Working Out Loud

In honor of Working Out Loud Week, I wanted to share the resources I referenced on this topic in my presentation entitled, Finding Value in Enterprise Social Collaboration – How to identify the right opportunities for innovation at your company, from this year’s SharePoint TechFest in Dallas.

At their core, enterprise social collaboration technologies are about enabling human-human interaction using computers, employees interacting with each other using software  The software has no value unless users are using it, and the foundation for effective enterprise social collaboration is working out loud. Continue reading


Dallas SharePoint TechFest

I am really excited to be presenting at the Dallas SharePoint TechFest coming up this Thursday, April 4, as well as being part of the keynote panel with Microsoft.  My session is entitled, “What’s your SharePoint Business Model?”  Here’s the overview:

In order to summarize how SharePoint adds (or will add) value to your company, you must be able to communicate that value in a way that makes sense to your executives and business users.  After this session, you will have the tools to easily speak their language and show how your company’s utilization of SharePoint can generate value.

In this session we will walk through building a business model for SharePoint to help you:

  • Easily explain your SharePoint deployment to executives and employees
  • Align key staff in order to determine goals and priorities
  • Depict cause-and-effect relationships
  • Show the links between day-to-day work and the services you offer
  • Easily explain what areas need improvement

My session aims to provide tools and techniques to help IT and the business work in concert with one another to drive value creation.

I will be writing a series of blog posts after the session that will provide more detail on why creating a business model for your SharePoint deployment is important, as well as how to go about doing it.

Interesting side note – the conference is doing a great job in providing the following value-adds for attendees:

  • Mobile App to get the entire conference schedule on your phone
  • Each session’s audio will be recorded and made available with the presentation
  • A Yammer site has been created to encourage conversation before, during and after the event

Should be lots of fun and a great learning opportunity for all involved.

SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class Review

It has been a month since I attended Paul Culmsee’s SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class in Seattle.  I’ve done a lot of thinking during that time, and after reading Michal Pisarek’s review (Michal, who is a SharePoint MVP, was one of the 20 attendees), I felt compelled to blog my thoughts as well.

First of all, thanks to Paul, Erica Toelle and Ruven Gotz (another SharePoint MVP) for making the course happen and all of the content they contributed to the curriculum.  I think the most compelling thing that Paul Culmsee brings to the SharePoint Community is his ability to offer high quality ideas that make you think.  He always backs up his ideas with a lot of research and real-world experience. 

I’ve been following his blog for a couple of years and have read several of the books that he mentions on his blog, as well as in the class.  I’m sure everyone got something different from the class, because there was so much thrown at us in the two days.

I have a business background (marketing specifically), as opposed to an IT background, so my natural view tends to slant towards looking at the business as a whole first, then trying to marry the needs of the business with the available technologies.  Paul’s class opened my eyes to several techniques to make the planning process more efficient and effective in regards to undertaking a collaboration initiative.  For me the following were key takeaways.

1. In order to come up with a good solution to a problem, you need to understand the type of problem you are looking at.  This seems simple enough, but I don’t think I have ever worked with a client that truly understands what type of problem collaboration poses (which is one of the reasons SharePoint projects tend to be so high risk). 

Paul talks about wicked problems in his blog and in this class.  What was interesting to me was getting a better feel for the forces that cause teams to become fragmented, and then how to look at problems in an entirely different way – as spelled out in the Cynefin Framework.  Once you have an understanding of the problem domains the framework identifies, you can utilize the proper leadership approach to solving them – and that is an invaluable perspective.

Cynefin Framework Resources:

2. Because of social complexity, solving a wicked problem is fundamentally a social process.  You have to really think about this one, and understand to offer collaboration solutions that help a company meet their top level strategic goals, you must involve a cross-functional group to reach a shared understanding of what you are trying to accomplish.  Without a shared understanding, you will not gain a shared commitment to the solution.  Without a shared commitment, your project will eventually fail.

Paul went through several problem structuring methods, but Dialogue Mapping is the one that I have gravitated too since first reading his blog on this topic.  I had already purchased the book by Jeff Conklin, and had created a MindMap template for facilitating sessions with clients.  It takes a litte while to feel comfortable running a session, but you really do see the difference it makes in the interactivity of the meetings.  In addition, you gain a written record of the conversation, so anyone can look at the map and see the rationale behind decisions.  It is great for quickly bringing people up to speed on the topic, or remembering why you are doing what you are doing when you are knee-deep in the project.

As far as business training classes go, this is the best one I have ever attended.  Yes, the topics are tied to making your SharePoint projects more effective, but the course is much more than that.  SharePoint just happens to be the tool that the attendees and the presenters work with on a daily basis, but the topics covered in this class will help you become a better business person.  You will be better equipped to help solve complex problems.  You will have insight into the approaches that are needed based on the type of problem you are facing – and the tools/techniques to utilize to come to a shared understanding.

Building a Report Distribution Solution – 2010 Dallas SharePoint Saturday

In my second presentation at this year’s Dallas SharePoint Saturday, I demoed how a beginning SharePoint site owner can build a solution that improves the way a company shares reports that are built within the Microsoft Office Suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint) and PDFs.  Every company has reports in these formats, and typically relies on email to distribute them.

This solution takes about 20-25 minutes to create, and provides the following business benefits…

  • Improves the flow of information throughout the company.  End users can be automatically notified when a report they are interested in is uploaded into the system.
  • Simplifies access to information.  End users can control access to reports.
  • Lowers email storage costs.  Since reports are stored in SharePoint, and alerts are utilized to let end users know when a report is ready, no email attachments are ever utilized.
  • Central location to access reports.  One place to go to view reports makes everyone’s life easier, including when new employees come on board.  They no longer have to ask people for certain reports that only reside on personal drives or within emails.

You can view and dowload my presentation on SlideShare.

View the tutorial of how to build this solution in SharePoint.

Building a SharePoint Team – 2010 Dallas SharePoint Saturday

In my first presentation at this year’s Dallas SharePoint Saturday, I partnered with Columbus Brown to discuss how to go about building an internal SharePoint team.  In order to build a team, you first need to understand how SharePoint is supporting your business objectives

Once that is defined, you can utilize the SharePoint Maturity Model to quantify how your company is currently utilizing the platform.  This should provide direction on how you build solutions within the application, as well as the skill sets that are needed to help your company drive more value from the usage of the system.

The next step involves identifying what roles are needed, and what skill sets are needed for each role.  These sample job descriptions from Lets Collaborate are a great starting point for you.  By getting a better idea of the positions that might be needed, and the skill sets that are ideal for that specific position, you are now in place to quantify where you are currently, and what you need in the future to help the company drive business value via the appropriate usage of the SharePoint platform.

You can view and download my presentation on SlideShare.