Building SharePoint Literacy

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Trying to get information workers in your organization more comfortable using SharePoint? Have you heard them curse SharePoint under their breath? If you answered yes to either of these questions and you want to increase SharePoint adoption, an effective way to accomplish this is to build digital literacy, specifically SharePoint literacy.

Please read an excellent blog post titled Digital Literacy and the Impact on User Adoption by Office Servers and Services MVP, Tracy Van der Schyff, where she explains what is meant by Digital Literacy and the importance of it.

The remainder of this post will focus on digital literacy as it relates to SharePoint. Let’s get Back to Basics.

Lagging end-user adoption in SharePoint can be caused by a plethora of reasons, some of which are not within an information worker’s control. Examples of this can be seen in environments where the site design and structure have been poorly planned, where environments lack sufficient governance to maintain order, where sites have incorrect permissions applied, where environments have slow network speeds, and the list goes on. However, even if you have these things right, you may still notice information workers being frustrated with their SharePoint “experience”. You can quickly find out what people are struggling with by reviewing your organization’s service desk tickets for all SharePoint-related calls, something I highly recommend doing if you want to increase SharePoint adoption at the grass-roots level.

I guarantee you… from your review, a pattern of common SharePoint trouble spots will begin to emerge.

SharePoint Trouble Spots

Based on my experience, there’s 3 main trouble spots. The good news is once you know what people are struggling with, you can target training to address the gap. Mastery of these skills should markedly improve their SharePoint “experience”.

What are the 3 skills?

  • How to search (in SharePoint)
  • How to sync (from SharePoint)
  • How to save (to SharePoint)

Don’t assume information workers know these things and the nuances of each of them. If they do, that’s awesome! If not, show them! Either way, encourage them to go back and share these skills with their co-workers who may not know. This is how we get adoption at scale!

It’s a win-win.

How to search in SharePoint

NOTE: this skill assumes you have the site and its content laid out in a manner that allows for good search results. This takes an experienced SharePoint resource to get it set up right in the first place. Remember, if you’re in Office 365, Delve isn’t going to automatically solve this problem for you!

Whether you’re in the modern or classic SharePoint experience, users need to know how to search. This fundamental skill extends far beyond SharePoint since most of us do this inherently in our personal digital lives already every time we go to a browser’s search engine. However, things are a little bit different within the enterprise and SharePoint, so make sure users know how to effectively search within there.

Some search nuggets to share:

  • how to search for a specific property (file name, author, file type, etc.)
  • how to search in classic versus modern sites and libraries
  • how to search across an entire tenant/farm or scoped to a specific site/library/folder
  • if you’re in Office 365, what’s the difference between Delve and Classic search. When would you use one over the other?

How to sync from SharePoint

Although the actual How to steps to sync a SharePoint library are fairly straight-forward, I think the guidance needs to be around when and if you should sync a SharePoint library. The guidance you provide will vary depending on whether or not you’ve deployed the new OneDrive sync client (part of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update) in your organization.

If you have deployed it, the new client (used for syncing both OneDrive and SharePoint files) implements the Files on Demand  feature where only file placeholders are synced resulting in much less space being consumed on a user’s local hard drive and, as a result, is a better-performing sync process. It is imperative that users understand the meaning of the sync icons as this will indicate whether or not the file or file placeholder is synced locally, something that will be important to know if they will need to work offline with any of the files.

Refer to a recent blog post I wrote to describe the meaning of the icons used by the new OneDrive sync client: OneDrive Files On-Demand Icons.

If you have not deployed the new client, you need to ensure Information Workers understand the impacts of syncing an entire SharePoint document library to their hard drive. Perhaps your guidance will be to recommend only syncing at a folder level rather than at a library level. Your organization will need to decide what guidance you’ll provide to information workers on this matter.

How to save to SharePoint

This is perhaps the #1 frustration information workers have with SharePoint. From an end-user perspective, there are generally 3 ways to save something to a SharePoint document library.

Method 1: Navigate to the SharePoint document library you want to create the document in and select New from the ribbon.

Method 2: Navigate to the SharePoint document you want to upload an existing file to and click the Upload link from the ribbon/toolbar.

Method 3: Start in the Office client (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), create your document and click Save as to point to the SharePoint document library location you want it saved in. You can find the SharePoint document library using 1 of 2 methods… the Pin it method or the Sync it method!

  • Pin it!  Select one of your previously pinned common libraries/sites from the Save as backstage of each Office client. Pinning locations to the backstage is something I always recommend end-users do particularly if they are not syncing the document library. This makes their experience much better if they want to start in the Office client. (Note: I’ve read the ability to pin previous locations to the backstage is a factor of Windows version and Office client version. With Windows 10 latest build and Office 2016 latest build, it works flawlessly)
  • Sync it!  If you are syncing the document library, navigate to it using Save as… Browse just like you would navigate to any drive location.

Note: I do not recommend pinning SharePoint locations to Quick Access in File Explorer or mapping network drives unless there is a requirement to do so for an integration with another system. Neither of these is required to save a document from any of the Office client programs. My experience with either of these methods is they will eventually lose connection to the back-end SharePoint location.  

Training Delivery

Now that we’ve identified what we need to train on, what’s the best way to deliver this training? There’s lots of options! Here’s a few ideas:

  • If this is a new SharePoint site you’ve provisioned for a team, provide a hands-on orientation session to teach them how to do these things right from the get-go! If they have laptops, ask them to bring them to the meeting and have them set up their Office client Save as locations and Sync locations during the meeting.
  • Provide a presentation-style training session with these How to’s included. Great names for this type of training:
    • SharePoint 101
    • SharePoint Back-to-Basics
    • SharePoint Getting Started
  • Build SharePoint pages for each skill you’re training for and tag each with How to and/or Back to Basics. Leverage search web parts and link to them from your organization’s Resource Center. Follow my blog series, Build Targeted Training on Office 365 Adoption Center, for a walk-thru on how to build this using modern pages in SharePoint Online.


If you’ve shared these 3 skills with the information workers in your organization, I guarantee you’ll have moved the needle closer to the utopia of productive, happy SharePoint users. 🙂

An important role we all have in supporting SharePoint is to help end-users function effectively within it. This post covered 3 tangible ways of doing that.

Thanks for reading.


One comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.