Hyperfish – Thoughts on Collecting Expertise

In the announcement of the Hyperfish Integration Framework are three items that can now be collected:

Customers can now use Hyperfish to collect information that has been time consuming or difficult to get collect in the past, such as employee skills and expertise, asset registration, and personal information.

Two are similar, one is very different. The two similar items – asset registration and personal information – extend Hyperfish’s current approach of asking for information that has a demonstrably correct value. What is your first name? What is your last name? What is your phone number? What is the serial number of your laptop, tablet, or smartphone? In what city were you born? What school did you attend when you were 14 years old? Each question has a correct answer for which easy proof can be found (as well, of course, as a set of incorrect answers).

Employee skills and expertise, however, is a very different beast, even though the fields supplied in the Office 365 profile treat it as the same. Collecting, gathering, and discerning expertise for a profile is a complex can of worms; consider:

  • Expertise refers to the ability to perform at an expert level in a particular subject or topic area. Some expertise is explicit (can be documented) and some is tacit (hard to express in words).
  • Declared expertise – where an individual says what they are good at – has a low level of reliability. The individual will be too modest, too extreme, or just plain wrong. One study suggests that any expertise declarative by an individual about themselves should have the status of undefined (unverified).
  • Other people experience the expertise delivered by an individual, and thus are more reliable at stating what someone is good at. The same study above says the individual’s manager is the most reliable rater, and that the ratings from 7-10 additional colleagues are required to match the manager’s rating.
  • Private ratings of other people are more accurate than attributable ratings. “When raters think their ratings will be or could be revealed, 67% of ratings increase significantly and become less correlated to performance.
  • There are many content systems in an enterprise through which expertise can be demonstrated: documents written, blogs posted, discussion comments (“best answer!”) given, and emails sent. There are attempts being made to mine this growing collection of content to map expertise.

In light of the above, if Hyperfish is serious about collecting expertise in a way that’s helpful to an organisation, the approach will need to include the ability to (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Ask multiple people about the expertise they receive from a given individual, and then summarise / rank / rate / scale the result set to give an overall assessment.
  • Be able to integrate with systems that can look through documents and other written forms of expressing and delivering expertise in order reason out key themes and areas of expertise. If an organisation is using such a system, the Hyperfish Integration Framework should allow the creation of mapping and sync rules.
  • Have the ability to automatically populate and control some values in the single expertise field, while allowing the individual to manually edit other values.

Profiling expertise is a fascinating (and highly complex) area. While Hyperfish’s framework will give the technical ability to collect expertise and skills, more will be required to gather correct / accurate / helpful / validated answers.

Hyperfish – Beyond Active Directory

Yesterday I outlined the original idea of Hyperfish: ensuring that directory and profile information is up-to-date and complete in Active Directory (including on-premises and Azure AD, and a hybrid of both). Hyperfish works by asking people directly for their up-to-date information, and connecting to authoritative systems. The observation that Active Directory was almost always a mess led to the creation of Hyperfish.

With the release of the Hyperfish Integration Framework in late September, my guess is that Hyperfish came face-to-face with the deeper reality of corporate IT systems: the “authoritative systems” that should hold the right data all the time are also out-of-date, inaccurate, incomplete, and therefore not very authoritative. It’s not a just an Active Directory problem; it’s an all-of-IT problem. And if you are trying to solve the problem in Active Directory, you either wait for someone else to solve the other-IT problem, you give up, or you do it yourself.

Enter do it yourself.

The new Integration Framework extends the original idea of Hyperfish from Active Directory only to other structured data sources:

The Hyperfish Integration Framework enables Hyperfish customers and partners to extend the service to non-directory systems such as HRIS and other structured data sources. Using the Hyperfish Integration Framework, organizations can analyze, collect, and update missing profile information across almost any structured data source, automating the process of keeping profile information fresh and up-to-date. Customers can now use Hyperfish to collect information that has been time consuming or difficult to get collect in the past, such as employee skills and expertise, asset registration, and personal information.

Since it is now the authoritative data sources that are being updated, Hyperfish is relying on its “ask the person” pathway for collecting the data required, using an email alert or a chatbot request. But the core idea is to get the right data into the right system, and then set up mapping and connection rules to link newly right data with all the other structured data sources (including Active Directory) that rely on them.

As an Active Directory-only play, Hyperfish offered a compelling proposition to Microsoft customers. As a wider play for using its technology chops beyond Active Directory, it is becoming compulsory.

Hyperfish – Introduction

Two things stand out to me about Hyperfish: first, they take meeting productivity seriously, and second, they offer an incredible tool for directory accuracy and profile information. On meeting productivity, they don’t allow the use of technology for distraction, which means:

At Hyperfish, we only allow meeting organizers to have laptops in meetings. This really prevents people not paying attention in meetings.

On the tool side, its namesake offering ensures that directory and profile information is up-to-date and complete, and works with Active Directory on-premises, with Azure AD in Office 365, and supports hybrid environments too.

Here’s the back story as I heard it from an early employee. Nintex, a workflow automation tool for SharePoint, relies on Active Directory for name lookup, manager lookup, and the lookup of other relationships between people in order to do its routing and escalations properly. However, very few organisations have a “perfect” Active Directory; more likely, the quality ranking is at the other end of the scale, the result of inattention, complexity, frequent changes of role and location, mergers and acquisitions, and all sorts of other directory atrophy. In other words, the lack of good directory information compromises the ability of workflow tools to work properly. That’s an opportunity. So one of the co-founders of Nintex teams up with some ex-Microsoft contacts and goes to work on how to solve this problem – creating a new product and revenue stream in its own right, but more strategically laying the foundation for greater usage and adoption of Nintex (and other workflow tools too).

Enter Hyperfish. The basic goal is to ensure directory details and contact information for everyone are up-to-date. There are two basic pathways for getting there: ask the person, and connect with other authoritative systems:

Approach 1. Ask the Person
Each individual in an organisation should know their work phone number, email address, mobile number, current job role, office location, etc. By asking each person when directory information is missing, Hyperfish can populate the directory with validated data. Hyperfish can use an email alert or a chatbot interaction to prompt the individual for whatever information is required.

Here’s the flow as Hyperfish illustrates it:

With Microsoft announcing Microsoft Teams as the strategic universal client for real-time communications (not Skype for Business), we can expect to see Hyperfish creating a bot that works in that environment.

Approach 2. Connect with Other Authoritative Systems
In my Office 365 book I say “don’t ask for dumb data” (page 105):

Employees should not have to fill in “dumb data,” which is data that is already authoritatively stored and known from other systems. First name, last name, email address, phone numbers, office location, manager, assistant, and similar data should not be requested from employees when filling in their profile; those details are well-known and should be auto- populated. In some cases an employee will need to correct the data (which should be done in the kingpin system and then flow through), or an employee may not want particular data broadcast across the entire firm. In the latter case, having the ability to add security permissions to data elements is a useful system capability.

Hyperfish does this in spades (yay!), allowing the creating of mapping and update rules between authoritative systems holding directory and profile information and Active Directory. Here’s the example Hyperfish provides:

In the above case, rules have been created to pull specific information from Workday and SAP into the directory, precluding the need to ask an individual for those details. And since the rules can be scheduled, when the data changes in the authoritative system, it will be reflected promptly (not immediately; depends on the schedule frequency) in Active Directory too. Talk about directory goodness!

There are lots of other cool things (read: important functional capabilities that address valid business needs) in Hyperfish too, such as attribute approval, profile picture validation (no cat pictures), attribute presentation rules, and directory scoping (for a phased implementation).

I like what I see.

A Workshop – One Day? Two Days? Longer?

Agnes outlines her thinking on workshop length:

The most common question I get about my upcoming workshop, SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 Search in Practice, is why I’ve decided to choose a two-day format.

I know it could be one day. Also, it could be three days, or even up to five.

I do have ten years of experience teaching and doing workshops around the globe. I’ve tried several formats. Some worked, some didn’t. What I’ve found is that I don’t like frontal teaching. It’s not my style. And I know, it can be exhausting as an attendee, too.

In her post, Agnes talks about:
– 3 teaching / learning approaches used in workshops, and
– the five reasons she has embraced the two-day design.

This is a question I have wrestled with many times too. It’s good to see someone else’s thinking … and decision rationale.

And if search in SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 is important in your work, you should sign up to attend.

SharePoint Intranets-in-a-Box v2 – from Clearbox

Sam and his team at Clearbox Consulting have published another great report: the 2016 update of their SharePoint Intranets-in-a-Box report:

Our comprehensive guide to turn-key SharePoint solutions will accelerate your purchasing decision and ensure you make the right choice. It is full of practical advice on the tools that can give you a quick-start to an intranet. Is Unily better than Rise? Is LiveTiles right for you? What are Wizdom’s strengths and weaknesses?

We review 26 of the solutions on offer, using eight common scenarios based on our years of experience in SharePoint consulting. Because we focus on the business side of SharePoint and don’t sell any products, we are able to give you a genuinely independent evaluation.

The report contains over 250 pages, including screenshots, scenario-based evaluations, and our honest opinion. You won’t get this kind of information just from vendor websites or anywhere else. To top it off, we have comparison tables across the board to help you identify options to match your requirements, budget and location.

Available immediately for purchase from Clearbox.

See also:
– Martin White, “The definitive guide

Your Future with SharePoint? Answer the 5 W’s


Earlier in this series:
1 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Back
2 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Forward

Answer the 5 W’s
Microsoft’s future with SharePoint offers increased simplicity (e.g., new modern libraries and lists), mobile interaction (e.g., the new SharePoint app for mobile phones), and efforts to make SharePoint core to the Office 365 platform – not a shrinking shadow of yesteryear. In the first post, I explored Microsoft’s journey with SharePoint over recent years.

In the second post, I took a wide view and reported on some of the principles and frameworks that can be used to inform an organisational journey with SharePoint. That was an exercise in listing numerous principles and frameworks to build an evidence set, not the work of synthesis across the frameworks to look for patterns, similarities, and common items.

My sense in looking at the principles and frameworks in the second post, is that organisations need to answer five questions in planning their future with SharePoint; and the questions are all of the W words:

  • Why? … the question of vision. In light of the business outcomes being pursued by an organisation, why is SharePoint the right answer?
  • Where? … the question of governance. With all that’s on offer in SharePoint, where does it make sense to use SharePoint, what internal guidance is needed to ensure alignment with business priorities, and what rails need to be laid to decrease the likelihood of everything turning to custard (e.g., proliferation of low-value and out-of-date sites)?
  • Who? … the question of people. Who are the key influencers in your organisation that need to be engaged to create context for the successful use of SharePoint? There are certain categories of these people – and their involvement needs to be shaped appropriately.
  • What? … the question of engagement. Everyone across your organisation has current ways of working; what aspects of their work should be transitioned to SharePoint?
  • When? … the question of adoption. Adoption of new ways of working doesn’t work without intentional activity. What strategies will be used to encourage adoption and drive effective use?

In future posts, I’ll look in more detail at each of these W’s.

Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Forward


Earlier in this series:
1 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Back

Looking Forward
In the first post, I summarised what’s been happening with SharePoint over recent years, asserted that those happenings are statements of fact (“that” statements), and asked whether statements of “that” were enough for organisations planning their SharePoint journey? In other words, in light of Microsoft’s public re-commitment to SharePoint, what’s the necessary equal response from organisations planning their journey with SharePoint?

In exploring how to frame that journey, I take note of the following principles:

  • Technology can provide a starting point, but not the journey itself. I like how Randy at AvePoint said it recently regarding SharePoint and Office 365, “it’s easy to get excited about the technology improvements …. but let’s not forget what matters most: making a difference in the lives of the information workers we serve.”
  • In my book Collaboration Roadmap (2011), only the first letter is about the technology (R = Really Understand the Technology). The other six letters in the roadmap are about organisational things, like vision, governance, business engagement, and user adoption.
  • In research conducted in the mid-90s on virtual teams, Jessica and Jeff at NetAge concluded that success was “90% people, 10% technology.” The people stuff – the business driver, the team culture, the level of interpersonal trust, the nature of interdependence, etc. – was much more important than whatever tools were used.
  • There’s a difference between avoiding failure and chasing success with new tools. According to Stephens in the mid-2000s, avoiding failure “only” required good infrastructure and responsive applications. But, if you wanted to chase success, there were a whole set of additional activities required – such as client support, business acceptance, training approaches, user manuals, and more.
  • In the AIIM 2016 report on SharePoint, the three leading reasons for SharePoint failing were all organisational concerns (see image above): 67% inadequate user training, 66% users never really liked it or found it hard to use, and 64% senior management didn’t endorse and enforce it.
  • In the Essential SharePoint 2013 book, the SharePoint strategy roadmap includes organisational questions: who are the stakeholders? How will success be measured? What kind of roles and responsibilities need to be in place? And so on.
  • And finally, a long time ago (last millennium, in 1996), there was this idea about enabling impact with groupware: “Groupware will …. not mysteriously transform organizations from collections of highly competitive loners to well integrated, cooperative groups of collaborators. Without careful planning for its introduction and the changes that this will entail, the impact of groupware will likely be quite limited. Successful groupware implementation will require both a careful assessment of the fit of the technology to the organization and a well designed training program to introduce this new technology and its potential to the organization members..” Now substitute the word “groupware” with “Office 365” and read it again. Interesting!

What principles are you using to guide your organisational journey with SharePoint?

Read Next:
3 – Your Future with SharePoint? Answer the 5 W’s

Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Back


A few weeks ago I presented the opening keynote at Congres SharePoint 2016 in the Netherlands. The keynote played off Microsoft’s re-embrace of SharePoint this year (e.g., The Future of SharePoint!) and was entitled “Your Future with SharePoint?” In preparing for the talk I reviewed all of the guidance I could find about getting business value from SharePoint over the years (including the books and reports I have written), and a synthesis of this was the main focus of my talk.

I began, however, with a look back at SharePoint over recent years, noting the following themes in each year …

– from the 2012 AIIM report on SharePoint: [1] the biggest issue is the lack of expertise to maximise the usefulness of SharePoint, and [2] in only 8% of firms are decisions about SharePoint made by a business systems advisory group.
– the key message from Microsoft was that SharePoint 2013 was the last on-premises edition; organisations should move to the cloud.

– the deployment process for SharePoint was noted to be elaborate and time consuming, and in many cases hard to complete.
– both Forrester and AIIM said users weren’t adopting SharePoint and didn’t like the SharePoint experience.
– Microsoft’s guidance was to use SharePoint for public facing internet sites.
– success with SharePoint appears to be about sales numbers, not actual effective use.
– a Gartner analyst recommended that Microsoft should “kill SharePoint” because nobody likes it, it’s too hard to use, and too hard to manage.
– Forrester said that organisations probably won’t continue to invest in SharePoint.
– the sense was that while end users disliked SharePoint, IT pros liked it a lot.

– SharePoint is too often approached as an IT delivery project, not a business one.
– Microsoft is de-emphasising the SharePoint brand name (remember the outcry after the SharePoint Conference 2014 at how little the word “SharePoint” was used during the event?)
– Office 365 is the place to be; the version of SharePoint after 2013 will be the last one.
– AIIM said that users still aren’t embracing SharePoint.
– Microsoft changed its guidance of public facing internet sites; don’t use SharePoint – use Sitecore instead.

– Microsoft revamped its messaging – [1] SharePoint Server 2016 will not be the last on-premises version, and [2] hybrid is a good strategy – take a mixed approach to SharePoint with some on-premises and some in SharePoint Online

– SharePoint has a bright future!!!!
– Microsoft is committed to SharePoint Server
– Hybrid is still good – use the right mix of Office 365 and SharePoint on-premises
– The SharePoint brand is re-established / re-celebrated in Office 365
– Microsoft introduced a streamlined UI, a simpler experience, and even a mobile app (finally)

In looking at the above data points, it is clear that Microsoft has pivoted on its love for / embrace of / direction with SharePoint. However, I would argue that all of these statements are statements of fact (“that” statements) which exist outside of how an organisation makes use of SharePoint. In other words, it appears clear that Microsoft has a plan for the future of SharePoint, but what should organisations do in planning their future with SharePoint?

Are statements of “that” enough?

Read Next:
2 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Forward
3 – Your Future with SharePoint? Answer the 5 W’s

Mini-Workshop at the Office 365 and SharePoint User Group Meeting


Last week I was the second of two presenters at the Office 365 and SharePoint User Group meeting in Christchurch. My topic was to look at how Office 365 could be used to re-imagine productive work, with the caveat from Lee (the organiser) that the session was to be “highly interactive.” In thinking about how to run the session, I decided to give a very brief introduction to Office 365, argue that it was vital to success to look at how Office 365 can improve various day-to-day working scenarios, and then have the participants do a 5 minute activity in six small groups – and then report back. All in 25 minutes.

I prepared two sets of question sheets – Opportunity Analysis (current state/problem/greatness), Capabilities in Office 365 (what’s on offer), and Behaviours and Culture (essential human behaviours) – and chose two scenarios (holding discussions and managing meetings). In two groups, with three subgroups in each group, I gave one of the six resulting sheets … and asked them to spend 5 minutes answering the questions. Each of the six groups then had 90 seconds each to report back on their analysis / findings.

Here’s what was said:

Holding Discussions

  • Opportunity Analysis … The same discussion happens repeatedly, it’s hard to get everyone on the same page at one time, and discussions are in different places / too many channels, e.g., Yammer, email, physical. There is also no organisation-wide process. It would be great if there was a defined tool and process for all discussions.
  • Capabilities in Office 365 … Yammer, Skype Groups, and SharePoint discussions, with Yammer being the best overall tool in the opinion of the group. Benefits of the different tools included visibility, inclusion (of others), real-time interaction, location independent, and interactive abilities.
  • Behaviours and Culture … Being open minded, willing to learn/adapt, flexibility, anytime/anywhere interaction, willing to be public and share. These were noted as being important because humans are social, we need to evolve, it requires understanding, and we can learn from each other.

Managing Meetings

  • Opportunity Analysis … Meetings happen without an agenda, and no minutes are captured. This means there is no structure to the meeting, people go off on tangents, time is wasted, people come late, and there are no takeaways / actions. It would be great if there was an agenda for every meeting with the invite (and it was early too), and actionable takeaways / decisions were captured.
  • Capabilities in Office 365 … Office 365 offers a whole raft of tools for meetings, including Skype for Business, Planner, Office 365 Groups, OneNote, co-authoring capabilities, SharePoint (for sites, lists, and tasks), Sway (for presenting / communicating differently), Yammer, and Office 365 Video. These tools bring benefits including access to historical information, support for remote meetings, working out loud, collaboration, and transparent action items. The group felt that Skype for Business was the most important tool for meetings.
  • Behaviours and Culture … Key meeting behaviours included focus, the right amount of time, and inclusiveness. The group almost called out the need for agendas for meetings.

Workshop activities like these are good to run in a larger group setting, where the whole group (8-20 people) get the same question in turn. This allows the capturing of more ideas, the ranking of ideas from a larger set, and joint understanding of how to combine new tools with effective behaviours to approach an opportunity. We didn’t do that in this workshop, and instead, given time constraints, I broke the group into small groups. However, it was remarkable how closely aligned the three sub-groups in each scenario were.

My slides are here:

Thanks to everyone who embraced the workshop activity despite the time constraints.

SharePoint Congress 2016 – September 22 in Netherlands


On Thursday September 22 I will be speaking at the SharePoint Congress 2016 in Utrecht, hosted by Entopic.

On September 22, 2016 Entopic organizes Congres SharePoint & Office 2016. This fifth edition of the yearly Dutch SharePoint conference will give best practices around governance, roadmap design and will give a vision on the future of SharePoint in organizations. The conference is focused around the business use of SharePoint and offers visitors the opportunity to inform themselves about business applications, new developments and best practices around SharePoint. It is intended for senior management, communication staff, information managers and IT professionals. In addition to the accumulation of knowledge, the network factor is clearly present at the conference.

I’m looking forward to attending and learning from the other speakers and delegates during the day.

I have two sessions to give:

  • The opening keynote called Your Future with SharePoint? That’s from 9.30am to 10.15am. Mark Morrell (of Intranet Pioneer) will give a second keynote to share his experience on SharePoint intranets from 10.15am.

  • Breakout session on Creating a Roadmap for Office 365, from 11.20am to 12.00pm.

The Congress runs for the full day, with dual-stream breakouts running for most of the day. I’m looking forward to it.

See the programme for more details, and get registered to attend.