A couple of days ago I presented in a webinar with Knowledge Management Associates and NewsGator. KMA is a medium sized consulting company in the greater Boston area that consults with regional clients helping them with a variety of IT needs, including the IT support for SharePoint. NewsGator is a provider of Enterprise 2.0 software — most notably software that adds significant capabilities to the collaboration elements of SharePoint.
Below are the slides we presented. As with many slide shows, there’s more in the audio than in the slides — and I don’t have the audio recording of the event. But the slides will provide you with a good sense of the conversation flow and main topics.
The first part (what I delivered) covered an overview of terminology. I have found that many enterprise customers are (still) very confused when speaking about Enterprise 2.0 and the relationship to Social Media and Web 2.0. I’ll hear push-back from VPs who say “I don’t want Enterprise 2.0 because we don’t think that allowing our employees to watch YouTube videos all day will increase productivity.” Um, I agree with the YouTube part — but it seems like we need to start on the same page.
When I was an Enterprise Architect at Fidelity, I learned three principles of the EA practice as it relates to IT governance (one of the major roles of EA). Our jobs was to find:
- Common Terminology. If we don’t agree on the words we are using, then we are not working together. So step 1 is always to clarify and understand the terms. “Enterprise 2.0″ is not a self-explanatory term. Moreover, there are slightly different perspectives on it (which is OK, in my book). But we need to get clear on terminology so that we can work together.
- Constrain Choices. Technology choices are a problem for many organizations. There are too many of them, and they don’t all work together. The role of the architect is to help reduce choices so that only the best ones are available. This may seem counterintuitive to some. It is basically the necessary balance to innovation and chaos.
- Manage Exceptions. No matter how much you constrain via governance policy, there will be exceptions to the rule. A good model allows for those exceptions to be managed explicitly. So that they don’t ruin the system. It’s OK to break a rule if the rule needs to be broken — but then break it in accordance to the exception process — so that we can track it, fix it, or fix the rule.
With these three rules in mind — I always start with getting common terminology. And thus I suggested we open the webinar with a discussion of terms. We highlighted the diversity of usage of the term “social” (in this context). We described 5 of the most common places that E2.0 requests are initiated within the organization. And we described the current types of features that customers are expecting from their intranets these days. I ended my part with the question “But SharePoint?” Indeed SharePoint is the Elephant in the Room for many companies. Many have it and many don’t love it (to say the least). It provides some collaboration features — but they are about the worst in the industry (today). And yet, for many companies who leverage the other more capable features of the overall SharePoint platform, they are not going to get rid of SharePoint because the wikis, forums, and blogs provide substandard capabilities — it’s a small part of their overall use of the product.
So there is a needs/capabilities gap and that results in a business/technology challenge. There are many reasonable approaches to take. We highlighted two of them. 1. Enhance SharePoint. 2. Augment SharePoint. (and by the way, the implicit 3. do both.)
Mike Gilronen of KMA spoke about how companies can extend the out-of the-box features of SharePoint. There are many approaches that companies can take to improve their SharePoint experience, and KMA can help. Laura Farrelly of NewsGator spoke about NewsGator’s approach to adding a compelling set of capabilities onto your existing SharePoint installation — thereby giving you a SharePoint based environment that also provides excellent enterprise collaboration capabilities.
Whereas these are not the only ways that you can address the SharePoint challenge, these two have proven to be successful. So I’m glad to stand alongside KMA and Newsgator and suggest that enterprise companies committed to continuing their leverage of SharePoint also look at the approaches that KMA and Newsgator offer — that being to customize SharePoint to meet your needs, and/or to augment it with a product designed to fill the gaps.
Enjoy the slides: