Foreword by Ed Brill

Ed Brill from IBM Corporation wrote the Foreword for Collaboration Roadmap. Here’s what Ed had to say …

Information Technology as a discipline is a half-century old. In many organizations, IT is still viewed as a supporting overhead function, rather than an integral part of the business. Forward-thinking organizations and IT leaders have used the age of the Internet and Web 2.0 to become change agents, to identify and deploy technology as a strategic advantage. However, in many cases, IT is not at the table when marketing conceives of a new campaign, when engineering produces the next new offering, or when support analyzes customer situations to determine best practices.

The concept of collaboration has equally been around a long time, but many organizations suffer from lack of traction with their investments in productivity. That is because so many IT organizations are disconnected from the business they are part of, operating in a “if we build it, they will come” mindset driven by vendor roadmaps and personal interests.

In this book, Michael Sampson endeavors to help you change the way you and your organization view information technology and the opportunity for collaboration. Organized as a literal ROADMAP of chapters, Collaboration Roadmap helps you expand the boundaries of your role as an IT professional. The book’s subject matter and flow will help you establish the disciplines of identifying purpose before action, recruiting and developing sponsors and advocates, adopting governance, measuring success, and influencing organizational change. You will learn what the best practices are and the right ways to approach a collaboration project. You will come out the other end more successful, confident, and in tune with your organization.

I first met Michael online a decade or so ago. Despite a half a world between us, Michael quickly established himself as a trusted resource. His perceptive and deductive skills were honed even at an early point in his career, and he demonstrated a neutral, fact-based approach that is all too rare in the world of industry analysis. As a vendor, I came to rely on Michael’s daily news updates in the field of messaging and collaboration. Michael distinguished himself both through his willingness to jump into specific issues in depth from a “why this is important” and, often, a “why this is wrong” point of view. In one influential situation, Michael, with no “dog in the hunt,” took it upon himself to debunk a white-paper-for-hire analysis that portrayed my product unfairly. Since then, that willingness to take risk for no personal gain has been demonstrated frequently, and Michael remains one of the industry figures I admire the most.

Collaboration Roadmap takes all of Michael’s work as an analyst, consultant, and vendor and wraps it up into a single volume of best practices. As I read the examples in the book, I could quickly recall situations where I had seen that exact scenario played out in my work—some of which I discussed with Michael. My own career started in IT two decades ago, and my then-employer was smart enough to send network administrators to a training class in negotiation. Chapter 6, engagement, brought me back to that training, which I consider one of the strongest foundational elements of my own business success. We discussed differences in IT culture and organizational culture, and how it is easy from the outside to recognize organizations where IT is aligned with the overall business. Sections of chapters 7 and 8 around end-user advocacy especially hit home for me, for this has often meant the difference between success and failure of so many IT projects over the years. Chapter 2’s section on vendor selection also stood out.

By the way, governance and engagement is not just the purview/realm of information technology. The concepts, ideas, and processes that Michael describes can be applied throughout your career, regardless of your role in your organization. I recognize myself in so many of the examples that Michael brings to life in these pages. One that continues to stand out for me happened once I switched to the vendor side of the table. Since some of my customers will read this book, I’ve generalized the example just a bit!

My product development team came to me with a piece of technology that would help end-users more easily access and share within their organization, using their existing investment in Lotus Notes. It solved a need I knew existed in the market, but not in a particularly scalable or flexible way. In fact it used technology that probably had no business being used anymore, limiting which operating systems it would run on and how many users could use it. My competition was talking about a similar concept, using a new industry-standard access protocol and, at least on paper, without any limitations. I knew I had to do something to address the competition, but my only option was unattractive. We didn’t do much analysis about what the long-term implications would be, and we certainly didn’t apply the compliance concepts from Chapter 5. We shipped it anyway, thinking it was better to have something to blunt the competition than to come up empty-handed. In the end, the few customers who tried to deploy it found that it didn’t really work, and that it had so many limitations as to make it essentially useless. We pulled it from market rather quickly. Oddly, so did our competition’s more forward-looking approach. Both vendors retreated and eventually introduced new approaches to the same problem, built on a long-term architecture.

I often talk about this particular example in the context of IBM’s Integrated Product Development (IPD) process. As an independent vendor, Lotus Development Corporation had no such thing—we just built and shipped product like any upstart software company. As part of IBM, we look at long-term market trends, supportability, ecosystem, and business results before we ever ship a product. Using IBM IPD, or perhaps Michael Sampson’s book, we never would have shipped that handicapped add-in product; the analysis would have led to us to look for a better, more-sustainable solution.

My last thought is that you should consider not just this book, but its source. After more than a decade, I continue to find Michael Sampson one of the most approachable industry figures in the world. You would do well to engage with Michael after reading this book, to share your thoughts, experiences, and opportunities.

Ed Brill
Director, Messaging and Collaboration
IBM Collaboration Solutions