For the past couple of weeks I have been reading Ruven Gotz’s new book, Practical SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture. Ruven and the publisher begin to set the context on the book like this:
“Practical SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture is a guide and tool set for planning and documenting the scope, navigational taxonomy, document taxonomy, metadata, page layouts and workflows for a successful SharePoint 2010 project. If you have been tasked with delivering an intranet for collaboration, document management or as a corporate portal, your only chance for success is to get all of these elements right, and then to make sure that you and your stakeholders are all on the same page.“
Having now read the book from cover-to-cover, here’s my comments:
1. In his introduction, Ruven wrestles with who he is and the work / contribution he brings to his clients. He settles on something that’s a mix of business analyst and information architect. Having read the book, I think he should call himself a “Business (or SharePoint) Re-Imagineer,” because he uses various tools and techniques to work with clients to re-imagine what their work could look like in SharePoint. Even if he doesn’t call himself that, I’m always going to think of him in those terms now.
2. In Chapter 2, Ruven explains how he uses mind mapping during group workshops for shared visualization, capturing ideas, and prioritizing the upcoming work. I have used mind mapping during workshop too, but not to the extent that Ruven has. His description and approach has re-ignited a passion in me to do the same.
3. Ruven talks about he uses various tools when working on SharePoint projects – such as a wireframing tool (Balsamiq), one for issue mapping (either Compendium or MindManager), and a business process mapping tool (BizAgi). The explanation of BizAgi made me want to rush out and buy a new Windows laptop so I too could use the product (there isn’t a Mac edition).
4. Ruven tackles the topics of governance, adoption, and training in Chapter 10. There was a lot of material in the chapter that I agreed with, and I really liked his analysis of the limitations with classroom and online training, and his advocacy for coaching instead. I think both are necessary (training and coaching), but you’d have to read my Collaboration Roadmap book to see why I say that. Ruven also says there is a role for both.
5. Two colleagues – Sarah Haase and Michal Pisarek – both contributed one chapter each. Sarah talked about her work as an internal consultant at a large firm in the US with SharePoint, and how she creates business process solutions. I’ve heard Sarah speak at a couple of conferences, and the chapter was an excellent complement to her talks. Her key point about focusing on improving essential processes is very apt. Michal wrote the chapter of using search in SharePoint. Search is not my forte, but I know it’s important to a SharePoint project. Michal does a good job of covering the wide scope of what’s available and possible.
6. I really struggle with the title. I think the title of the book is less than optimal, because the book really isn’t about information architecture for SharePoint 2010 as much as a set of tools and techniques for getting there. Ruven does say this in his opening comments, but for his sake and that of his potential readers, I wish his explanation was unnecessary. One idea would be to take the ethos in the subtitle and make a bigger deal of that in the actual title, perhaps something like “Tools and Techniques for Architecting Successful SharePoint 2010 Deployments,” and then include the information architecture words in the subtitle. Anyway, the main point is that the book is about tools and techniques, and it does a great job on doing that, so don’t let the real title put you off buying it. And if you don’t use SharePoint 2010, buy the book anyway. The tools and techniques are widely applicable.
Finally, Ruven told me that he wrote this book in his evenings, after being out-and-about with clients during the day. That’s a huge achievement, and one that I haven’t nailed yet in my book writing. I need a couple of “free” months to get a book done, so extra kudos to Ruven for balancing everything to make this happen.
Net-net: If you help clients with intranets, collaboration initiatives, or other types of system design for groups, you need Ruven’s book. The tools and techniques inside the book are excellent, and if you’re not using them, your clients are getting less than optimal value. It’s time for you to change that, with Ruven’s coaching.