Michael's Happenings

What's the Big Idea?

“What’s the big idea?” is a question that has been perplexing me for some time about my work. How do I fit everything into each day? What do I stand for? What is the ethos and intent of my work? For whom do I work, that is, what point of reference do I use as the hallmark of my analysis and writing?

I can’t help but wondering if many of my readers are similarly perplexed about me based on some of the writing that I have done recently. Hey, one person last week asked me if I was a SharePoint reseller!! (No, I’m not). On one hand, I’ve released a white paper that argues that SharePoint fails the 7 Pillars framework, and thus is not a fully mature and well-rounded collaboration platform (see White Paper). On the other hand, I have a contract with Microsoft Press to write a book on how end users can make the most effective use of SharePoint for team collaboration (see book overview). On the one hand, I claim to be an industry analyst, and on the other, also a consultant (see Michael’s Bio). On the one hand I appear to write about everything going on in the world of collaboration, but on the other hand I’m doing a lot about SharePoint at the moment.

Is there a unifying theme in all of this, or am I trying to be all things to all people? Yes, there is a unifying theme. And no, I’m not trying to be all things to all people.

Firstly, on the unifying theme. My “big idea”, my reason for being, is to improve the capability of teams that can’t be together, to work together — through the application of effective collaboration technology and effective collaboration human practices. Thus my point of reference is the person, the team, the organization that has to select and embrace collaboration tools to facilitate work practices and processes. This group of people are my customers; they are the ones that I earn my revenue from. In my client consulting engagements and even in conference presentations I say that I am vendor-neutral, vendor-independent, vendor-indifferent almost, and that’s because being vendor-aligned or having a financial upside to a product recommendation is a sure way to become a mere puppet to a vendor. That has been offered to me before. I have declined.

Secondly, on not being all things to all people. I am a research analyst that undertakes primary and secondary self-directed and self-funded research on what’s happening in the world of collaboration (the results of which are encapsulated into white papers and sold), and for select customers, I do consulting projects on a problem of mutual interest. All of my white papers are self-funded; I was not asked to write them, and I was not paid to write them. They were written because I felt that the topics were of interest to my organizational clients.

A couple of nuances come to mind. I said that organizations are my customers. There is a situation that I will accept paid work from a vendor: that the project is purely an internal one, that whatever it results in is used for internal planning and product improvement purposes, and that the results are not released or used in a market-facing way. So for example, if a vendor wants to know how well its product stacks up for team collaboration, and wants an independent assessment of where and how it can improve its collaboration offerings, I will accept that work. But the work is for the vendor, not for the market. If a vendor is looking for someone to write a sponsored white paper on how great their product is, they will have to go elsewhere. I do not accept such engagements.

Another nuance. If anyone–including a vendor–wants to license one of my white papers and make that available for public distribution, they can do that. There is a fee to be paid, and I will not edit or change the white paper … but any of my white papers can be licensed in this way.

Let me say this once and for all: there are no hidden financial relationships in place between Michael Sampson nor The Michael Sampson Company and any vendors. Not with Microsoft. Not with IBM. Not with any vendor. I have set my mind and heart to be fully and completely independent, and I intend to stay here as long as there is a need for such independence.

So let’s go to the next question: Why the interest in SharePoint? For me there’s a very simple answer: many organizations are looking at SharePoint and are being told that SharePoint is the silver bullet that will solve all of their problems. My research into SharePoint is from the perspective of (a) how well does it support collaboration scenarios? (not so well, it turns out), (b) how does a business go about embracing SharePoint from a strategic perspective? (follow the 6 step strategy) and (c) for the end users that are being told to use SharePoint, what’s the best they can do with SharePoint from the perspective of collaboration (my book will be out in September)? You can hardly claim that I’m a Microsoft fan-boy in all of this, particularly with a white paper entitled SharePoint Fails the 7 Pillars Framework.

In summary, for my purposes, I’m content with this unification. It’s not necessarily a quick and easy thing to explain, but then most important things in life aren’t. I am a fully independent research analyst, and I do consulting with clients based on my industry analysis.

Does that make sense? Can I clarify anything for you? Please let me know by leaving a comment below or getting in contact privately.

Categories: Michael's Happenings