Friday, 7 August 2009

Thoughts on 'SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration'

Book review posting !

Yesterday I received my copy of 'SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration: Using SharePoint to Enhance Business Collaboration' from the author Michael Sampson, all the way on the other side of the planet in New Zealand.

Michael was a bit surprised how long it was taking to get to me, as customers in San Francisco and London (UK) received their copies which were sent at the same time, a week before me - so, was it worth the wait ? A resounding yes ! Although it has to be said that as far as I am concerned as the reader, Michael is somewhat 'preaching to the choir' with the content of his latest book, but we will return to that later.

'SharePoint Roadmap' is not a big book considering the length of it's full title (!) - certainly not compared to some of the weighty MS Press tomes on my shelf (If you were to hit someone over the head with Office SharePoint Server 2007 Administrators Companion, all 1157 hard covered page, it would definitely render your victim unconscious.......).

However this slimmer volume is just shy of 200 pages of very well written and very useful content. As its not a massive volume I read it last night and this morning, I am about to go on two weeks vacation and I want to leave it on my bosses desk !

So, now on to the review if you like; why is the book so useful ?

As the title suggests, and because Michaels background is as collaboration consultant / analyst, the focus is very much on the use of SharePoint (MOSS 2007) for collaborative working - not for WCM, Portals and BI stuff that SharePoint can do (according to MS marketing department).

Michael makes the point early on that he is not an MS 'yes man' and nor is he particularly a 'fan boy' indeed his foreword is by an MS employee who states that he does not agree with Michael's assessment of whether SharePoint scores well against his '7 pillars of collaboration'. So I should probably mention at this point, that this is not a techie book (click on the link at the beginning of this post to check out the table of contents), it's not a 'how to' with lots of screenshots, this is a more strategic read.

The author suggests that where it comes to a business focused view of SharePoint use, the problem at hand is that the actually 'business stuff' is often missing from the conversations.After all, as he states at the bottom of page 31 "people use collaborative tools to get work done" - my emphasis.

So in the second chapter we move onto examining frameworks for enhancing collaboration, with the emphasis on people rather than technology, Michael provides 5 frameworks for improvement. At the end of the chapter he suggests there are 3 key themes for SharePoint enabled collaboration:
  • Business Impact
  • Technology Evaluation
  • User Adoption
In the next chapter Michael expands on his previous assessment of how SharePoint standards up to his "7 pillars of IT enabled productivity"; as noted earlier, actually SharePoint does not score that well ! However Michael makes suggestions on how to work around these deficiencies including the evaluation of 3rd party add-on products.

For those, who unlike me, are not regularly swimming deeply in information management related topics, in the next chapter on governance he includes a list of the "implications of information management chaos" - a must read section for many CIO's and IT Directors !!

The book actually has a strong emphasis on governance, and if you read about SharePoint implementation in the blogosphere, you will know this is an important and very hot topic, indeed 'issues' with SharePoint are often governance failures. Michael examines micro v. macro levels of governance, and suggests a governance structure based on that often used for corporate intranets, with a strategic steering group, a technical group, and a business focused group.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Michael is definitely preaching to the converted with me, as I have been in jobs where I have lead information management initiatives, and as a consultant I have seen the results of the lack of governance. Indeed the reason I went to work for Prescient Digital Media when arriving in Canada was due to their emphasis on strategy, planning and governance.

However if your reading this book because your a CIO / Senior IT Manager / Business leader in an organization that is just about to, or just has implemented SharePoint, you may not understand the importance of these subject areas, and hence this a great element of the value of this book.

This is carried forward into the section on how IT can engage with the business, which provides a 3 stage, broadly based framework, and suggestions on how to use Proof of Concept sites to demonstrate features and business value.

The penultimate section is on user adoption strategies, and includes a few good case studies. Finally there is a "Collaboration quick start" section. Micheal also provides links to web resources and because it is quite difficult to click on a link on a traditional paper page, he provides an online resource list as a companion.

It did not take Michael long to write this book, as he has pulled together pre-existing material he has developed over the last couple of years for his workshops and seminars, and it did not take me long to read it - but that does not decrease its value at all !

If you have every read my blog before, you will know that I constantly harp on about strategy and governance, on aligning tools to business needs and requirements and other themes that Michael covers in his book, and as such you would probably expect me to recommend it, but I would go a lot further and say that for a whole class of non-business savvy SharePoint geeks this is a must have, a reference volume so that they can constantly remind themselves they are not implementing SharePoint simply in order to improve Microsoft's shareholder dividends. And that is probably the biggest difference from Michael's previous Seamless Teamwork, which is firmly aimed at the user community.

Like I said, I am leaving my copy for the boss while I take a break, but I think we will be referring to it often in the coming months. You can get your own copy from here :-)


Michael Sampson said...

Thanks Jed! I appreciate your full review ... have a great vacation!

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Richie Denis
Director of Business Development
Most Valuable Network

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