Making The Case For Running SharePoint In Parallel

JP Morgan Chase augments its existing SharePoint 2007 system with a separate SharePoint 2010 installation for community and social functionality.

Steve Wylie, Contributor

June 16, 2011

4 Min Read

JP Morgan Chase is one of the largest financial institutions in the world, with 200,000 employees in 60 countries around the globe. Mike Aaron Brown is senior project manager for the company's centralized applications and shared services and is one of the key people driving JP Morgan Chase's internal collaboration, intranet, global search, and social strategy.

The JP Morgan Chase story is a familiar one, with a lot of SharePoint 2007 installed to support individual group and project collaboration throughout the business. Because of the company's sheer size and global, its SharePoint implementation has accumulated over 4,000 site collections in a massive, centralized SharePoint farm.

Back in 2009, Brown's team began to explore its options for adding community and social functionality into its central service offering. After careful examination, the group set out to pilot an entirely new platform, built from the ground up on Microsoft SharePoint 2010, combined with Newsgator's Social Sites for activity streams, profiles, and communities.

"We needed better collaboration across our geographies and business divisions," said Brown. "From a community perspective, our central SharePoint farm had become fragmented with redundant groups across the business. We wanted to cut down on the 4,000 collections to encourage communities to share information across business divisions and geographies. This was the most important business driver for us." After conducting a series of pilots on the new system, JP Morgan Chase launched its production community environment at the end of 2010.

But Chase didn't scrap its existing SharePoint 2007 system. Instead, it built the new system to run in parallel. While that may seem redundant, Brown makes his case for this approach, citing some important considerations for any large organization. "Building a separate system for community and social functionality allows us to establish the ground rules around legal, risk and compliance that come with being in a heavily regulated industry" he said. "Building the system from the ground up will ensure that the right policies are in place and will help with our success."

Brown also cited the need to establish and enforce governance in the new system up front, another reason to build from scratch and in parallel. "For companies that have deployed SharePoint, there's a common dialogue," he said. "SharePoint is easy to use and well integrated with the Office suite. But when you're a large corporation and you don't have the right governance in place, it will grow like a dandelion. We wanted to make sure to establish the right governance up front so that we don't have that kind of problem."

The two systems are currently separate with basic information links between them. But plans are in place to migrate their group and project sites to SharePoint 2010, which will allow them to bring the social and community content into the group and project sites and allow the project content to be surfaced into community sites' activity streams. Running the two systems in parallel has allowed JP Morgan Chase to keep the work in the existing group and project sites flowing while it executes its strategy to safely allow for better community and social functionality without creating unnecessary risk.

Brown believes the new community system needs to grow organically, as the business demands it. "It didn't make sense to bring in 50,000 people into a platform with a limited number of communities. Users may find nothing for them and not come back," Brown said. Instead, his team is working across the organization with different groups to understand their business needs. Brown's team provides strategic consultation and careful planning on how to best leverage the new platform, and how to use good community management practices to keep the weeds down.

Brown is taking careful and deliberate steps to grow Chase's new community site with the policies in place to ensure the site grows in an effective and manageable way. His team is also focused on moving slowly to ensure its legal, risk, and compliance requirements are being met with the new system.

The slow approach is working well. The pilot grew much larger than the company originally anticipated because people kept jumping on, Brown said. Familiarity with the SharePoint interface helped. But going it slow also allowed users to become more accustomed to social features on public networks like Facebook and Twitter so they could become comfortable with the social functionality in the new SharePoint 2010/Social Sites system.

What do you think? Is the parallel approach worth considering or overly complex? Comments welcome.

Steve Wylie is general manager and conference director for UBM TechWeb's Enterprise 2.0 conferences. He can be found on twitter @swylie650.

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