Selling SharePoint (document management system / collaboration platform) to customers is not easy.
There are two approaches you can take when selling SharePoint:
- It works the way you business does [:)] – Microsoft’s approach
I believe that SharePoint really is very good platform but it is not an out-of-box solution. If you are experienced partner, you will be able to create added value for your customer, and your SharePoint project might be a success even with “it can do everything you need” approach.
- Keep it simple [:)] – Toni’s approach
Potential customer for SharePoint solution is every company with two or more employees. (Look for companies using Windows operating systems and Microsoft Office). Each company is different, so I am trying to approach each customer with unique approach.
1) The first meeting is usually just an interview: we sit down and discuss customers problems in areas of collaboration, working with documents, information etc. Customer is the actor in leading role, you are just asking smart questions while trying to focus on problems that you can solve with SharePoint.
2) From information gathered I prepare a presentation/demo that focuses on problems emphasized by the customer. With focused presentation you can really show the real benefits of SharePoint platform.
Usually customers have similar problems, so we have a set of predefined solutions for them. (Microsoft has done great ground work for you so you should check their WSS application templates).
Usual problems are:
- Inability to track documentation
I usually propose standard Windows SharePoint services / document libraries, calendars, contact lists etc. The key here is to focus on added benefits of SharePoint sites over standard file shares
- Paper based HR processes(Vacation approval, Education needs, Various requests)
I usually propose tracking all these requests using WSS. In case of complex processes we are implementing Nintex Workflow.
- Help Desk request are not centralized
Solution is based on combination of Issue Tracking, Wiki library and workflow that follows their business process. If there is no process defined, you should try to recommend one, take look at ITIL for more details.
- Legal department spends too much time to generate contracts
In a large organization majority of contracts is based on a template. So you can save a lot of time by integrating process of contract generation into a SharePoint list/document library
- Paper based processes to route and approve incoming documents
Proposed solution is storing your scanned documents to a SharePoint document library. With combination of proper tagging and workflows you can completely eliminate the need for paper based approvals and routings
- Inability to find documents
Recommendation is based on company size and it may vary from WSS Search, Microsoft Search Server 2008 or full blown Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Enterprise. Microsoft solutions are really good because they are built on existing IT infrastructure
So, keep it simple. Your first step is to find a business problem you can solve with SharePoint. The first project will show your customers how to use SharePoint and what are the real benefits of SharePoint implementation.