Conference Notes

Notes on "Stories from the SharePoint Frontlines" (Sarah Heal)

Sarah Heal, a Director at Information Leadership Consulting in Christchurch is the presenter this month at the Christchurch SharePoint User Group meeting. She is talking to the topic, Stories from the SharePoint Frontlines. Sarah is the co-author of Flapping to Flying: Transforming IT into Information Leadership

Flapping to Flying describes twelve mind-tools that will give you new ways of scoping, implementing and reviewing projects. If you are a senior leader, these mind-tools will help shape your strategy for how information can further organisational goals. Because of their power and flexibility, these mind-tools will also prove invaluable to mid-range managers, IT professionals and IT solution vendors.

Sarah blogs at

There are about 40 people in attendance … the biggest turn out ever for this User Group.

– 3 quick risks
– One big risk … Information Design
– One more big rist … Information Roadmaps (the strategic piece)

About Information Leadership
An information management, document management, knowledge management and business process consultancy. They do work with SharePoint, but they work with lots of different products. IL is not tied to SharePoint exclusively, eg, Hummingbird, Tower TRIM, etc.

IL came to SharePoint based on clients asking how they could use SharePoint, because the firms didn’t want to go for “big budget” electronic records managements system. In 2007, IL worked with Microsoft to develop the records management configuration thinking for the New Zealand records management work.

Three Quick Risks
– The smaller the organization, the more likelihood that a document management system will succeed … because you are fundamentally dealing with changing how people work.
– Big risk: a Mini Minor budget with Rolls Royce expectations.
– Sarah says that organizations should think about $2,000 (NZ) per seat (plus internal costs) for a mid-range EDRMS.

– Second major risk: People without the skills are told to go and “make SharePoint work” … the wrong people are on the bus.
– The people that should be on the bus … IT people, IM Design, Records Management expertise, Leadership, HR people (to drive and support change), and Business Analyst (will be absolutely key to the success of SharePoint, to mediate between the business and the technology).
– Executive sponsorship needs to come from at least Tier 2 in the organization.

– The third major risk: Lots of effort being put into software development where it is not needed, because there is off-the-shelf offerings available.

Risk #4 … Information Design
Problem #1 … Shared Drives vs. EDRMS
– From a personal angle, Shared Drives are really cool: flexible, customizable for me, easy interface, take anywhere.
– Problems: no version control, hard to find other people’s stuff, consolidated views not possibe, etc.
– For EDRMS, it takes me longer, it doesn’t work the way I work, etc.

Problem #2 … Quick Launch
– Focus on a quick deployment, not the sustained business value delivery.
– SharePoint spirals out of control. End users hate it.

Problem #3 … The “Best Practice” Approach
– Don’t always want “best practice”, but rather want “good enough practice” done most of the time.
– “Best Practice” … extra effort not justified from users and managers perception.
– Sarah proposes the “Triple U” approach … “Useable x Useful = Used” … to getting SharePoint into a stable orbit
– … design principles for Triple U …
– … (1) design for place (aggregating, segmenting, “My” stuff)
– … (2) design for change
– … (3) design for empowerment (BA skills, custom lists)
– … (4) design for common language (taxonomy, metadata, naming to find)
– … (5) design for findabiity (search, learning styles)
– … (6) design for business purposes (know how, intranet, key processes)
– … all of this requires a mixture of business skills

Sarah asked us to get out pen and paper. “Think of the word education, and off-the-top of your head, come up with 5 words that mean the same”
– my five … “study”, “learning”, “expertise”, “reading”
– join up with 4 others … you get a point for every word that everyone has
– in our group of 4 people (one person didn’t have pen and paper in our group), the highest ranked word was “learning” … which happened 3 times. In the overall group, our group had the highest number of similarity.

And this is why we build taxonomies … to create similarity across the organization.
– provides a consistent way of classifying information and business outputs.
– can be used across many systems.

In SharePoint, you can’t magically create a taxonomy (eg, via an import from an Excel spreadsheet) … it’s not as obvious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
– Eg, in SharePoint, you build this in sites and subsites and document libraries.
– If you don’t get this worked out at the outset, you will go screwed up very quickly.
– The Physical Site Structure can be separate from Taxonomy can be separate from Views and Audiences.
– Because there is so much flexibility, you have to be careful about how you set things up.

Risk #5. We Don’t Know Where We’re Going
No roadmap for SharePoint at the organization. What’s the biggest hurdle? “Change, who me?”

In order to get to compliance, we need to get capability working in conjunction with adoption.

Real-world compliance … IT architecture, IM design, business rules and culture change all in alignment.

Preconditions for success:
– how are we capturing information?
– do we have the right infrastructure?
– how do we interact with the information?
– what is their predisposition to new systems?
– do staff have the know-how to work with the new system.

Major themes on the roadmap … see the book.