many of them (check out their contributions here). However if they can’t guide the users of the system to ‘drink from the well of belief’, then they are letting technology get in the way of a good result.

The best consultants start with the end in mind, not only looking for the pains being experienced, but most importantly  painting the vision for the users like ‘Pied Pipers’ without the merest mention of list, library, wiki or site collection. They paint a picture that has the user smiling just thinking about the new experiences they are going to have.

Don’t let your project trip up at the first hurdle. Take the time to hear the stories of other projects managed before you. Understand the impacts and also the challenges experienced along the way and ask to meet the people who have actually worked, still work, with those customers. It shouldn’t take you too long to work out if your SharePoint consultant is ‘too technical’ to get you the result you are after.

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