Archive for ‘collaboration and social media’

September 23, 2010

Now that I have SharePoint, what do I do with it?

It continues to amaze me how many organizations have SharePoint or go out and purchase it but still aren’t sure what to do with it.  While you could easily show them the SharePoint wheel or talk about features, functions or capabilities…it isn’t enough.   Simply saying SharePoint is a collaboration tool is not enough as “collaboration” itself is such an abstract term.  While you could simplify SharePoint and say that everything inside the application is really a “list” with rows and columns used to track things, that isn’t quite enough.  So it’s usually best to begin the conversation by relating SharePoint to people’s day to day work activities.  The goal is to show people there’s a better way of working than they do today.

Executives and business managers seem to understand ERP & CRM systems, data, reports, and transactional processes.  However, most people don’t realize there’s a whole set of collaborative “activities” that need to happen to actually generate the required data to enter into those transactional systems.  The below diagram outlines this in more detail.   It shows the business activities that occur before, during, or after entering raw data into number crunching transactional ERP/CRM systems.  It’s the top half of the diagram — the “Unstructured Activities” — that SharePoint as a technology platform focuses on.  SharePoint’s capabilities were designed to surface information and address unstructured content, knowledge, activities and the social interactions that take place in business.

Ideally, you’ll want to pick a business process executives and workers are familiar with or processes that touch a painful nerve in those individuals.  Maybe it’s the sales process, or onboarding of new employees, or some other internal operation or customer facing activity.   Have them identify all the Word tables and Excel documents in which they track information on their desktops.  Map out the value chain — the people, emails, documents, activities and workflows, and the points where raw data is used and decisions are made.   Once you do that, you can easily begin to propose and prototype a solution that can be implemented with the capabilities that SharePoint provides.   You can begin to educate people on what’s possible, show them how SharePoint can alleviate some common day to day headaches, and get them excited about the possibilities and changes to come.

August 6, 2010

Three Things to Consider in Your Enterprise Collaboration Strategy

This post was featured on

Many organizations are planning or are already in the middle of deploying collaboration technology to their global organization. Before you go much further, ask yourself if you’ve identified these three elements of your collaboration strategy.

Perhaps you have invested in a single vendor eco-system like MS SharePoint for collaboration and information management. Like most organizations, you are looking for ways to reduce costs, create efficiencies, consolidate multiple repositories of information, innovate, connect people globally, change corporate culture and simplify the end user experience.

However, your executive leadership is not sure if your organization is optimizing the use of this technology and maximizing the return on your investment. If that’s you and your organization, it’s not too late to take a step back and review your strategic objectives and approach.  A solid collaboration strategy encompasses 3 key things:

1. Define the Business Context

Defining collaboration as synchronous or asynchronous is not enough. Making a decision to invest in SharePoint or Oracle or IBM is not enough. Build it and they will come is not enough.

Typically the best approach to deploying any collaboration technology is having a focused business context in mind. Multi-purpose collaboration platforms offer many features and capabilities. Part of a solid strategy is having a focused business context around social networking, team spaces, communities of practice, crowd sourcing, project management, knowledge management, business process management, etc…

You need to demonstrate real business value and evangelize that throughout your organization to further drive adoption and create a perception of collaboration technology as a productivity tool.

Identifying and applying the technology in a specific business context will help stakeholders and decision makers see how this thing called collaboration can alleviate business pain points, surface information and impact employee engagement and morale.

2. Identify the Degree of Openness

Further expanding on the concept of collaboration in “context” is to identify the degree of openness. Is the collaboration external, internal, global or regional, or line of business focused (depending on how your organization is structured)? Security and user access also come to mind here as it’s easy to create a mess of information within these eco-systems combining confidential information with more public content.

Identifying the degree of openness also includes defining your audience, the type of information you plan to collaborate on, and the overall scope of the collaboration. This will help focus your efforts, deployment, or investigation of collaboration technology as these platforms all offer several components from social computing to team sites to portals and workflows.

When you step back and understand the degree of openness, you may also realize that 3rd party solutions for administration or security just might be a mandatory requirement to protect intellectual property and sensitive information.

3. Establish Goals and Objectives

Project management 101 includes determining what success will look like for your organization. Often times when planning projects, goals and objectives tend be high level and don’t really provide a concrete definition of success. Setting the right goals and objectives will ensure stakeholders, decision makers and users are on the same page when determining if the collaboration strategy is a success.

What specific results should users and executives expect to see?

  • Will this solution reduce costs?
  • Provide a competitive advantage?
  • Do your objectives simply focus on just improving collaboration within project management?
  • External collaboration with business partners or clients?
  • Improving employee engagement & morale?
  • Is it to improve the search-ability of information and documents?
  • Enabling compliance?
  • Executive dashboards?
  • All of the above?

No matter how you’ve defined your collaboration strategic goals, there is ONE objective you MUST have as part of your overall strategy: Develop a standard information architecture and governance of the collaboration platform. Collaboration is generally unstructured (compared to traditional and more structured taxonomies of document or knowledge management) and information architecture and governance are a must for any successful collaboration strategy and deployment.

Collaboration is About People First

As a concept, collaboration goes beyond the simple sharing of documents in a team site or a creating a wiki. It can be all encompassing from team spaces, email, web meetings, IM to communities, web 2.0 and more. At the end of the day, collaboration is really a broad spectrum of content creation, sharing and information management.

Multiple technologies from multiple vendors have been used to address this broad spectrum with email being THE main tool Executives and knowledge workers rely on day-to-day (mostly because of convenience, availability and Blackberries).

Collaboration is about people and allowing them to work when and where they want without being constrained by schedules, time zones or geography. Perhaps your organization has invested in multiple tools (from multiple vendors) to address your collaboration needs: You are using SharePoint for project/document management along-side Websphere Portals, Lotus Notes, Lotus Connections/Quickr, or Documentum eRoom.

In the absence of a solid strategy, the risk of failure or creating a poor first impression of collaboration technology becomes even greater which result in workers continuing to rely on email as comfort food.

Is It Time to Step Back?

The bottom line is this “buzzword” called collaboration has shown up on CIO radar screens as a “Must-Do”. Over the last few years we have seen vendors like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle all begin to offer a single “uber” eco-system to manage all of your collaborative needs, artifacts and related information.

As organizations have rushed to implement these all encompassing technologies from a single vendor, they proceeded without a holistic collaboration strategy, believed that somehow platforms like SharePoint would magically improve the current state, or simply failed to leverage all the collaboration capabilities with the right strategy, approach and governance.

Throwing technology at the problem just resulted in another repository, another place to store documents, another place to create a discussion and another mess in which they search for information when collaborating.

In spite of an expectation for a high ROI and a Google or Facebook-like experience throughout the global organization, users remain confused, continue to be overloaded with information, are limited in their collaborative capabilities, and still use email as the primary collaboration tool. If this sounds like your organization, then step back and look at your strategy.



August 4, 2010

What is Knowledge Management 2.0?

The following post was also featured as a “Featured Blog” on AIIM E2.0 Community during August, 2010:

Knowledge Management seems to be making a come back.  Like E2.0 or Web 2.0, KM 2.0 seems to be more about aggregating unstructured information with structured data (perhaps in a community, portal, team space, etc…).

Perhaps the explosion of applications like SharePoint have once again made organizations think about how to manage knowledge more effectively and invest time and money into related projects.   While there is a promise that platforms like SharePoint will “do it all”, organizations have to move beyond simple document sharing and leverage these all-inclusive technology platforms as a collaboration system before it can be considered a system of knowledge.  Users need to make the application part of their day-to-day as much as they live in their email inbox.  And administrators and managers of Knowledge/Information Management systems must ensure they provide the right balance of governance, tweaking/development, care/feeding, and obtain the right consulting guidance to optimize the ROI and ensure users view the technology as a productivity tool that enables them to get their jobs done better, faster, and cheaper…..  Then complete eco-systems (e.g. from IBM, Oracle, or Microsoft) can work very very well for communications, collaboration, community, and knowledge in large organization (both inside and outside the firewall).  However, for traditional ECM/RM or larger knowledge management efforts like digital libraries or e-Commerce driven websites, these all-in-one platforms just may not be the best fit (esp. in larger organizations).

The challenges most organizations face with Knowledge Management are the cost of ownership, too many repositories, different taxonomies, and too many places to search.  What we see today is really not any different than back in the 80s/early 90s with companies having 3,4, or 5 different email systems….and they realized they needed to standardize on 1 email system (novell, exchange, or notes generally).

While it seems most organizations finally have a solid handle on email systems some 10-15 years later, they need to now focus on information & knowledge management.  These systems are not well governed and users inside the organization expect a Google-like experience in spite of all these challenges.  Organizations have simply created an “information mess” in a rush to the web over the last decade.   As a result, collaboration remains difficult and KM becomes even more challenging.  No doubt KM 2.0 initiatives will fail today just like in KM 1.0 unless these same organizations think more holistically in their approach.

There is a tremendous economic benefit attempting to cleanup and consolidate different ECM systems into a single vendor platform (for the 80%) with a consistent and enterprise information architecture that organizes collaboration, information, and knowledge.  While I don’t think 1 system will do everything required by the business, 80% is pretty good … while the remaining 20% might require a more unique/tailored technology solution (be it open source or a more pricey ECM solution).

July 31, 2010

Is Social Media Making Us Dumb?

This post was also a featured story on

The explosion of social media has been nothing but a phenomenon. Communities, twitter, facebook, linkedin and other networks allow us all to instantly share articles, thought leadership, books, tweets, PPTs, news, events, and more. And the more we engage in social media, the more I’m starting to wonder if social media is actually making us smarter and more enlightened OR if we are simply becoming dumber by the day.

While I see tremendous value in the online links and information and articles that are shared into and throughout my social networks, social media seems to be influencing the world with “NBC Today Show”-like headlines and content containing lightweight, high level fodder and sound-bytes from whatever happens to be your knowledge domain of choice. While blogs provide fantastic ways to share insights into communities of interest, more and more the posts I see are generally less than 400 words, conversational in tone, and read like “Top 5 Ways…” or “Top Reasons Why” to promote sharability.

I also see social media trending towards the 60 minute webinars and 10 minute videos and tweets of less than 140 characters to capture people’s attention, promote your services or product like an online infommercial to capture sales leads and create brand awareness. I see individuals simply updating their LinkedIn profile with so-called books from their Amazon reading list just for the sake of sounding intelligent and creating a perception that they actually stay current on the latest trends and buzzwords like Tipping Points or Flat Worlds or Synergistic Change. Of course we are all soooo busy that there is no way we have read or even will attempt to read these books.   I also see the latest tweets from the Harvard Business Review being shared around and emailed throughout our social networks as if we are some enlightened thinker of strategy and management with some inspirational message of change.  And then there’s…an addicting site of speeches & lectures from REAL thought leaders and experts throughout the world…and who doesn’t “heart” Ted?  Of course social media now allows junkies to share online lectures and speeches like a drug dealer handing out free samples on the street.

Let’s face the fact that because of social media, everything is starting to look and sound like Cosmopolitan Magazine and USA Today headlines. Now I will admit I too am guilty of proliferating this trend to simply keep up with the “Jones” as the experiment of social media evolves and becomes “mainstream”.   The reality is… because of social media, today anyone, at any level, from anywhere has access to the same sound bytes of information as you. Maybe your niche is technology or six sigma or project management or talent management or even information management!!! … Social media allows anyone to act like an expert, pretend to be an expert, and promote themselves as an expert. Because of social media….we just might be proliferating the Dilbert principles we all know and love so well. We are possibly becoming dumber and allowing the mediocre to gain a competitive advantage or at least sound like they actually know what they’re doing or are an expert in their respective domain.

What say you? Are you jaded in your thinking like this? OR are you enlightened and encouraged by all that social media has to offer?



July 25, 2010

Seven Tips for Managing Projects on SharePoint

Download the full presentation on slideshare…. And please feel free to comment and share your own tips for managing projects using SharePoint.

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July 14, 2010

CIO Mindset

Found a great PPT from Gartner regarding the CIO Mindset….In particular, it mentions the top 10 things CIO’s want to spend money on.  These include (but not limited to) the cloud, governance, cost optimization, PMO, process improvements, and unified communications & collaboration……

Seems like SharePoint fits in well to what CIO’s are thinking about…..

July 10, 2010

Good article/discussion on Knowledge Management 2.0, Strategy, SharePoint, ECM, and more…–007986.php?awt_l=BXLod&awt_m=1a2FZF0ZKqn0sm

KM 2.0 seems to be more about aggregating unstructured information with structured data (perhaps in a community, portal, team space, etc…).

And there is a hope and promise that SharePoint will “do it all” — but I think you have to leverage the platform as a collaboration system first and not just a place to store documents. SharePoint can work very very well for communications, collaboration, and community in large organization (both inside and outside the firewall). However, for traditional ECM/RM or e-Commerce driven websites, it may not be the best fit (esp. in larger organizations).

And SharePoint (like any of the vendors/systems you mentioned) requires good governance, some tweaking/development, and care/feeding and the right consulting guidance to optimize the ROI and ensure users view the technology as a productivity tool that enables them to get their jobs done better, faster, and cheaper…..

The challenge most organizations have is too many repositories, different taxonomies, too many places to search, too costly, not well governed, etc, etc… And of course, users inside a company expect a google-like experience in spite of all that. Organizations have created an “information mess” and as a result KM becomes difficult and can fail today just like in KM 1.0.

It’s really not any different than back in the 80s/early 90s with companies having 3,4, or 5 different email systems….and they realized they needed to standardize on 1 email system (novell, exchange, or notesmail generally).

And there is a tremendous economic benefit attempting to cleanup and consolidate different ECM systems into a single vendor platform (for the 80%) with a consistent and enterprise information architecture. No I don’t think 1 system will “do it all” but 80% is good enough …while the remaining 20% might require a more unique/tailored technology/solution (be it open source or a more pricey ECM solution).



June 8, 2010

What is more important: people? process? or technology?

The following post was also featured within the E2.0 Community:

I often see executives and project managers take charge of projects and focus on process first, people second, and technology last when it comes to change…   While I understand the thinking behind that mindset, in today’s world it is very difficult to leave the technology as an afterthought.  And when it comes to changing how organizations collaborate & socialize in this globalized web 2.0 world, technology is usually part of the answer.   Now some argue that technology should be secondary to process & culture when it comes to change.   On the other hand, sometimes the “system” actually causes the bad behavior or doesn’t allow or encourage the right human behavior.   So what is more important – people, process or technology?

If a CEO wants to know why engineers don’t act “social” and share knowledge across teams, then it’s a probably a people or cultural issue or incentives aren’t aligned accordingly or management isn’t encouraging it. Technology alone won’t change that. Social behavior is not something that can be mandated or dictated by management. Otherwise it’s just another thing we “have to do” and is viewed as a task or work. Social behavior is a two way street between workers and management with a heavy emphasis on management ….. who needs to encourage, promote, and reward good behavior. And the technology if implemented correctly should be there to support the culture, enable socialization, and hopefully easily facilitate the desired behavior. I’d argue that you can’t always treat the technology and the system as secondary to culture……as the system influences the process and culture as much as process impacts technology.

Some corporate cultures don’t promote collaboration or social behavior because of the systems they have in place.   The airlines for example have terrible antiquated systems.  And if the process is not easy or takes too long because the person behind the counter is typing too many letters and codes or doesn’t know how to easily do something — workers and customers may say “why bother” and everyone is frustrated by the “system”.

At a macro level, social behavior within a country is often influenced by the “system” of government.  The founding fathers of the US seemed to focus first on creating a “system” that ultimately empowers and protects people’s rights.  I’m not sure if there’s enough focus on “process” in government.  If there is one — well, it’s probably inefficient at best.  While I don’t think you can leave the “system” as an afterthought, government systems might tell us how important the process actually is.   Of course too much process & control is no good either as history has taught us.  Anyway….

Technology in so many ways today influences the way we socialize, collaborate, and share knowledge …. Today, workers rely too heavily on email & instant messaging as the main source of communicating, collaborating , and sharing knowledge where information gets lost and workers can’t filter out the noise and simply miss or ignore the “message”.  Blackberry’s are great (I have one), but sometimes they simply add to the problem vs. make us more productive….

It seems safe to conclude that you have to treat technology, people, and process equally if you want your organization to become that social and collaborative enterprise everyone talks about and puts in their grand “vision” statements.



June 1, 2010

Managing Knowledge in an Era of Information Overload

The following article was featured in Greater Charlotte Biz Magazine….

Managing Knowledge in an Era of Information Overload
By Rich Blank
The Starbucks ExampleImagine for a moment you walked into a Starbucks and the barista didn’t know how to make a cappuccino or latte! It’s well documented that Starbucks spends more on the education of its employee partners than it does on marketing. And no doubt that education, that “management of coffee knowledge and expertise,” is shared through some type of explicit training classes and written material.  There is also much time spent outside of the classroom, mentoring the barista hands-on and promoting a culture of sharing tacit knowledge and best practices of making a consistent and quality cup of coffee every time. Without their ability to manage and share knowledge and investment in people, Starbucks probably wouldn’t have been able to grow as fast, wouldn’t have been able to adapt to changing markets and customer needs, and wouldn’t have been able to earn billions in revenue. Starbucks provides a good example of the importance of knowledge management and impact that it can have on the bottom line.Knowledge Management 

Knowledge Management (KM) has been one of those buzzwords that have been talked about for almost two decades, offering the promise of somehow capturing that explicit and tacit knowledge as a strategic asset to leverage to competitive advantage. Some of the drivers around KM efforts include:

• sharing valuable organizational insights

• avoiding redundancy of effort

• reducing on-boarding time and learning curves for new employees

• retaining intellectual capital due to turnover or aging work force

• adapting to changing customer demands, environments and markets

So what do these drivers have to do with SharePoint?   Well, do any of these drivers relate to your SharePoint initiatives today?   Microsoft SharePoint is a valuable product to address these objectives. SharePoint is a fairly simple, highly reliable collaboration and information management platform that connects and empowers people through online business communities, where they can collect and share important tacit knowledge, documents and keep track of projects. The consolidation of knowledge onto SharePoint helps cut costs through lower training costs, increased IT productivity and cost-effective maintenance, all within a governable and compliant platform.  Although Starbucks wasn’t able to take advantage of SharePoint (it didn’t exist back in the 1990s), it provides a good example for the need to manage knowledge as it evolves.

Today, e-mail is overused and overloaded as a primary tool for communicating, sharing information and documents, and making decisions. Information is all over the place and exists in multiple repositories. Companies don’t know what they know and don’t know. Knowledge workers expect a Google-like experience within their organizations but just can’t seem to find the information they’re looking for. Information continues to grow exponentially and end users continue to experience the daily glut of information overload. Ultimately, information gets filed irretrievably, deleted or lost.  What can we learn from Starbucks’ success and their understanding that people and knowledge are indeed valuable corporate assets that rivals the way we think about raw financial or customer data?

We can learn that the keys to a successful KM initiative and ultimately a successful enterprise deployment and adoption of Microsoft SharePoint lie in the strategy, the people, the process, and the execution. It is important to have a good partner for implementation of the platform, one that addresses these specific areas: strategy, change management, process excellence, systems integration, and delivery management. The balance and intersection of these domains is how organizations can maximize the ROI of enterprise 2.0 technologies like SharePoint.

While collaboration has become one of the latest buzzwords, by itself collaboration is simply a process in which we connect, create, find, capture, share, and consume knowledge. And collaboration in the past and today continues to happen in the absence of SharePoint. However, in order to fully realize the potential of KM, it is essential to recognize and utilize the SharePoint technology as the collaboration platform, and then leverage it as a mechanism to manage and share knowledge.

Fully utilized, SharePoint is not just a platform for collaboration, but an ecosystem for capturing and managing knowledge that can transform your organization and help you realize the promise of SharePoint as a true enterprise collaborative knowledge management platform and strategic organizational asset, allowing you to identify opportunities and act upon them in a timely manner by getting the right people the right information at the right time.



May 19, 2010

Top Traits of a Good PM – PMI Metrolina May Meeting

I attended the local PMI chapter meeting last night.   NouvEON had a strong presence which was great to see since they sponsored the meeting last night.  I also took some notes on the speaker — of course I didn’t write his name down.   He began by outlining the characteristics that make up a good Project Manager to “Win at the PM Game” – the subject of his presentation:
1. being assertive & an extrovert
2. communication skills
3. ability to manage sponsors
4. adding value
5. presentation matters
6. ROI
There’s probably more but those are what I captured and I’d be interested in hearing other people’s ideas on what makes up a good PM.  The bulk his presentation focused on communication as 90% of what a PM does….which flowed into building trust, relationships, listening to voice of customer, knowing the audience, negotiation, defining goals/objectives, etc…   Dr Phil he was not, but he raised some good points about communcation.
One of the most important things relating to communcation was building a relationship and trust — which can be achieved through openness and our ability to communicate across time & space.   While he mentioned email, oral, and written communication — no where did he mention collaboration tools like SharePoint — which in my opinion can help achieve trust and openness and provide visibility of information.   A woman from the audience even asked about how we can build relationships & trust in virtual teams — which we ALL work in today.   The speaker really didn’t have a good response.   I almost jumped in to respond and wanted to argue that email actually is a bad way to have discussions and build relationships.  Many times, people write TOO much in an email and immediately we dismiss them or ignore their communication — which doesn’t help the overall relationship.   With email you lose context, miss discussions & important information, etc, etc….   The “message” and the meaning and actionable items often get lost in email.    Of course if we use a technology like SharePoint correctly, it can be a very powerful tool for communication, building trust, providing transparency & visibility for any team — virtually or locally in the same building (let’s face it, we often times email people down the hall or on another floor!)
Anyway, the last takewaways from the speaker were the following:
The speaker’s formula to breakdown communication and relationships:
-Simplicity + Lack of Communication – Trust – R – Credibility x Adaptability
(Unfortunately I can’t remember what the R was for).
And one participant in the audience mentioned Steven Covey’s new book “The Speed of Trust” which talks about all of this.  Perhaps the speaker read Mr Coveys book and based his presentation on it without citing him! 🙂    When that was mentioned I thought of another book I read when I first started as a consultant: “Managing the Professional Services Firm“.  There were 3 things that I remember to this day that help me as a consultant & PM:
1. Confidence
2. Competence
3. Credibility
I guess we could add a 4th C and include “Communication”….