What I Learned Hanging Out with Non-SharePointers

By Christian Buckley posted 07-18-2013 20:45


Not surprisingly, I attend a lot of SharePoint events around the globe. For those unfamiliar with the SharePoint Saturday phenomenon, I believe I still hold the title of most SPS events attended in a calendar year at 18, and presented at all of them. Add to that just about every other major SharePoint event held globally, and it adds up to 'a whole bunch' (which is, I think, the technical term) of SharePoint conversations. Even when attending non-SharePoint events, I'm usually the SharePoint banner-carrier in the crowd, speaking on general ECM or collaboration topics, but with a SharePoint perspective.


While attending a search technology event in NYC earlier this year, I took some notes on the feedback coming from attendees who worked with platforms other than SharePoint, but neglected to expand on those notes -- until last month, when I was able to attend the AIIM Executive Leadership Council events in Chicago and London, and I was once again surrounded by proponents of competing technologies. As I was taking notes, I realized that the comments closely mirrored my previous notes. So for those who think the grass is greener (you know who you are) and believe that another platform is free and clear of any and all issues with those competing platforms, think again.


What did I learn? There were some key takeaways:


  1. Governance is an issue with everyone
    The problems across every collaboration platform are fundamental. Some platforms include more native reporting and management tools than others, while others may have stronger APIs. But no platform excels at governance activities that span work loads. By that, I mean the ability to manage your governance policies generally stops at the edge of your own system, with very little (if any) control or visibility across multiple environments, much less across multiple tols and platforms. I don't think anyone expects Microsoft to build out administrative functionality that enables organizations to seamlessly manage SharePoint side-by-side with Salesforce CRM. But there does need to be some degree of flexibility and extensibility across these platforms -- and an understanding of how administrators are using these tools to get their work done.

    But the problem is not just about the platforms -- the problems with governance are also about the lack of focus within both business and IT roles. Many organizations expect these tools and platforms to simply work, out of the box -- that governance should be a drop-down menu item. Unfortunately, nothing about governance is plug-and-play. The hardest part of governance is that the real work is done outside of any tool. You have to actually talk to people. You need to have an "understanding" of what the business is trying to achieve, and then work with your business owners, administrators, and end users to figure out the right way to map activity to business goals without breaking any regulatory, compliance, or security restrictions.


  1. Taxonomy is also important
    Apparently, people want to find content after they upload it. You never would have thought that given the lack of concern many end users have for the content upload process. But the other half of this is about finding that usability balance -- ask end users to jump through too many hoops to upload their content (how many metadata terms are required?) and they'll avoid the process altogether. There is no magic right answer to this problem. It takes a combination of automation (there are a number of vendors tackling this problem) and proactive management to ensure that your taxonomy is relevant, and the tagging process is optimized for the end user, as much as possible.

    One topic I introduced into these taxonomy discussions was whether people viewed social as another method for metadata assignment. Unfortunately, very few people made the connection between social and the metadata problem -- but one of the chief benefits of social is that it adds context and rich metadata to content. Every time you comment, like, rate, share or tag a document within your social platform, you are creating metadata related to that content.


  1. Measurement is everything
    If you cannot measure something, you can't tell me its great -- and you cant tell me it stinks. When people complain about their collaboration platform, you can often stump them by asking for details. I don't mean to sound snarky about this, but few people have a solid understanding about what is, and isn't, being used on their platform of choice. We may inherently know that something is wrong, and we certainly know that people are not using the platform -- but rarely can people tell you why. What is working, and what is not working? Who are the people who live and breathe on the platform, and why? It's amazing how much easier decisions become on how to move forward when you have good visibility into what is actually happening.


  1. People are confused by "the cloud" and how it translates to the enterprise
    I don't believe we need any more articles written that describe the differences between Software-as-a-Service vs Infrastructure-as-a-Service vs Platform-as-a-Service. I think we all get that. The problem is the next layer down -- applying this to our own business. In that sense, there's still a need for education on
    what it means to the business. To a large degree, I place blame on every company out there pushing cloud. There are some incredibly introverted marketing campaigns out there that make absolutely no sense to anyone except the executive who signed the check for it. Guess what? People don't get it. There is tremendous opportunity out there for service companies to work with customers around their cloud strategies -- avoiding the cloud platitudes, and actually spending the necessary time to understand what the company does and what a transition to the cloud looks like. Oh, and the actual costs (and risks) that come with the move -- because its not just a simple CAPEX to OPEX move, and there are most definitely issues and risks involved. But that's another article for another day.


Consider this post the closing of a train of thought -- or observations from the field. No huge surprises here, really. Of course, when you are head down in the weeds with your own issues, its sometimes difficult to get a clear perspective on things. 

#Search #SharePoint #InformationGovernance #Taxonomy #requirements #cloudcomputing #sharepoint #governance #planning
1 comment


01-06-2015 11:52

Chris, I wish I had guessed what the issues might be before I read your article. I would have hit 3 out of 4. We are currently migrating to the cloud and just lost our "Campaigner". It will be a challenge to find a skilled, successful replacement to fill this role.