Books

This week’s SharePoint learnings: Usability, surfing and stupidity

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” (Albert Einstein)

I’ve run across several interesting webinars, articles, etc. the past few weeks. There’s no underlying theme or “take over the world” vision here–just random SharePoint deep thoughts. Enjoy!

2010 vs. 2013 Usability Showdown

Depositphotos_6409100_mHigh Monkey Consulting recently released the findings of their heuristic usability tests for SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. They asked a small group of testers (all of which had no prior SharePoint experience) to perform a series of end-user, power user and site administration functions on SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. The goal was to see which SharePoint version offered the easiest-to-use OOTB (Out Of The Box) end-user experience.

While this was a small (and unscientific) study, it provided some interesting results. I recommend checking out High Monkey’s blog to learn about the results.

Surf’s Up: Your Governance Visualized

WaveAnt Clay published a new SharePoint governance article on NothingButSharePoint.com this week. If you haven’t read my blog post “The celery effect” and other lessons learned from The SharePoint Governance Manifesto and checked out Ant Clay’s work on disruptive thinking about SharePoint problems, I highly recommend taking a look. This latest article (aptly titled Surf’s Up: Your Governance Visualized) offers a visual methodology for outlining your wicked SharePoint governance problems. Very interesting.

Your SharePoint User Is Not Stupid

Depositphotos_2399547_mIn her recent blog post Your SharePoint User Is Not Stupid, Tamara Bredemus reminds us to meet our end-users where they live. And since most of our end-users are not riding on (nor have ever visited) the SharePoint bandwagon, it’s time for us to hop off the bus. Remember: your SharePoint end-users were not hired for their SharePoint expertise. So give ’em a break!

“The celery effect” and other lessons learned from The SharePoint Governance Manifesto

sharepointgovernancemanifestoA few weeks ago I read Ant Clay’s new e-book The SharePoint Governance Manifesto. The book takes a refreshingly honest look at the failure rate of SharePoint projects. On the surface, it appears many of these failures are caused by ineffective governance, antiquated project staffing models and a myopic focus on SharePoint’s technical features. If you peel all that aside, though, you’ll find the crux of the issue–that we (as practitioners) often fail to tie SharePoint firmly to our business goals. As Clay writes, “we need to be stating projects in terms of ‘what difference will this make’ to our employees and more importantly to our organisation. If we can’t define that, then we shouldn’t be doing the project.”

Christian Buckley echoed this sentiment in his recent blog post Aligning SharePoint to Your Business Goals. To quote Christian and Dan Holme, “The Business Matters. SharePoint doesn’t matter.”

For many, this focus on business value–and the resulting need to quantify or qualify SharePoint’s contribution to the bottom line–is daunting. We’re not sure how to tie SharePoint’s features to our broader business goals, so we proceed with implementing SharePoint as a software project.

The key is to think differently about SharePoint from the start. So instead of focusing on SharePoint’s features or its internal infrastructure, we should be identifying ways SharePoint can help us increase our speed-to-market or enable our employees to share information more easily. Business goals and business needs must take center stage. After all, SharePoint is merely a tool to enable business success. So if you have a weak (or non-existent) return on investment (ROI) for SharePoint, you’re behind the times.

??????Clay goes one step farther in The SharePoint Governance Manifesto, likening SharePoint projects to eating celery. A stalk of celery is roughly 8 calories. The physical effort required to pick up, eat and digest a stalk of celery burns 14 calories. Do the math and you find that celery has a net negative caloric effect.

Many SharePoint projects have the same net negative effect. If you compare their “real costs” (including costs for infrastructure, licensing, staff time, training resources, etc.) to the demonstrable business value the projects generate, many projects return a negative ROI. As Clay states, “implementing SharePoint in an inappropriate way, without proper governance and without aligning it to business needs and vision, is the same as eating celery; it’s no good, and there’s no value in it.”

Want to know more about Clay’s model for SharePoint governance? Buy The SharePoint Governance Manifesto at http://www.soulsailorconsulting.com/spgovmanifesto/. For help quantifying or qualifying the ROI for your SharePoint projects, check out my SlideShare presentation DeMystifying ROI for SharePoint.

And remember: SharePoint shouldn’t be a diet plan. So stop dieting and do SharePoint for your businesses’ sake.

The one book you shouldn’t live without…

I’m incredibly excited about the publication of Ruven Gotz’s new book, Practical SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture. If you’ve been fortunate enough to see Ruven speak at a conference or SharePoint Saturday event before, you know he’s a whiz at explaining metadata, leading groups through mind mapping workshops and building out quick (but effective) wireframes.

Now you can learn the details behind Ruven’s information architecture magic. He’ll walk you through the agenda and methodologies for his discovery workshops, introduce you to mind mapping and what it can do for your SharePoint projects AND explain the basics behind findability and putability, metadata and taxonomy, etc.

Ruven was one of the first SharePoint experts I started following on Twitter. And when I got the chance to meet him at the 2009 Best Practices Conference, I was elated. From the get-go, Ruven and I shared a common information architecture world view. We believe in the power of analyzing content, involving end-users in the requirements gathering process and leveraging SharePoint as a case for effective change management.

When Ruven confided that he had committed to writing this book, I was thrilled. I knew he’d do a fantastic job turning his popular conference sessions into a guide for kick-starting SharePoint projects. I was a bit more trepidatious when Ruven called and asked me to contribute a chapter to the book, though…

After some discussion, I opted to focus my chapter on The Art of Creating Business Process Solutions. This chapter provides a holistic view of SharePoint as a business process re-engineering tool. It outlines the “universal truths” that will help you relate to your business users, exposes the “forgotten layer of content management” that exists at most organizations, guides you through the search for your alpha project and describes how you can measure the Return On Investment (ROI) of your new solutions. Consider it a “couch-to-success” plan for building effective business process solutions.

I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this book. For more information on the book, author bios, reader reviews, etc., check us out on Amazon. And don’t forget to visit the book’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PracticalSPIA.

The art of wishing for “Anything You Want”

I’m a tough sell. I’m not into self-help books, don’t watch Dr. Oz, and am generally not looking for unsolicited how-to advice on starting a business, getting on-the-job training or fixing my personal relationships. You can call me reticent or jaded, but I’m not easily moved by the average how-to guide. That’s what makes this blog post unusual. Rather than sharing a specific SharePoint solution or talking about how to calculate your Return On Investment (ROI), I’m dedicating this blog post to a truly inspirational book. So read this blog post. And then go pick up a copy of Anything You Want by Derek Sivers (ISBN 978-1-936719-11-2).

To be fair, I’ve been a Derek Sivers fan for a while. I referenced his “Obvious to you. Amazing to others” video in my Easy. Obvious, even. blog post last fall, and have been meaning to read Anything You Want since then.

Let me start off by saying that this is not a SharePoint book. It’s a compilation of thoughts, ideas and key learnings from the conception, launch, operation and eventual sale of CD Baby. (If you’re not familiar, CD Baby is the single largest web-based seller of independent music. Derek Sivers founded CD Baby as a hobby and grew it to become a $100 million business before selling it in 2008.) Sivers’ experiences with CD Baby are universal, though. In many ways, Anything You Want is the story of how a hobby reached the tipping point–the point when it gained its own momentum and became a product of its enthusiasts. Isn’t this, after all, what many SharePoint enthusiasts and coaches are after? Aren’t we trying to convince our business users of SharePoint’s inherent value and working to build momentum for this platform we all believe can make a critical difference in the way people work together?

So while Anything You Want may not have been written with a SharePoint bent, its message relates to struggles SharePoint coaches/evangelists face every day. Here are 3 key messages I took away from Sivers’ experiences with CD Baby:

  1. “Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers” (page 15). This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how often we fail to adhere to this basic tenet of customer service. And Sivers’ focus on customer service has a twist. He encourages focusing all your efforts on your current customers. If you thrill them, they’ll spread the word on your behalf, attracting more new customers than you ever could (page 15). Those of you that have seen my presentations know that I often contrast SharePoint with online knowledge bases. While I’m a librarian at heart, I recognize that online knowledge bases are, at their core, never-ending holes of need. No matter how much care and feeding you give them, they will always require emotional propping and vast amounts of evangelism and marketing. SharePoint is just the opposite. If you build compelling SharePoint sites that improve your users’ work lives, SharePoint will market itself. No emotional propping required.
  2. “You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people” (page 3). I’m a people-pleaser, so this message is completely foreign to me. But I find it intriguing… Sivers’ point is simple–by confidently stating who you are and who you’re not, you’ll attract the customers you’re looking for. Here’s his business case:

    “Have the confidence to know that when your target 1 percent hears you excluding the other 99 percent, the people in that 1 percent will come to you because you’ve shown how much you value them” (page 23).

    The point is clear–focus on the people who value your time and talent. Don’t stop the train for the nay-sayers, because ultimately they don’t matter.

  3. “Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working” (page 11). This is the silver bullet. If you feel like you are expending a massive amount of energy to push a rock up the mountainside, please stop. Gravity is sending you a message and you are failing to get the point. If you have a vision and the world fails to recognize it and make it a hit, then it’s time to continue iterating and inventing. This doesn’t mean you should scrap your idea. But you shouldn’t keep on pushing it as-is. This video says it all:

Intrigued yet? I recommend going and picking up a copy of Anything You Want. It’s a quick (and valuable) read.