SharePoint: The World's Most Impersonal Network

By Marc Solomon posted 02-15-2011 12:08


What we value most about social networks isn't the number of friends, invites, reconnects, or diversions from the dullness of rote tasks. It's more basic that that.

It's that we know where they stand -- they're either vibrant and flowing or they die. There are no static forms of social media. They're either teeming with news and gossip or they lose their social life.

Not true in our ECM fortresses. Our firewalled networks have a forced look to them. The implicit agreement that we honor our employment contracts by showering our intranets with the nuggets from our C:\ stretches boundaries few are willing to cross -- if your ancestoral home is architected in SharePoint.

It only stands to reason:

The same software company that made personal computing possible would be responsible for the world's most impersonal network. That's because the actual interest stories are buried in the haste of a lumbering, kludgy, one-way conversation labeled "document uploads to SharePoint."

Now I'll admit that it's a stretch to mistaken missing metadata for the sizzle of some juicy details. But what passive knowledge transfers are captured in this no-questions-asked drop between the knowledge orphanage (document library) and the plateless get-away car (project team deliverables)?

For starters there's the time stamp called creation date. Next, the uploader stars as an understudy for the actual author/creator. The modifier co-stars as the surrogate babysitter who takes a swipe at a proper title and maybe an actual account code.

But the actual reasons behind why this disembodied document leads a double-life on the SharePoint server seems more relevant to the sleuth-work of knowledge forensics than ...

* to the details that divulge the context of the material
* to the larger objective it served in the life of the project
* to the deliberations of the team that drafted it.
Who created this artifact is not answered when the artifact's proper parents are too important to bother themselves with the indignity of document uploads. Why they at least bothered to author these files means we have to bridge the presenters to the receiving end of their presentation.

Another personal touch that goes begging is just how unique the material is: Is this boilerplate or is it an original statement made by a gifted group of innovators?

Sound a little precious -- Harvard Business Review-y? I'm talking about our user/colleagues. The rain-makers who slave over the blend of quality inputs and insightful connections that leads to the breakthrough thinking the competition is hankering to steal more than create for themselves. After all, we're talking about billable work product. We're staging IP that is commercially valued in some way!

So how do we work within the limits of SharePoint so that our users don't need knowledge forensics to figure out the burial plots, the missing credits, and the veiled motivations?

* One is to tell time according to the life of projects -- not according to the time stamps for upload events.

* Two is to ensure either from staffing records, embedded MS Office details, or crude email confirmation whose fingerprints are in the IP captured in the upload trail. You're likelier to pull a sincere confession around who-touched-it-last from a poker-faced extortionist than the session histories housed within the user logs.

* Three is the 80/20 rule -- This means ascribing a single piece of metadata to confirm the original senders and receivers of the material. Who did it on who's behalf is the kind of upfront interrogation we expect long before the confessions and plea bargaining. But that's 80% of the KM riddle in a nutshell.

Without it all documents are equal before the eyes of SharePoint and that's an injustice to our users. That's the kind of equality guaranteed to bring little understanding, participation, and even less personality to the world's most impersonal network.

#culture #leadership #metadata #innovation #forensics #SharePoint #changemanagement #ContentOrganizer #Collaboration #knowledgemanagement #E-mail #socialmedia #IP