Training SharePoint End Users is a waste of time

Posted by Asif Rehmani on Apr 13, 2015


Many years ago, I came to the conclusion that thoroughly training end users on SharePoint is a waste of time - theirs and yours (the trainer). You may or may not agree, but this is my conclusion after seeing myself and others like me be unsuccessful attempting this for many years. Read further on how I came upon this conclusion and my thoughts on what does work in regards to helping SharePoint users.

Listen to this blog post:


The Situation

This realization dawned upon me about 6 years ago when I was conducting a class for end users in Chicago. I felt pretty good about myself since everyone was nodding their heads and truly seemed like they were really getting it. This was a 2 full day class so we talked about sites, pages, lists, libraries, permissions, web parts, site columns, content types.. the works!iStock_000013407257XSmall

At the end of the 2 day course, this organization that I was consulting for wanted me to sit in their office the next couple of days in case end users had any questions while using the system. I had no doubt in my mind that there would be a few questions, but nothing substantial. I was so wrong!

The whole 2 days that I sat there in their office, I got questions on the how-to of what I had just taught them thoroughly in the last couple of days. Questions such as:

  • Do I make a new subsite when I don't have enough room on this site home page?
  • Where do I upload our company pictures? In the document library you showed us?
  • I want to give permission to this user on this site, but not on this other site. How do I do that?
  • Why is it asking me to 'check out' the document that I'm clicking on? This is too confusing. What does this mean?


Tough Lesson

I felt terrible :-(. Honestly. Almost like I robbed the company for the training that I provided to these end users since they had questions on the same stuff we had already talked about in the training. I did the best I could those two days I sat there to help their users and then bid farewell and good luck. They had very minimal SharePoint knowledge within the company and I wished that I could leave behind some knowledge that could help their users when they needed it. I knew I was going to get emails/call afterwards. I was definitely right about that part. Lots of calls and emails afterwards.

This was a tough experience for me. It taught me that no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn't get their end users to become SharePoint end users. They were really end users who had expertise in their domain (the company dealt with secondary institution insurance). They didn't really care about SharePoint much. It was just a tool to help them do their job.


Eureka Moment

I finally had the realization:

Users who use SharePoint don't want to become SharePoint end users any more than users who use MS Office want to become Office End Users

It is impossible to thoroughly train end users to become SharePoint literate completely in a couple of days. The time spent for 'SharePoint Training for End Users' should rather be used for explaining how end users can be successful with their jobs using this platform which just happens to be powered by a technology called SharePoint. Users need to understand what's in it for them? If nothing, then it's a waste of their time and yours.

Quite obviously the SharePoint platform does have a lot to offer. We all know that. Instead of shoving all the knowledge down the user's throat however, I truly believe (and have experience many times) that it's better to provide help to users as needed.

Help provided in-context and on-demand to users just works!

No one really cares about how to create a new column on an existing list until they have a need for it. Checking out a document from a library is not cool, until there is a need for locking down a document so you can edit it and you learn that checking out is the way to do that. Editing the page of your site is not something anyone gets excited about, until an end user wants to share results of a contest which shows scores and pictures of the winners and their trophies. This is when the person needs to know how to edit a team site page.


Final Thoughts

  • Let's not waste the end users and your time trying to training them thoroughly on SharePoint.
  • An end user doesn't want to (and quite honestly should not have to) be as enthusiastic about SharePoint as you and I.
  • People who use SharePoint just want to do their jobs and not learn yet another system called SharePoint.
  • Provide your end users the Help they need when they need it - not before and not after.

Best wishes and good luck on controlling the chaos of SharePoint support in your organization. Feel free to get in touch or leave a comment on this post.

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