September 17, 2010

Don’t Forget the Change in your SharePoint Investment


We have seen SharePoint sites pop up and virally explode.  We have seen SharePoint used in many cases as a basic document repository.  In some organizations, we’ve also seen SharePoint used for collaboration, project management, or even process improvement.  No matter how SharePoint is used in your organization, you’ve probably taken a standard approach to implement the technology with the typical project elements:

  • Identify business need or opportunity.
  • Define the Project.
  • Design of Business solution.
  • Develop new processes and solution.
  • Test, implement, and train.

Or maybe you’ve gone one step further properly planning and outlining your roadmap to build out a centralized SharePoint infrastructure with a clear migration strategy for your legacy intranet or fileshares or collaboration spaces.  However, the traditional approach we normally take to deploy technology has resulted in many non-believers and those who continue to under-leverage the capabilities of SharePoint and rely on the old ways of doing things.

Yes, it’s important to create a solid technical infrastructure.  Like building a foundation to a house, you need a stable platform that can scale and perform for users no matter where they are in the world. And yes, you also need good governance of the SharePoint platform to manage and support users and the growth in demand.  While a secure technical infrastructure and good governance are 2 keys to a successful deployment of SharePoint, there is still one thing missing.   A critical ingredient which is not discussed or blogged about much is the change management component that SharePoint requires to break old habits and fundamentally transform how knowledge workers approach their day to day.   When I talk about change management, I am referring to people but not necessarily referring to the social capabilities of the software.  I’m referring to how SharePoint as a technology can reshape the “industrial psychology” of how knowledge workers connect, collaborate, communicate, and actually get work done in today’s service-driven economy.   While there are a number of methodologies and approaches to managing change, there seem to be a few common themes among the different schools of thought:

  1. Assess your organizations readiness for change.  Is it incremental or transformational? Are people aware they need to change?  Is there a sense of urgency?  Do they have the desire?  Where is there resistance?
  2. Knowledge about the change and vision.  People need to learn new abilities and ways of approaching the same work with the new capabilities that the technology offers.
  3. Empowerment and reinforcement.  People need to take ownership and the behaviors need to be reinforced.  There needs to be some short term wins and long term vision and approach to make the change become permanent.

SharePoint needs to be seen as a productivity tool and not just a place to store documents.  For this to happen, building the best solution on SharePoint is not enough.  Training and adoption can’t be an afterthought that happen towards the end of the implementation.  Change management needs to be part of the plan and addressed up front.   At the end of day, SharePoint is a platform that is not just about information management or some broad concept like collaboration.  If you want to maximize your investment, don’t forget the change.  Ultimately SharePoint is about people and the ability to manage change throughout your organization.

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August 26, 2010

Visualization is the Key to Information Overload


Visualization is indeed the key to information overload….and it’s not just powerpoint, pareto charts, or histograms….

August 19, 2010

Is it Knowledge Management or Business Intelligence?


I was recently speaking with someone whose background was all in business intelligence and data.   They had years of experience building data warehouses and datamarts.  They knew how to create cubes of data and slice and dice and store and manage all the financial and customer data you could imagine.  Because this person was from the “structured data” world, they just couldn’t wrap their arms around the concept of knowledge management.  And we began a lengthy conversation about this abstract concept of knowledge management (KM).

Knowledge management — the buzzword of decades past that might be synonymous with other buzzwords like collective intelligence or intellectual capital.  Or maybe you’ve heard of tacit and explicit knowledge — differentiating between what is in our heads vs what’s written down.  From a technology perspective, KM represents the mounds of documents, information, conversations, blogs, wikis, emails, social networks, knowhow, and expertise …. it’s all the “stuff” that continues to overload us daily and continues to present challenges for individuals and organizations in filtering out what is important vs. what is just noise.   KM is also about the way we create, collect, manage, consume, share, and leverage the unstructured information combined with the structured data my colleague was so familiar with.  It’s about learning, learning curves, and reuse – be it structured or social or organizational.   And KM can be also be about talent, innovation, revenue and costs as well…

Ultimately, KM is about individual, group, and business performance and providing a competitive advantage.  KM is also about adapting to change and managing it as the more you or an organization knows, the better decisions it can make and quickly recognize the need to change, adapt, and drive innovation.

As I explained and defined KM to my colleague and what this abstract buzzword KM is really about…he then said to me:   “Rich, it sounds exactly like what I’ve been doing for the last 2 decades with business intelligence… figuring out ways to collect, organize, structure, and mine data to help businesses make better decisions”.    And the reality is my colleague was right.   BI has many parallels to KM… and at the end of the day it’s all about being able to filter out the noise, identify all the variables in the equation, and make the right decisions based on what you know and assume to be true — be it structured or unstructured.

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August 16, 2010

How to Staff Your SharePoint Project


Something that has been truly bothering me lately is recruiters or project managers or executives not knowing how to staff SharePoint Deployment projects or staff their Operations teams that support SharePoint.   Too often I receive calls from recruiters looking for SharePoint “Technical Resources”.  Rarely are they looking for people who know how to analyze business processes or manage enterprise information management platforms like SharePoint.    It seems recruiters want hands-on resources who write code and do everything else including administration and configuration.   Unfortunately looking for a jack of all technical trades is just not the best way to minimize risk when it comes to your enterprise application deployment.  I’ve seen too many implementations that have gone wrong or ended up simply re-creating the information mess that already existed in the organization.

So let me outline the resources required for ensuring success of your SharePoint implementation.   It is important to note that these resources do not simply go away once you have completed phase I of your global deployment.   Each one will be required for ongoing governance of operations and continued solutions development and support of business needs:

Program/Project Manager – an individual who not only knows how to manage IT projects, but also understand ECM, information architecture, software and solutions development, IT infrastructure, etc…   They don’t have to know how to write code or know SharePoint administration hands on.  They do need to have some “technical acumen” but they also need to evangelize the solutions to both end users and senior executives.  They need to know how manage and govern an application like SharePoint and have discussions about backups,restores, failover, disaster recovery, taxonomies, etc.  They also need to understand communications, collaboration, knowledge management, business process improvements, ECM, web 2.0 — all the capabilities that an organization might leverage with SharePoint.

Systems Analyst – Having the word “SharePoint” on this resource’s resume is just not required.  There are sooooo many GREAT system analyst resources that I have met who seem be stuck in their current role between IT and the Business.   Perhaps they’re in a Big 4 Consulting firm doing QA work on some legacy or ERP application or custom web development for some large Fortune 500 client, drafting business requirements documents, or working late nights with offshore development teams.  All of these individuals I’ve talked to seem disenchanted with their current role, see little career growth, are tired of their current technology focus, and are looking for the chance to work with an application that the sex-appeal of SharePoint.   It really doesn’t matter if these individuals know SharePoint or have seen it.   Let me repeat that: It really doesn’t matter if these individuals know SharePoint or have seen it. If they are experienced with any enterprise application, the skills are all transferable.   This role is so critical in SharePoint’s success because someone needs to work with the end users and business to understand their needs, map out the requirements and workflows, wireframe site designs, get hands with SharePoint Designer and do light customization and design of sites, and provide QA.  However, there is no reason why this resource needs to know how to write code.   They just need to interact with the business and developers ensure what is delivered to users has some level of quality and actually matches the requirements identified upfront in the project.   Lastly, a systems analyst is not someone who simply leaves once the initial deployment is completed.   This person will be needed for ongoing requests by the business to develop solutions on top of SharePoint.  So many companies have way too many internal processes that are paper based, inefficient, or handled over email….that a systems analyst resource will be busy for at least the next decade.

Solutions Architect and Jr Developers – Okay, so here are the resource who knows how to write code… .Net, visual studio, etc.   Maybe you offshore development and if you do, that’s fine.   However, you better have really really good system analysts and project managers to manage that development and provide the interface and QA to the business — especially if there are language barriers to manage.   Don’t expect these resources to know how to configure SharePoint, install it, or do any administration whatsoever.   However, it definitely helps if they do and can guide your organization in their deeper taxonomy planning, security, and high-level solution design.  Do expect they know the SharePoint object model, know how the performance impacts of developing point solutions on top of an enterprise infrastructure.

Information Architect – Expert in ECM and information architecture.  You’ll pay a premium for this resource, but it’s worth it.   Most deployments overlook the need for this person.  Maybe they have worked with other ECM applications like Filenet or Documentum.   Knowing SharePoint is useful, but not necessarily a must have.  If they have 10+ years experience with ECM applications, they can learn SharePoint’s model very quickly.   In fact, most Documentum or Filenet or Lotus consultants I know who have 15+ years experience all say the same thing — they’re doing exactly what they did 10-15 years ago — just at an enterprise scale and with SharePoint.

Systems Engineer / SharePoint Administrator – a Windows certified resource preferably.  Someone who knows how to install, configure, secure, troubleshoot IIS, OS, hardware, Virtual images, and network issues and in a global WAN or extended extranet environments.   When users can’t access SharePoint, you will not only need a really competent resource here — but you will be buying them drinks often!

Storage Engineer – your SAN or NAS experts who understand performance and storage considerations mostly around SQL databases unless you opt to store files outside of SQL.

DBA – SQL Server experts who should learn how SharePoint stores data and files, how to care and feed for it, limitations, and even options for storing files outside the database, etc…

So don’t understaff your SharePoint project.   The ROI is real and you’re making a mistake if you think you can offshore everything or pay a junior resource $40 or $50/hour onshore.    While some of these roles might be filled by a single person, you will likely pay more for someone who can wear many hats — and you should pay more for 1 person who addresses multiple needs (that normally would be addressed by multiple resources).   In this world, you get what you pay for….so don’t risk an information mess in your SharePoint deployment.   Get the right resource with the right skills for the right job….and yes, I’m available if you need help!  🙂

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August 14, 2010

What is going on with Google?


Who doesn’t love Google? It is THE search engine and effectively owns search on the internet. However, I see some trends that might cause some concern. So what is going on with Google???

With all that brain power, we have yet to really see any other blockbuster innovations beyond their core search business. Ok, Android is out and is doing well. However, I know a number of Android users who seem to have issues with the phone. And it looks like Oracle is now suing Google over patent infringements. I definitely think the Android phone is cool – just not as cool as an iPhone. Personally, I prefer the keypad on my Blackberry. Google apps seemed like a win for organizations wanting to move to the cloud and save money. However, I am starting to see a backlash against that as people are simply failing to adopt Google mail and applications. Simply, it’s hard to pry Outlook out of most knowledge workers hands! Google apps is just okay but has it really made everyone toss Microsoft Office aside in favor of it? Schools and non-profits seem to be adopting Moodle and yes, Microsoft SharePoint! Google Wave made a splash and simply fizzled out like a failed crowd of hands at a baseball game. And then there’s Google in China (or not in China)…

A lot has been written on Google and their “culture of innovation”. However, what are they monetizing besides search? Is Google really able to compete against true capitalistic giants like Oracle and Microsoft in the enterprise? Are they too innovative and too visionary and too intellectual that the main stream just doesn’t get them? Why can’t Google capitalize on all that collective intelligence and dominate everything like they dominate search? People talked about Google being the next Microsoft but I’m not sure I agree Google has the same capitalistic mindset of Bill Gates. Apple seems to continue to innovate better than Google AND actually bring products to market that make money. And I really have to wonder what the problem is at Google? Is Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt to blame? He is no doubt one of the smartest (and richest) individuals on this planet. I have nothing but admiration and respect for his intellect and career. His track record at Novell and Sun were great and perhaps he was fortunate in the timing of his tenure at those companies. But do you know anyone still running a Novell network today? Schmidts’ tenure at Sun brought us Java, but Sun was another company that seemed like it just couldn’t find ways to make money in spite of innovative products. (And Sun was lucky that Oracle bought them).

Perhaps Google needs to hire more capitalistic and marketing focused MBAs who understand how to turn innovations into real products that consumers and businesses will adopt — and focus on making profits and generating new areas of revenue growth. Search will always be important, but I see it becoming more of just a commoditized utility. Who will care if we search on Google’s site vs. Facebook’s? Is there really any loyalty with search? Sure everyone knows the word Google and use it as a verb. However, most of us spend more time on Facebook and as long as we can find the score to the game, get the latest news headlines, or address and map of that restaurant — who cares what search engine provides us that information. Furthermore, websites like Alltop and innovative hardware like iPads are reshaping how we aggregate, consume, and filter our content that searching will likely become secondary.

If I look into my crystal ball, I see the semantic web and technology finally allowing users to make sense of all this unstructured information on the web. Right now, most us just search for what they need vs aggregating or filtering information via Google. I’d like know what is Google doing or what will they do to help us to filter the noise…

August 6, 2010

Three Things to Consider in Your Enterprise Collaboration Strategy


This post was featured on CMSWire.com:

http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-20/three-things-to-consider-in-your-enterprise-collaboration-strategy-008261.php

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.

 


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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).


August 3, 2010

Just featured as member of the week on AIIM Communities…


I’ve shared some of my blog posts on AIIM and was featured as member of the week on AIIM Communities:

http://aiimcommunities.org/users/sharepointpmp

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July 31, 2010

Is Social Media Making Us Dumb?


This post was also a featured story on SocialMediaToday.com:

http://socialmediatoday.com/richblank/154394/social-media-making-us-dumb

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 Ted.com…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 Ted.com 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?


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July 28, 2010

Ultimate Guide to SharePoint Governance – download the outline now.



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