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The SharePoint Community and Open Innovation

By Ant Clay posted Mar 20, 2012 4:50 AM

  

Last month on Twitter I took part in the #SPJam "2012:  State of the SharePoint Community" with Harmon.ie . As you can probably imagine it was a little too manic to deliver lots of value and my eyes really ached trying to follow the tweet-stream for an hour, but for all its issues there were some very interesting aspects that I want to take the time to share with you all.

The SharePoint community is as strong, vibrant, passionate and productive as it has ever been, if you need something, have a question or get stuck you basically just have to ask and someone somewhere will have the answer or know someone that does. For a community that value exchange is critical, but in my opinion it shouldn’t be the only thing and I’m starting to wonder whether the SharePoint Community is really offering very much more than an awesome and very generous Q&A solution.

What really struck me about the #SPJam Twitter conversation and also in retrospect, looking back over all of the SharePoint community activities I see and have been involved with, one specific thing sticks out more than anything else and that’s individuals:

“There’s too much focus on individuals and not enough focus on bringing value
to organisations or even more importantly to our collective customers”

Reading between my own lines, basically what I’m saying is that the SharePoint community should move its focus from being purely person-centric (note we should never ever stop delivering value to individuals) and start delivering significantly more value for the “end customer”, and yes I would be as bold as to say we in the SharePoint community should start making money for each other, those dirty words like “sales”, “marketing”, “leads”, “relationships”, “joint opportunities”  etc.!

This is what the enlightened people outside of the SharePoint world are starting to explore, something that Henry Chesborough (UC Berkely) coined as “Open Innovation”; and he famously quoted:

“Open Innovation is fundamentally about operating in a world of abundant knowledge…
not all the smart people work for you, so you better go find them, connect to them,
 and build upon what they can do”

The following factors of “open innovation” are taken directly from the Wikipedia article:

Throughout the years several factors emerged that paved the way for open innovation paradigms:

  1. The increasing availability and mobility of skilled workers
  2. The growth of the venture capital market
  3. External options for ideas sitting on the shelf
  4. The increasing capability of external suppliers

These four factors have resulted in a new market of knowledge. Knowledge is not anymore proprietary to the company. It resides in employees, suppliers, customers, competitors and universities. If companies do not use the knowledge they have inside, someone else will.

Doesn’t that make sense; isn’t this very true?

Look around you at the people in the SharePoint community that you respect, that you would love to work with; do they work with you now at your company? I’m betting that for the most part they don’t.

Assuming that you agree that there is significant value in delivering more value for our shared customers, driving more sales through the community and doing more interesting work with inspiring people then what is stopping us from pivoting (See the book Lean Startup by Eric Ries) the SharePoint Community and revolutionising the SharePoint space?

Absolutely nothing is stopping us!

Let me suggest a few ideas as to how we can lead this revolution:

  • Work out what your “Why?” is, what do you love doing in SharePoint, what are (individual, your team and your company your strengths)? Focus only on those
  • For all the areas that you don’t cover (and there will be lots), look around for inspirational people, partners and organisations that do cover it (and cover it awesomely)
  • Reach out, share, innovate and deliver jointly
  • Actually get up and make this happen.

Yes this is hard, yes it may feel like you’re “losing business” at first, but that will change quickly and the value going forwards is incredible.

Don’t be scared, make the community what it should be, valuable on all sides, take it one step at a time, but take that step…

  • Start with marketing and thought leadership activities
  • Move on to utilising 3rd-party tools and other organisations packaged services
  • Grow into co-delivery, co-creation of IP (Intellectual Property) and open innovation.

At 21apps we consider that we are on the path to open innovation; we readily accept that we don’t do the detailed technology delivery stuff, you guys can scale much better to deliver that, but what we do (governance, information architecture, visualisations, social business, alignment, vision and SharePoint Tummler) is the stuff we do really well, are passionate about and love!

Let us recap.

I think, and I hope by now you agree in some part, that the SharePoint community, although awesome in its own way, is far too self-centred; we don’t mean to be, but it’s just starting to feel like it’s a marketing soap-box for individuals and a very effective “question and answer” solution for SharePoint implementers.

Let’s pivot the SharePoint community, let’s turn it into an immense open innovation platform for SharePoint implementers and SharePoint customers alike, and let us deliver measurable business value to everyone in the community.

Oh and before I go, just one last thing; open innovation as a term was initially cited back in 2003 by Henry Chesborough, but doesn’t it sound awfully like the new buzz-word on the block, “social business”?

Yeh, I thought so too...

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