How to Build a Business Case For SharePoint

By Russ Edelman, CIO |  Software, collaboration, Microsoft

SharePoint's Functionality SharePoint's vast functionality--which is enhanced by add-on products from Microsoft partners--has played an important role in many purchasing decisions. Indeed, organizations regularly employ SharePoint as a web content management system, for collaboration, records management, and for its advanced search capabilities. They use one product for multiple purposes, rather than having to purchase multiple products to satisfy their various functional requirements.

That's the point you want to make in your business case: By leveraging SharePoint and add-ons from Microsoft partners, your enterprise will be able to do more with less. You'll save money because you'll be licensing fewer products, and because you're licensing fewer products, your software maintenance costs will also be lower. Additionally, if your organization is already a Microsoft shop, you may be able to save even more money by aggregating all of your Microsoft product licensing and software maintenance (Software Assurance) purchases under one software license agreement.

Your business case for SharePoint should also explicitly state the key capabilities that the system offers and how those capabilities will reduce application development and on-going maintenance costs.

For example, SharePoint's extensive functionality allowed global nonprofit Conservation International to substantially reduce the time and cost to deploy a website. "We attempted to build a complex system without SharePoint, and the process took two developers three years," says Alexandre Dinnouti, Conservation International's director of web applications. "Ultimately, we realized that we would never finish the project. We redirected the resources to utilize SharePoint 2007, and we had the first version of the system ready in just under six months."

Broad Adoption

As SharePoint adoption continues, it has become almost as critical as e-mail to an organization's daily business functions. Your business case should point out that because users are familiar with the product, business requirements analysis and migrations will take less time than typical software deployments and training costs will also be mitigated. Arguably, you could recognize these cost and time savings in the discussions of hard and soft ROI, but I recommend that you call them out separately because quantifying the specific cost reductions associated with user adoption may be challenging.

At Analog Devices, a global manufacturer of semiconductors, training costs were mitigated because users largely adopted SharePoint on their own. Says CIO Peter Forte: "SharePoint has seen tremendous growth with Analog, and this has come about primarily as a result of grass roots initiatives to leverage the technology that user communities took upon."

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