Posts tagged ‘collaboration’

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 14, 2010

Does SharePoint Cause Information Management Problems?

Does-SharePoint-Cause-Information-Management-Problems?   Interesting blog post and discussion….my thoughts are below….

SharePoint as an application should provide better capabilities around administration AND information governance. 2010 is better but more out of the box functionality is needed.  As a result, organizations need to spend the additional money on 3rd party solutions for admin/security/governance — which, in my opinion, is a necessity, not a “nice-to-have”. However, tight times and tight budgets haven’t helped the situation. As a result we see alot of out of the box vanilla SharePoint deployments whose main use is a glorified fileshare. While that hasn’t been a bad thing — the simple fact that users can easily share documents (vs emailing them) has created a “Shareplosion” in many organizations — which further adds to the problem. Combine all that with a lack of information architecture, lack of internal marketing and little if any end user education— you have an “information mess”.

Perhaps AIIM might consider rethinking the term “information management” and rebrand it as “Information Governance”.  Maybe IT will spend more time and/or money on planning SharePoint with the right governance.  Good governance will empower users, make them more productive, help them find information better, and allow the business to create solutions that actually improve project management, collaboration, & business processes — way beyond simple sharing of documents.  Governance is all about — user adoption and empowerment being a direct correlation to IT’s ability to administer, govern, deploy, and support a stable application.  Governance is about BALANCE — balancing IT control against user empowerment to ensure security and foster adoption. And it’s not just “governance of the application” — it’s also about governance of the information.

The unfortunate thing is that governance often gets pushed aside in favor of other priorities….and I do understand why the subject is often ignored at many organizations.   It’s been several weeks since I started to post my formula for successful governance of SharePoint — and I’ve gotten sidetracked again with my own priorities….time to continue my discussion on governance..



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”….


March 11, 2010

Enterprise 2.0 is about adoption…really?

I was just reading an article in CMS that Enterprise 2.0 is about adoption. 

Really?   That seems obvious. Web 1.0 was about adoption and Web 3.0 and 4.0 will also be about adoption.  For any technology to be successful — get people to adopt it and use it and enhance their lives in some way (productivity, increase revenue, connectedness, entertainment, etc…)

I’ve always thought of adoption as follows: convenience, closeness, context, and convergence.  Any technology is difficult to implement because of change and you need to get users to adopt the software.    So if you’re concerned about end user adoption, think about these 4c’s:  context, convenience, closeness, and convergence.   

Context.  This is about focus, filtering, and providing visibility — i.e. helping users to make sense of the digital mess of information that we manage for projects, clients, process, etc…   AND putting it all within a secure context that users can easily understand and find later.   You might think “it’s like a portal” — but it’s much more than a basic portal because a collaborative space is not just a means to display information, it provides a context to actually get work done.   One of the issues of SharePoint is it can lack context when it comes to team sites or solutions.  It does so many things, you really need to leverage the technology in the right context.  

Convenience.  This is about usability and ease of use — again helping to keep things as simple as possible for end users.  Fitting the technology into their daily work and personal lives.  Making this technology easy means users adopt it.  Once they adopt it — it’s hard to change as you just can’t work any other way. 

Closeness. This is about end users and understanding what they need, what they want, and how they work.   What’s the problem, and how will the technology add value.  If you think you can just “build it” and they will come, you are wrong.  Some will understand this technology and become power users.  As an IT organization, you need to empower those individuals to be change agents and educate them as much as possible.  You also need to pick specific projects or “contexts” and be consultative with best practices.

Convergence. A buzz word that is now more popular.  This is about converging technologies.  It’s not just about the “web channel”, it’s about the user experience channel no matter where or how or what device they get access to your technology solution.   And as technology converges within the context of communities – no matter how big or small these communities are — the focus still remains on things like convenience, context, and closeness to foster user adoption.

October 6, 2009

Value in Capabilities

How do you translate such abstract Web 2.0 concepts like connecting, teaming, and sharing into real business value?   First, you have to understand some of the current business challenges many organizations face today.  These include:

  • People – attracting talent, developing leaders, learning, and connecting
  • Knowledge – harnessing, sharing, and finding
  • Lean Processes – functionalization across independent lines of businesses, reducing costs, duplication of effort, time to communicate
  • Focus on customers – enhancing the customer experience and sales force effectiveness
  • Fostering Innovation – across uncoordinated pockets
  • Ethics & Compliance – enabling policy management and strengthening ethics
  • Security – of files and online information

So how will companies meet the business challenges they face?   How will they meet the needs of their employees?   How do you service customers and meet their needs if you can’t connect with them easily?    How do you develop leaders when you can’t find people with the right skills you need or share knowledge effectively?  If you can’t measure the efficiency of a process today because workflows are not audit-able and information is not visible, how can you improve it?  How do you manage risk effectively if you can’t organize your documentation or take the right corrective action at the right time?   How will your organization be able to execute effectively?  

And that’s where a collaboration platform like SharePoint takes center stage.  It provides the capabilities businesses need to optimize resources, develop leaders, learn, streamline operations, and drive profitable growth.   Of course, it’s easy enough to say that SharePoint will lead to efficiencies and resource optimization.   So let’s again ask the question HOW and understand the enabling capabilities of a collaboration platform:

  1. Connect and Develop People.  How?  By quickly connecting colleagues, locating subject matter experts, social learning, and the sharing of informal knowledge.
  2. Reduce learning curves & drive innovation.  How? Through the sharing of ideas, knowhow, and best practices across time, political, and geographic boundaries.
  3. Create efficiencies in business processes.  How? By providing transparency and audit-ability of workflows, and documentation of unstructured work.
  4. Consolidate information and provide visibility.  How? By integrating disjointed back-office application (e.g. ERP, CRM, Project Server, etc..) system data into a centralized and visible dashboard view.
  5. Enable secure teaming. How? By providing a role-based online business context to manage projects, analyze, and act on information & business intelligence.
  6. Focus on customers and partners.  How? By connecting them to employees across geographies in a secure and always available online workspace.
  7. Mitigate risk. How?  Through secure policy management, optimized workflows, and corrective action automation to avoid associated fines or potential loss of contracts.

So there you have them…..7 key enabling capabilities of a collaboration platform.   And this is the true value of connecting, teaming, and sharing….they are capabilities that enable people to execute more effectively.

October 3, 2009

7 Steps to Sell the Value of Collaboration to Decision Makers

UPDATE: The following presentation was delivered by me at the SharePoint Summit 2010 Conference.

One of the challenges in deploying an Enterprise 2.0 platform like SharePoint is first figuring out how to get approval for funding such an initiative.   I’ve read a few articles on ROI of Collaboration and the bottom line is that the bottom line of collaboration is often hard to quantify.  So how do you sell the value of collaboration to those individuals who make decisions within your organization?   It’s often difficult to wrap your arms around concepts like blogs, wikis, or communities and even harder to quantify those in some type of hard ROI.   However, there is a methodology to the madness of establishing value of these collaboration tools.   And that methodology can be broken down into 7 key steps:

1. Identify the current business challenges. These may include innovation, focusing on customers, lean and efficient processes, attracting talent, developing leaders, and sharing knowledge, and of course compliance and security of information assets.   Each organization may have their own unique spin of these challenges, yet there does seem to be a common set no matter what company you talk to.

2. Capture the voice of the customer(i.e. your employees).   Whether you focus on a line of business or functional area like human resources, go out into the business and talk to people.  Find out what their challenges are, what opportunities they see, what pain points they have, etc…  Make sure you start a list of “notable quotables” too.   Capture those catch phases and feedback.

3. Ask the question:  How? How will your organization meet those business challenges?  If you can’t measure the efficiency of a process, how do you know you improved it?  How do you service customers if you can’t connect with them easily?   How do you develop leaders when you can’t find the right people with the right skills or even share knowledge effectively and easily?  How do manage risk if you can’t organize your documentation or take the right corrective action.    With sooo many corporate initiatives going on in your organization, how will all this work get accomplished?

4. Outline guiding objectives. The answer is of course a collaboration platform (e.g. SharePoint).  But it’s not enough to just state that alone.  You need to develop some guiding objectives of what this platform will do and how it will achieve those objectives.   For example, one of those objectives may be to “get work done more efficiently”.   But how?   Well, SharePoint provides a visible business context to analyze and act on information.  SharePoint reduces learning curves, drives innovation –but how?  Through the sharing of best practices and ideas across time, political, and geographic boundaries.   SharePoint creates efficiencies in business processes – but how?  Through transparency, audit-ability of workflows, and documentation of unstructured work.    These are just a few examples of what your objectives might look like.

5. Identify Opportunities.   Maybe there are already initiatives in-flight within your organization that are deploying SharePoint.  Find those existing installations and capture the investment made and benefits they provide.   In those conversation you had with your customers, identify specific potential opportunities.  Then map those to their potential impact they have on driving revenue, reducing costs, developing people, or mitigating risks.   In some cases, the collaboration solution might hit all three.  Let’s look at an example.   Maybe you think an “Internal Facebook” is a good idea.  What value does that really provide in a  business context?   Well, expertise location, networking and employee engagement are just a few ways it adds value.  Now how does an “Internal Facebook” impact revenue and costs?  Well, if you can save time finding the right resource, you just reduced costs.  If you can find that resource and help a customer, then you’ve impacted revenue.  If you find the right resource, they can share knowledge and reduce learning curves and mentor others.

6. Find external examples. Talk your software vendors’ sales rep and find out where a collaboration platform actually benefitted a similar organization with like challenges.  Identify the business challenge, the solution, and of course the benefit.

7. Draw a picture. Try to visualize what this solution will look like and paint the picture of its touch points to other systems like ERP or CRM or Product Development or Project Management applications.   Make sure you incorporate those key objectives you outlined earlier in the picture (e.g. visibility of information, expertise location, social learning, etc…).

And there you have it.  I just gave you the outline for your Powerpoint presentation to sell your collaboration solution to decision makers.   Again the 7 steps are:

1. Identify current business challenges.

2. Capture the voice of the customer.

3. Ask the question – HOW?

5. Outline guiding objectives of the collaboration solution.

5. Identify opportunities for the solution.

6. Find external examples where a like-solution was successful.

7. Paint the picture.

June 26, 2009

Three Keys to Developing a Collaboration Strategy around SharePoint

If you are thinking about your overall collaboration strategy and how to best leverage SharePoint, there are 3 things you need to understand before you develop your approach: 

1. What a collaboration strategy is.    Collaboration can be both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (“offline”).   Synchronous collaboration is your web meetings/conferencing and instant messaging.  With SharePoint you are mostly talking about asynchronous collaboration in which users manipulate time and space to their own advantage with some degree of independence.  Users can work when and where they want without being constrained by the schedules, time zones, or locations of others.

2.  The degree of openness the collaboration strategy will address.  Is it focused on project teams with a limited number of users?   Is focused more on a business process?    Is it more open and community focused?   or is it focused on the individual and collaboration within their social network?     Identifying the degree of openness will help define the scope of your strategy.   I’d also include whether or not the collaboration is globally or regionally or line of business focused.   This will help provide a focus for SharePoint as the technology incorporates several components from social computing to team sites to portals to workflows, etc…

3. Goals and Objectives – what are the business drivers and what do you hope to achieve?   organize and capture knowledge?   attract top talent?  provide a platform for project management?   external collaboration with business partners or clients?  is it more document management focused?   compliance?    executive dashboards?  collaborative business process management such as contract management or regulatory submissions?  

You can then outline your approach for developing your collaboration strategy around SharePoint.  Your approach might include identifying the current state, assembling an advisory panel of stakeholders and their requirements, evaluating SharePoint to determine the fit and gaps, design the high level future state and overall roadmap for implementing the solution.

Identifying the Current State – Take an inventory of the current state of collaboration technology within your organization.  Where does the information live?  What are users collaborating on?  Types of documents and with whom (internal or external people)?  How are people collaborating today?  Fileshares or email?  Externally hosted platforms?   Document management system?   Some combination of technology?    Paint the picture of the current state of collaboration and the technologies involved.   I’d also include costs of those technologies if you can identify them.   It’s likely you’re spending a total of 6 or 7 figures on several technologies depending on the size of your organization.  

Deliverable:  Current State Summary

Stakeholders – Assemble a panel of stakeholders (global in nature if possible) and interview or survey them.   Ask them how they collaborate, what tools they use, what their priorities are, and frustrations/challenges they face.  I’d also inquire about their definition of success if they were to leverage a tool like SharePoint successfully.   Does the stakeholder hope to just stop emailing versions of documents and be more organized?   Or do they foresee cost savings from process improvements with forms/workflows (more of a six sigma approach).  Draft a generic requirements list for SharePoint (including features like calendaring, workflows, secure team space, etc..) and get feedback on it.

Deliverable:  Stakeholder Requirements Summary and a High Level Requirements Table.

Evaluate SharePoint – Once you understand the current state and have spent time on stakeholder requirements, it’s time to look at SharePoint.  What components of SharePoint do you need?   Will SharePoint address requirements out of the box?   Where is room for customization or branding or workflow/forms development?   Does business intelligence fit into the picture pulling data from ERP or CRM or datawarehouse systems?   Look at the features & functionality of SharePoint and develop.   If you don’t know SharePoint well, you’ll need some outside assistance from a technology consultant or your Microsoft Sales Engineer.

Deliverable:  Fit/Gap Analysis.

Future State and Roadmap – Design the future state both at a high level functional/conceptual perspective and technical architecture level around SharePoint.   Try to focus on the ideal state as the vision.   This would include all the components you might need (base architecture like web and database servers as well as BDC, excel services, or forms).   You might already have a SharePoint implementation in place.  However, the current state will tell you if you have all the right components to meet your stakeholder requirements.  The roadmap will provide the game plan to get you from the current state to future state.  Break it up into phases and try to keep it simple if you are first deploying SharePoint.  The first phase should build the baseline infrastructure for future phases.   You can’t build a house without the foundation first.   Subsequent phases can include expanding the deployment.  I’d also focus on 1 particular

Deliverable:  Overall Collaboration Strategy Document including sections for the executive summary, the current state summary, stakeholder summary, requirements, fit/gap analysis, your future state/roadmap, and of course costs and risks.

Depending on the size of your organization developing a collaboration strategy around SharePoint might take anywhere from 10-12 weeks — if you do it right.  Investing in this type of planning will help maximize the ROI of SharePoint and set the foundation for a successful deployment.  In my next series of blog entries, I’ll tackle the topic of SharePoint Governance.   The is a lot more technical information on SharePoint on the web, but not enough on governance — at least not enough comprehensive information.

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