Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Evolving the Role of the Strategic SharePoint Framework

Back in 2003 when I first encountered Microsoft SharePoint (SPS 2003) as a Director of IT, after a decade designing international Novell Directory Services, it was clear to me that no one really knew what SharePoint was and how to make best use of it. Some said it was a document management system, some said it was a content management system for portals, some said it was whatever I wanted it to be as there were so many features available. I wanted someone to tell me what to do with it. Just like a CIO would, I treated it like an application and had it installed as an application by a technology team. Then what? No one knew what to do with it, Microsoft had no business blueprint and the solution integrators were reliant on us telling them what we wanted to do with it – to be honest we had no idea really, although the features were truly revolutionary from what we witnessed. So commenced the long process of learning how to approach the subject of SharePoint, and indeed enterprise collaborative systems in general.

From the beginning it was apparent that with an enterprise platform that was as diverse and powerful as Microsoft SharePoint™ that it was not the responsibility of Microsoft to develop a business blueprint as the platform could do many things in a thousand different ways. It was for the product to evolve across the global corporate landscape and find its niche. In fact it would later transpire that though many treated SharePoint as a development platform, it was indeed being used for exactly the same solutions the world over, time and time again, due to what it was most capable of delivering aligned with what organisations shared as common priorities, goals and ambitions. What would happen if all these common solutions were brought together in a single, uniform and cohesive plan I wondered and if so was there a logical sequence to deliver these aspirational services whilst avoiding all-too-common pitfalls?

It was similarly clear back then that SharePoint was always pitched by technology staff using technology language to technology audiences. Where were all the business users and business engagement? Where was the use of comprehensible business language? Where was the interpretation of technical features as plausible business services? Where were the business-focused presentations? It was down to me as a business-focused director to fulfil that role myself to my own business stakeholders and do the translating. Evidently then no one had thought that there was a requirement for a business driven engagement role, a role for someone to bridge the gap between the business and technology. This is the origin of where the role of the SharePoint business strategist started to evolve in my mind.

By 2005 I had delivered SharePoint in a structured format to 22,000 users and by late 2006 had moved as a Microsoft early adopter (RDP & TAP) to the next version of SharePoint (MOSS 2007) with Microsoft case studies and interviews to match. By now it was clear that without a logical business framework or roadmap to work against SharePoint could be too confusing to any client. I was already advising numerous major organisations by then who wanted to know “how I had got it right’ and I gave them the benefit of my advice in my straight-speaking (I was even presenting for Microsoft on the subject) but there was still no diagrammatic method on the market.

By early 2007 I had taken my early thoughts about common services and designed a uniquely structured modular framework that I named Sequenced and Logical Enterprise Methodology (Salem™). Salem relies on a specific framework diagram, with a unique business service module structure, using original logic, service release inter-relationships, sequencing and business language – the opposite we find from so many ubiquitous, feature-focused technology-focused SharePoint presentations. If you want to engage with a business audience successfully, then you have to be able to explain SharePoint in plain English, quickly and in a visual way that is clear for everyone. Salem was more than that as I had determined that the Salem framework had to contain a range of common business services but also be extremely flexible to meet any unique business requirement. Therefore Salem had to be as flexible and adaptable as possible whilst still retaining the same logical structure. As importantly, the framework also had to meet the needs of software updates, new versions and even the cloud.

This was basis of the Salem™ framework that was later to develop into the Salem Practitioner certification program now made available to you today. Before this was possible I had to apply the business framework methodology in as many different types of enterprise client scenarios as possible, the bigger and more complex the better. I was able to apply the Salem framework to clients that were national and then international, spanning between 28 and 72 countries. At this stage I knew that because the Salem framework was working so well in so many different business scenarios with so many happy clients that I had the answer. Quite simply, it worked.

The next stage was to then take the Salem framework to the international SharePoint partner community and demonstrate that others could do what I had been doing successfully for so many years. Some had stated that it was my presentation style, not the framework itself – they were very wrong. Salem in the hands of others was even more powerful than before. By 2011 and in the hands of trained Practitioners in multiple countries, the results were speaking for themselves. Clients were turning their backs on other technologies and moving to SharePoint and renewing their Enterprise Licence Agreements, with CIOs citing the Salem blueprint as the roadmap they were looking for. Each Practitioner had their own original presentation style but the framework remained exactly the same, with the same modules, services logic and unique terminology.

Microsoft staff asked how we could scale the Salem framework out to the world so that we could assist as many clients as possible and reach as many people as possible and it was at this stage that we decided to develop a new, comprehensive Practitioner framework through Genius! (owned by Morgan & Wolfe) so that as many people as possible could benefit for learning to become a strategist, either independently or within the Microsoft partner ecosystem. We wanted anyone who wanted to progress their career to be able to benefit from our own learning, understanding and intellectual property as Salem is proven, tested and completely original as well as highly successful.

As the author of the Salem™ framework, I found myself at the forefront of developing the term ‘SharePoint business strategist’ in the industry because it was through my early work that I fought hard to get my audiences to understand that SharePoint is a business program far more than being a technology platform. Indeed for most of my life I have placed great emphasis on jargon-free plain-English communication. Gradually, over the last decade I have been successful in getting people to understand that the business path to SharePoint engagement is absolutely critical. For too many years, the successes of SharePoint projects have been reliant on the intermediate role of the business-language-speaking project manager and business analysts who tried to bridge the gap between IT and business stakeholders.

This gap is now filled by the formal certified Salem Practitioner, a true business strategist who is formally trained and certified in the process of both IT and business engagement for SharePoint, bringing logic, structure, sequence, rational, process and controls to any SharePoint engagement. Better still the process of becoming a Salem Practitioner for SharePoint is that it can be quick and easy to achieve through the learning structure that Genius! has put together. Salem isn’t just about Microsoft SharePoint and on-premise technology. The same logical framework can be applied to blended technology environments or even non-SharePoint environments and works as well with the cloud and Office 365 as it does with on-site implementations, a truly flexible framework approach.

Today the Certified Salem™ Practitioner(CSP) is a business strategist who may also be a project manager who has decided to step up their skills; a business analyst opening their horizons to new approaches, a solution architect wanted to hone their skills with business audiences, a developer wishing to progress their career into a more front-of-house role; an academic seeking new ways of teaching their students new business and technology approaches or a home-based self-learner looking to advance their own knowledge. Some Practitioners go on to lead client workshops and define SharePoint programs, others use the Genius! courses, masterclasses and workshops as their inspiration to look at SharePoint in a new way or indeed as a way of understanding SharePoint without ever needing to be technical.

Development companies use the Salem framework as a conceptual structure for developing new apps and original to market. CIOs find the Salem framework workshop the basis on which they can plan their future business-aligned IT strategy program and development companies use the Salem framework whilst assisting in defining future budget requirements. No longer do you need to be an IT technical guru to enter the world of enterprise collaborative systems when the logic of Salem is plain-speaking.

With the future of technology increasingly becoming cloud-driven, the role of the business strategist is becoming ever more important. Cloud services such as Microsoft Office 365 are opening up enterprise level software to companies large and small at a speed never thought possible only a few years ago. We now have Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, everything is becoming an on-demand service. Technology is becoming far more commoditized, now bought off-the-shelf, driven by dynamic business requirements, where software simply does the job it is intended to do without months or years of costly development. The entire concept of Apple’s app store has had a dramatic influence on the corporate software market. But with all these services the client can end up being more confused than ever.

Today there is an increasing trend for far less emphasis (and desire) for bespoke development solutions by companies, and far more emphasis on “what do we do with all this technology – how do we put it all together”? And who is going to bring all of this together? The framework-trained Certified Salem™ Practitioner, the person who is trained and certified in the Salem strategic business consulting framework that provides the answers and standards the client is looking for.

Take a look at some of our testimonials to see how others have found great value in the Salem framework. To train as a Salem strategist you must use the official Genius! website as our training and certification program is currently available by no other route.

Copyright Morgan & Wolfe All Rights Reserved 2013


Monday, 22 April 2013

Eleven Ubiquitous Words & Phrases that Hold Back the SharePoint™ Industry

There are lots of words that insidiously creep into our psyche and become fashionable from time to time and when used in context or in isolation do no harm at all and may inform, enlighten and indeed enliven any appropriate conversation. All industries tend to develop their own vocabulary for a variety of reasons, from exclusivity through to a need to narrate and describe. Due to the nature of the tech industry it is no surprise that new words and phrases develop regularly, some take hold and some do not.  However, some words and phrases unwittingly hold back an industry from its own potential growth and care is therefore well advised.

The following words and phrases are ubiquitous in their use not only in the SharePoint industry itself but beyond and all in some way can be said to be hindering rather than advancing the progression of the platform and its services to a wider market. Here is my rationale for some of the more obvious ones:

1. Intranet

What does the word ‘intranet’ say to you? Now what does it really say to you? For many business users ‘intranet’ speaks of a confused, out of date, badly constructed, impossible to navigate, out of touch, irrelevant, arcane, archaic, legacy investment which today cannot be trusted as authoritative. Therefore when you come to introduce a new intranet on SharePoint, for many, you are simply using the latest technology to replace something unpopular and repeat the problems of yesteryear. Intranet is not an obligatory term and neither does it adequately describe the power of SharePoint, so why use it at all?

2. T&M

T&M, more accurately termed Time and Materials describe the all-too-common approach by solution integrators to costing SharePoint solutions. More importantly T&M describes the frequent unwillingness by Partners to commit to a fixed price for a solution based primarily on the one-way argument that the client may change their mind and scope may vary. Worse is the argument that detailed requirements are unknown and therefore a fixed price is not plausible.

If one applied the same rationale to SAP or similar, one would be writing a blank cheque that could end up costing tens of millions of dollars and it comes as no surprise in the current global economic climate that client organisations are increasingly wary and weary of the constant surprise regarding SharePoint costs. After a decade of SharePoint installations and solution development, a large proportion of the more common solutions are well known in terms of cost and T&M is far less appropriate than ten years ago in many cases.

The future of packaged applications and cloud, SaaS services may well see the demise of wholesale use of the T&M model. If we cannot be clear to a global client market what things cost, or that services are expensive and not easy to budget for then be assured that engagements may be limited or difficult to attract.

3. Point solution

Point solutions have supported a global SharePoint industry for years. A point solution is a solution developed in isolation for a specific requirement and not linked to any other relational service. More commonly put, ‘tell us what you want and we will build it’. In part this occurred through a common misconception that SharePoint is best sold as a development platform. In turn single solutions required single disconnected projects and most corporate IT departments are based on a project-centric model.

Single projects largely fail to employ an economy of scale, budget or resource and are packaged as single entities that live for their own selfish reasons. Multiple disconnected projects on the same platform using one or (worse still) multiple vendors on the same platform quickly start to trip each other up and place a budget burden not on a business stakeholder group but on multiple single project sponsors.

It is the failure to take a business program approach to the platform that has meant that SharePoint to date has squandered an intrinsically valuable opportunity to establish itself at the heart of organisations for a wide range of interconnected enterprise services that themselves are mapped out using a business roadmap and blueprint like Salem™.

Ultimately the project centric approach has left SharePoint as being seen as unnecessarily  expensive, slow to develop, release and adopt and cumbersome. Far too many SharePoint implementations have run out of steam due to a lack of long term program budget planning, resource and role planning and business program alignment.

4. Developer

Let’s make it clear, I believe that SharePoint’s versatility is an extremely strong value proposition and the ability to develop an eternal number of business solutions makes SharePoint extremely valuable to every organisation. Consequently I am not against ‘development’ in any way, when warranted. The term ‘developer’ however has increasingly become equated to unmanageable expense, slow delivery, and bespoke services that are difficult to maintain, particularly with version upgrades.

Microsoft has demonstrated the issue clearly with its new SharePoint 2013 model where code does not interfere with the kernel and remains separate thus un-hindering clients from future core SharePoint platform upgrades.

For far too long the recruitment industry, together with portions of the SharePoint industry have been guilty of perpetuating the myth that if you are implementing SharePoint you must begin by employing a team of developers. Therefore from the very outset clients have taken a view that it is impossible to make any headway with SharePoint without developing using skilled developers.

You can imagine their surprise therefore when client organisations have later discovered out-of-the box services they had not been shown previously and therefore realised that there were many less costly opportunities to make early headway. Therefore whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with the role of the SharePoint developer it has largely been the misuse of the role of the developer in the overall SharePoint strategic program that has upset many clients and made them wary of further development investment. 

5. Extranet

Similar to Intranet but leading to even more confusion, 'extranet' is largely a technology term that has little obvious business meaning behind it as it is not one of common parlance. Essentially people in an organisation wish to collaborate and share with people outside the organisation identified by name, that’s not so hard to explain and is common in terms of requirement. The word extranet is symbolic more than anything else of the major problem still facing organisations. 
In many respects the word 'extranet' represents the larger techno-centric argument that nothing can be explained in plain English when it can instead have a term that no one finds easy to comprehend. It is as if technology is buried deep in the psyche of science fiction where abstraction is a necessity and deliberate through choice to the exclusion of the masses.

6. Social

'Social' is the word du jour and a word that is increasingly being over-used and misinterpreted as well as being incorporated into phraseology such as the even more diverse ‘enterprise social’, ‘social enterprise’ or even ‘social collaboration’. Let’s make a bold statement here, in the context of business there is nothing truly social about social technology in the workplace, but instead and far more importantly what social really means is ‘applied social networking techniques’. This means that rather than using software to announce how much beer you drank last night, you are using the services found in the common social network platforms reassigned for business subjects. Gartner backs up the issue by demonstrating that only 10% of 'social collaboration' scenarios achieve a degree of success.

Be in no doubt that many business directors request that social tools are switched off, that they distract workers from daily tasks and offer difficult governance for overstretched HR departments. This is no different to the slow embrace of instant messaging a decade or more ago. 'Social' for them is something that happens after work, not during work hours. Therefore the tech industry needs to decide and agree what ‘social’ actually means in the context of business and work. Rather than scaring organisations, use appropriate terminology that attracts and enhances an organisation instead of presenting technology that may not be, in many instances, interpreted as business appropriate.

 7. Partner

The word ‘partner’ is extremely common in the Microsoft ecosystem and something that is passed through to the end customer. Partnering is of course a very worthy objective and one that many aspire too.  Partnering with anyone is of course very difficult to achieve well whether with an individual or indeed a large corporation and therefore grand statements such as ‘our mission statement is to partner 110% with all our clients’ is largely meaningless. Most ‘partners’ are in fact effective deliverers of SharePoint solutions for which they get paid specifically for their time and effort and which is indeed exactly what most clients want.

Partnering takes the deliverer to an entirely different level of business relationship which requires sharing, including the sharing of risk, closeness and embrace of distinct corporate cultures which in practice most solution delivery companies find very difficult or costly to achieve. Therefore the word ‘partner’ comes to mean something akin to over-promising in a way that undermines the value proposition of the intrinsic relationship itself.

Due to the fact that many clients have failed to find true partnership from their solution integrators then it may be far more appropriate to make the statement that one is an expert SharePoint solution integrator than an expert SharePoint partner and not define a relationship that will never really materialise.

 8. Governance

Probably the most misused and much-maligned term in the SharePoint industry and one that continues to cause debate to rage to this day. Do you mean technical governance, business governance, administrative governance, product governance, what? Governance simply means the ‘act of governing’ and in which case the act of governing of SharePoint is performed by its stakeholders and business sponsor, beyond this there are many other ‘acts of governing’ required to be performed in various ways and to various degrees by various parties en route to SharePoint success.

However because the SharePoint industry continues to squabble as to what governance means and which software company owns the ‘right’ to the term governance, so the client audience is left cold, detached and disinterested. For many client organisations governance sounds like a complex turn off that in turn ensures that SharePoint itself appears difficult to embrace.

 9. SharePoint

This is probably the most difficult word of them all and one that causes the most issues. We have had SharePoint Portal Services, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, Windows SharePoint Services, SharePoint Foundation Services, SharePoint Online and finally SharePoint, phew!  So they finally agreed on the word SharePoint as a brand identity and just when it was safe to come out and face the music in point 11 its not SharePoint anymore, now its the cloud and Office 365. Are you thinking what I am thinking?!

The issue isn’t with the word 'SharePoint' as a brand name, though its  recent agreed naming convention does make things easier to progress its identity in the long term (see point 11 though). No the issue is with how one describes SharePoint, what is it? You can describe Excel as a spreadsheet you can describe PowerPoint as a presentation-maker and you could describe Word as a word processor to keep things simple. If you can’t describe something to your mother in 60 seconds what hope do we really have?

The issue with the word SharePoint is that it does not have a single identity and indeed has so many identities that it suffers from a form of extreme schizophrenia where it can be one thing to one person and something completely different to another. Yet at its core, SharePoint contains a set of common features and services that every organization can and should benefit from.

It is due to the fact that over  decade later, whilst the global SharePoint industry still refuses to agree on a simple way to describe its platform that it struggles to demonstrate real business value with ease and why other platforms and services continue to make ground. There may come a tipping point where, however great SharePoint is, client organisations simply start to move in a different direction.

 10. Requirements Gathering

‘Requirements gathering’ is a phrase that sends the fear of God into the heart of many potential clients and yet one used by the majority of solution integrators, it is a phrase that sets out a process of finding out in detail what the client wants incorporated into a specific solution. The problem is that many organisations simply aren’t sure what they want, or of the detail that must be defined within a solution.

The thought that clients need to undergo weeks of relatively expensive, business-impacting requirements-gathering workshops is off-putting to the extent that many organisations are now actively seeking shrink-wrapped solutions (latterly known as Apps) that take away the arduous process of discussing in fine detail the opinions and requirements that will lead to a final cost proposal. Ask a client if they will forego an exact service match for one that is fast to deliver, requires no requirements-gathering but only meets 70% of understood criteria and many will absolutely say yes please.

The world is quickly moving on and the inference that anything built on SharePoint requires a long-winded requirements-gathering process that can be costly, time-consuming, politically troublesome and difficult to finalise can lead to early disaffection by stakeholders that they then refuse to repeat. Many organisations have stated that their technology partners should provide clear thought-leadership by demonstrating what many other organisations have already achieved thus removing the requirements gathering hurdle.

 11. Office 365 (or 'Cloud')

An odd choice you might think and a topic that is currently flavour of the year, the SharePoint transition to the cloud. The problem is that the brand name Office 365 dilutes SharePoint, hides its presence and appears to suggest SharePoint is something far less than it really is, something slightly inconsequential, light and ad hoc. There is an inference that SharePoint Online requires far less thought, due diligence, structure, strategy and planning to adopt now that it is ready made but indeed the requirement for business aligned strategy for SharePoint does not change whether it be onsite or online. Office 365 does not take away much of the strategic requirements found with on premise SharePoint implementations. 

More worryingly still is the idea that this dilution of SharePoint may be deliberate to move by those who have never grasped what it actually is and have had no strategy for it. There have indeed been suggestions in some articles that Office 365 heralds the end of SharePoint and its parts will become independent services in the cloud.

Could you imagine SAP as being part of an Office suite or any other enterprise product for that matter? No, neither can I. As SharePoint is an extensive and powerful enterprise platform, placing it within a package offering and taking away its primary name thus taking away its independent identity is itself something that may stifle its long term growth. Add Yammer into the mix in Office 365 and one can see how the cloud branding can cause real issues for an increasingly bewildered corporate consumer market.

These are only some of the many words I could have chosen for this article but the tech industry continues to define itself largely by being distant and distinct from the businesses it services through its fashionable and all too often abstract use of vocabulary. In the time we now live in, the ability to be succinct, clear, and drive real business value quickly is a high priority for many organisations and it is for this reason that the words and phrases that the SharePoint industry chooses to engage with and define itself by, may well define whether it remains in the dictionary a decade from now.

Nine Reasons Why Tech Companies Need to Watch More TV Adverts

I don’t know about you but I do find it very difficult to find many tech companies who can explain their core market value proposition in 30 seconds or less. Yet every day there are literally hundreds of hours of 30 second television ads that are masterclasses in how to sell a product or service to mass audiences.

As a society we have been advertising things to each other through value propositions (you need this, you want this or you desire that) for millennia and have evolved our advertising media in the last century in ways our forefathers could never have believed. Today’s audiences are switched on, sophisticated and advertising savvy and consciously or sub consciously we know what works and what does not when it comes to purchasing decisions.

In the main we tend not to like the overt, hard sell but we do enjoy being sold to in soft, subtle ways that allow us to feel entertained whilst we come to desire items and services and which allows us to make the final purchase decision based on the information we have been shown and that which we have gathered of our own volition. One of the ways we have seen marketing evolve most recently is in the aptly pleasurable research we perform on detail and price using search engines and the internet for items we have seen in the shopping mall stores, now known as ‘showrooming’.   

You may have noticed that to date, unless you are IBM are occasionally Microsoft (remember the old strapline ‘where would you like to go today?’), a phone provider or an internet ISP you will not have seen tech advertising on the TV which if you think about it is quite incredible. Due to the lack of engagement between TV advertising and the tech community, the tech partner companies have largely relied on magazine and trade journals for advertising together with published documents, articles, whitepapers and their internet presence. This has had an effect; it means that tech firms have never learned how to pitch their value propositions in the highly-effective ways that we see with TV ad products.

Why do TV ads matter? TV ads demonstrate how to get to the point in a clear, differentiated and concise way. It is quite incredible how often a tech firm finds it very difficult to explain their offering to market, their product, their services, as if there is something innately complex or impossibly obtuse regarding their value proposition. One could argue that if one tried to describe the relative technical merits of a BMW then one would find the same issue but car manufacturers long since discovered that you do not need to describe the mechanics of a 5 litre V10 to establish a value proposition.

In other words tech companies have long since floundered in translating their technical merits into business value propositions and it is for this very reason that all tech organisations should spend some time sitting down and watching a wide range of TV ads and working out how to describe what they offer in relation to the established techniques of a TV ad.  Our speciality expertise is in SharePoint strategy and we designed the Salem™ framework to describe a highly complex technical software platform in terms of simple business value, quickly. We know it can be done very successfully and that’s why it works.

Consider the following nine traits of a typical TV advert and then apply them to your own technical value proposition. If at the end you can create a successful TV ad in your mind for your own product then you are on the right track.

 1. TV Ads are Time Limited & Concise

Most TV ads appear to span no more than 15 to 30 seconds. People have very short attention spans and these are getting shorter year on year. TV ads have mastered the art of telling an engaging story in seconds that gains interest and holds the attention. The most successful ads engage, inform and  inevitably lead to a call to action.

Most tech firms do not have time limits imposed upon them through the media they generally use to express a pitch. This inhibits any mechanism for being concise and conversely promotes verbosity unnecessarily.  Inevitably this means that most tech partners are unable to describe any meaningful value proposition in less than 30 seconds, thus potentially risking switching off their audiences. Try describing your product or service value proposition in a 30 second elevator pitch and keep tuning it until you have it down to a tee.

2. TV Ads are Direct and To the Point

Most TV ads have a specific message, value proposition or point to make. This is relayed with relevancy and meaning within the short times ace of point 1. TV ads that fail leave the viewer mystified, confused or uncertain. Successful TV ads make the viewer feel good, informed, like they have discovered something of value themselves and clear of the value to be gained.

What TV ads do not do generally is try and mislead, use smoke and mirrors or fool you as they are typically covered by strict advertiser codes, ethics and legal requirements.

Most tech firms are not direct and to the point, particularly when describing services and value propositions. They instead focus on why they are supposedly the best but without spelling it out, using generic phrases, oblique statements and confusing descriptions that are anything but clear and sound like everyone else in the same field. Due to unlimited amounts of web, webinar, event and publication collateral they are anything other than contained or to the point.

3. TV Ads Include Everything in One Package

Most TV ads will include information on multiple levels, include terms and conditions, small print, limited discounts and highlight anything and everything that will assist you in engaging with the service or product quickly. In other words TV ads tend to be comprehensive. This means that between 15 and 30 seconds you will know the website to visit, the number to call, the timespan of the sale, the location to visit, the founder of the company and anything else relevant.

Those longer night-time infomercials selling gym equipment tend to be repeating the same messages and information again and again from different angles until you cannot resist.

No, tech companies certainly do not place everything in one digestible package often simply due to the wealth and breadth of so many services that it looks like an extensive restaurant menu. Consultancy is separate from the product which is separate to delivery which in turn is entirely separate to maintenance, support and upgrades. The situation is only exacerbated by the absolute insistence by so many delivery partners to use T&M pricing models which are to be fair in many client circumstances, completely unmanageable.  No wonder the client audience is confused.

 4. TV Ads Establish Both the Problem & the Solution

Do you want white shirts, do you need a new sofa, do you have problems washing your car; do you need to clean the boat fast? That’s the point with TV ads, because they are expensive and time limited so they get to the point then explain the problem and why they resolve it. It is extremely important for any TV ad to set out the issue they are solving and this is why they are so clear and concise and therefore understandable. If you understand the issue, the resolution and the value proposition then the only thing that would stop you buying is the need and the price. By establishing the problem TV ads are often offering solutions to issues that you will personally encounter therefore they will establish the need.

Tech firms are frequently guilty of describing neither the problem not the solution, they will simply ask the question “what do you want?” and then they will build it in response. This market approach is starting to die with the advent of both the pre-built cloud environment, Software as a Service and the commoditized app market but many solution integrators remain trying to cling to this model whilst it starts to sink.

 5. TV Ads Evolve their Campaign & Your Learning

TV ads are often not single adverts in isolation and are frequently form part of an evolving campaign where each advert builds upon the others. Some ads follow a theme whilst reinforcing brand identity (actor, music, style, colour etc.) whilst others follow a story and build upon it whilst educating the viewer through elements of visual entertainment. By reinforcing and building the campaign and storyline so the viewer may take on other value elements of a larger proposition. For example a phone company may be selling the value propositions of a combined package of fast internet, home phone and TV channels, each being reinforced within a different version of the same advertising campaign.

Tech firms in comparison have rarely if ever built a complete, consistent cohesive campaign and therefore messaging tends to be distinct, isolated and rather random. This is why so few tech firms build strong brands and so easily distracted in their marketing by the best and latest new thing – one only needs to consider Office 365 or ‘social’ to find clear evidence of this.

Another thing that haunts the tech industry is its repeated tripping up over historical value messages. For example, Microsoft SharePoint SPS 2003 was absolutely the very best thing ever, and then MOSS 2007 blew 2003 out of the water but hang on, 2010 made 2007 look like a beginners toy whilst oh yes SharePoint 2013 really is the real deal. Can you see why those who bought into 2003 or 2007 would have long since felt somewhat cheated?! Partner messaging failed to build on the value proposition but simply all too often shocked, shamed or scared clients to move to the next version. Try getting that value proposition over in a 30 second TV ad!

 6. TV Ads are Dynamic & Entertaining

If TV ads were boring, people would not watch and may turn over but a great deal of time and effort is taken to equate the ad with entertainment. Some of our greatest TV viewing moments are often listed as amusing or engaging TV ads and a few live with us for years as if they are part of our historical viewing psyche. Many TV brand advertisers whether washing powder manufacturers or household product retailers have been advertising to us for decades and continue to find new ways to engage with us to sell new versions of old products. Whilst I fully understand the value proposition of a washing detergent I will still find new versions with the latest scent to entice my money from my pocket.

Most tech company ads are really not dynamic or entertaining, they are static and lifeless and look like everyone else’s all too often and that is if you can find them outside of the tech company websites. The tech industry is typically poor at advertising across channels and tends to keep things very contained. Similarly tech firms have found it hard to translate their value proposition into graphical terms which is why the best you may find is a YouTube video or a colourful stand at a tradeshow. Of course these are generalisations and occasionally one does encounter creative thinking or indeed marketing risk taking, but these instances are very much in the minority.

7. TV Ads are Repeated Regularly to Make the Point

TV ads don’t only appear once they may appear five or ten times every day or in every other commercial break for the primary weeks that they run. This is to ensure that the message is repeated enough times that everyone gets to see the ad and to ensure that the message is driven home. It is the reinforcing of a message until it is accepted that is critical.

Tech firms do repeat their messaging but the issue is that it sounds too often like everyone else’s messaging and therefore remains without distinct identity. Due to the lack of overt advertising there are very few firms that clearly repeat their messaging to a wider audience to make the point as to who they are and what they offer. The few that do tend to sit alone with a unique or highly distinct offering to market.

 8. TV Ads Do Not Presume Anything

Most TV ads do not presume that you understand what they are talking about and spell out the message and entire value proposition using common language that most people can comprehend. This is extremely important because it is amazing the wide range of misinterpretation within any message and therefore the repetition in point 7 goes hand in hand with the lack of presumption you know what they are talking about here. It is for this reason that many TV ads appear to be speaking some kind of marketing baby language, but it works and you do not need to think hard.

For all too many tech firms, presumption is widespread with jargon in overdrive, the latest and greatest phrases sprinkled across marketing materials like fairy dust and an assumption that jargon makes the firm appear current. Usually it doesn’t. The problem with the technology industry is that it presumes far too much and the buyer is almost left to make a purchase out of shame or stupidity as if they should have known but they clearly don’t so we better help put them out of their abject misery. Again, can you spot the problem?

What is wrong with vocalising technology using business language from a business perspective in a way that anyone can understand? Trying to be exclusive using exclusive, exclusionary language is perhaps part of the reason why the tech industry lacks respect from its wiser, more mature and rather more engaging business cousin.

 9. TV Ads Do Not Criticize the Competition

It is rare, though not entirely unknown, for TV ads to criticize competition because in the short  screen time available, they prefer to focus on the positive benefits of their own products. This is beneficial because no one likes or appreciates an attack on another vendor, manufacturer or product without specific reason as it is making an assumption on your behalf without reasonably informing you. In other words people like to make their own minds up and be the selector. Political parties tend to sell their own manifestos by criticizing the competition but this does not translate well into other markets.   

Criticism in the tech industry is unfortunately rife. There are very few products that are so similar that they need to go head to head and yet the advertising line all too often appears to be a direct feature comparison chart, a service comparison chart and a pricing comparison chart. Services however are a completely different matter with general solution integrator services being so similar that it is all too often the case that the client audience has nothing but price, location and availability on which to select the partner. What criticism does do is it makes the tech industry look petty, unprofessional and unattractive to outsiders and it is those outsiders who own the budget.

The inevitability is that rather than selecting a service from a squabbling mass of undistinguishable partner organisations, I’d rather buy an app and download it myself and try a few until I like one and without ever talking to anyone.

One of the reasons why the mobile apps market is becoming largely successful is because it fulfils elements of a product sale that occur in the frame of a TV ad. For example when considering a downloadable app the process tends to be fast, informative and relatively risk free whilst the value proposition is concise and to the point. I could try ten new apps in an hour in a way that the tech market has never offered me before.

The purpose of this article is of course to seek to redress the issue that many tech companies and partners have today when marketing their own activities, services and products and that is that they are failing to engage with new clients in terms of value proposition, unclear of their messages, using tired outmoded sales techniques, slogans and value statements that disenfranchise the audience they aim to sell to and leaving their markets to dry up.

It matters because when we are inter-dependent on a global partner ecosystem to sell the underlying value proposition of a small number of critical software platforms on top of which many other services and peripheral products sit, then the future of such platforms relies on an unequivocal message to market. Where the message does not get through or is sufficiently diluted, clouded or based on the wrong value propositions then everyone suffers including the buying audience.

As we are a specialist SharePoint strategy organisation I cannot leave the article without asking that the SharePoint-literate reader applies the nine points above to the SharePoint platform itself and you will quickly see why we have a problem and why TV ads can assist. Can you explain what SharePoint is in less than 30 seconds? Can you explain yourr entire value proposition concisely using a narrative that makes sense to a wide audience using language that is business orientated, dynamic, engaging and  empathetic? If you can’t do so then watch a few TV soap ads to see how it is done.

Looking at Microsoft SharePoint and the SharePoint industry, Microsoft has never advertised it in a major way or indeed found a way of describing it to business audiences and this issue continues with Office 365. People find it extremely difficult to describe the concise and ubiquitous value proposition of SharePoint and what it is used for whilst the SharePoint service industry is in disagreement as to how the product/platform should be approached and the benefits proposition is so fragmented than the general audience is left utterly bewildered. This is largely why those who seek to sell products on top of the SharePoint platform have such a tough time summarizing their own value propositions because the product itself first needs a TV ad to establish the baseline.  

It is more essential than ever for the future that the tech industry learns lessons from decades of TV advertisers and understands how to turn technology propositions into business value propositions that are conveyed simply, succinctly, clearly, timely, learnedly, engagingly, repetitively and without presumption or criticism of competitive products. There is also a lot to be said for software houses trying to work together and complimenting each other’s propositions rather than spending the next few decades trying to take each other’s market. If the noise from our own TV ad industry is disjointed, argumentative misleading and confused, don’t blame the viewer for switching over, or worse still, switching off.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Ten Reasons Why Brochureware Websites Continue to Fail to Impress

Brochureware - "websites or web pages produced by converting a company’s printed marketing or advertising material into an Internet format."  - Oxford Dictionary 2013

Do you have an organisation website? I am sure you do because everyone else does. Back in the mid 1990’s any organisation worth their salt decided to build a corporate brochure on the internet because everyone else was doing the same, hence the inevitable rise of the digital design agency. These old websites lacked any focused purpose and all too often were a mix of ubiquitous marketing messages that addressed nothing and no one in particular. Many organisations were stung with huge design costs for what were in truth rather lacklustre web brochures based on old marketing principles that were inordinately difficult for the frustrated organisation to manage alone.

That was the case back in 1997 so where do we find ourselves today? For many organisations unbelievably they find themselves in pretty much the same place as 15 years ago. Rather than commoditizing websites so that they are now highly professional and yet easy to manage and update, you only need to invest an hour of your time to run round the international partner internet ecosystem to see that things are very far from being okay.

This article summarizes ten primary reasons why so many organisational websites fail to impress, achieve their aims or sell the services of their owners. Whilst this article is aimed at the technology partner, many of the elements listed here can easily be applied to any organisational website to help you determine whether you are really on track with your web strategy.

 1. Great Websites Requite Time, Effort & Investment

“You will reap what you sow” says the old adage and this is certainly true of websites. If you put in little effort in terms of design, focus and content you will get little back. There are literally millions of websites that remain devoid of visitors and yet to the innocent eye, look great.  There are no short cuts to a rich and engaging website that fully represents your brand and reflects your full value proposition. Why then is it the case that so many websites are treated as if they are secondary issues with underwhelming budget and lack of business engagement?

Great websites do not need to cost tens of thousands of dollars to create and most of the websites I have created which have generated as much as 1.25 million visitors per month have actually cost very little in $ terms. What websites do require however is time and effort in terms of content creation and tuning, messaging, audience understanding and search engine strategy. These are things that do not happen overnight and are generally iterative.

Looking at a multitude of current technical organisation websites it is simply staggering how bad many of them are and how little investment they have gained considering the task that is being asked of them – to represent an entire organisation and its primary value propositions to a global audience of viewers. Far too many websites rely almost purely on an identity of original logo and brand colour scheme without any further thought or strategy. What is most often missing is up to date, fresh content, original and varied material and original thought. To a degree then this is why they offer little value to the visitor and simply a little investment in time and effort addressing the other points in this article would help enormously..

2. Websites Frequently Fail to Understand their Own call to Action

Brochureware websites are all too often built to tell the world that you exist, that you are here and that you have a website! To be blunt: so what? If the website isn’t offering something of specific and immediate value then do not be surprised if people exist after just a few seconds, never to return. Your value proposition should be clearly presented on the front page, immediately obvious and with a clear message or call to action.  

You must first set out exactly what you aim the website to achieve and then design it to underpin this or these objectives. If the website does not have a specific purpose then ask yourself what it is really there to achieve.

Let’s go back to basics, what are you selling and why are you selling it and what makes this thing or these things so different from your competitors and why should anyone really come to you? Maybe the fact that you are based in DC is the main thing or that you have a market differentiator that can’t be found anywhere else or that you have a packaged business solution that really does make a lot of sense to certain organisations.

Have you made the value proposition clear in the opening statement on the opening page. Have you cleared out the cluttered jargon and techno speak and useless logos and mapped out what it is you are offering and why? If you haven’t then your website just may be falling at the first hurdle.

 3. Websites Frequently Do Not Understand Who they are Talking To

Far too many websites try to be all things to all people or worse nothing to anyone in particular whilst no specific audience has been determined. It is perhaps rather harsh to suggest that many organisational websites primarily serve the ego of the executive officers of the company who commission these sites but it is certainly evidently the case that far too many websites read like CEO/Partner Owner resumes and celebrations of historical success.

An effective website should be built with a specific audience in mind to achieve a specific call to action. If a website exists to sell specific services then the site should aim to get people to pick up the phone and call to make a pre-sales appointment. If a website is selling a product then the site needs to offer a free trial or demo or other content that underlines the process of product sale.

If a website offers nothing more than general information with no call to action then why have the website at all? Included in this point is the speech being used to talk, otherwise known as the language of the website: Just cast your eye around the internet at tech firms and take a look at the phraseology in use by the majority of firms: “enterprise social”, “trusted advisor” and the plethora of single statements supposedly designed to inspire “the business of the future is today”. No one talks like that in real life so why put it on your website?!  Instead think about matching the language of your website to the audience of your website.

 4. Websites Are Failing to Scale and Render to Multiple Platforms 

Does your website work seamlessly by expanding on a 36 inch monitor and resolving on a smartphone or tablet? Or does your website simply work on your own laptop? Have you ever tested your website properly on multiple portable devices or are you hoping future potential customers will do that for you?

It comes as no surprise that over 70% of current organisational websites will not render correctly on mobile phones and yet we are seeing the largest drop in PC purchasing ever as they are replaced by portable devices so who is missing the point here?

If your website will not work whilst a potential customer views it on a train, in the airport or in the back of a cab then can you blame them for not coming back?

 5. Websites Frequently Lack any Search Engine Optimization Strategy

“Build it and they will come” states another adage rather optimistically; we all know this does not work. You can put a huge amount of effort into building a website but if no one can find it then what is the point of its existence? Whilst back in 1997 SEO may have been viewed as some form of black art, today there really is no excuse at all as all the tricks and tactics for search engine optimization have been extensively documented and are readily available and therefore require your investment and attention.

SEO isn’t a one-off task and neither is it within the normal skill range of your internal marketing team and may require planning like a military exercise. However the basics of SEO are extremely well known and easily followed and yet I would go as far as saying that 85% of websites have little if any search engine strategy in situ from the evidence of the websites visited recently.  

 6. Websites are Frequently Bland, Undistinguished, Lifeless & Dull

Actually many tech partner websites really are  some of the most dull websites you will ever visit which is why, when you look at your web stats you may be surprised to find the majority of your visitors refused to stay. There are fashions in website design and there are fashions in colour palettes (white for example) as well as (fly out) menu design and page structures but being the same as everyone else does not mean your website is original, refreshing and full of inspiration.

When was the last time you considered embedding video and audio, podcasts, blogs and animation or do you think it is better to stick to flat images and some text headlines? Are you using the very best collateral to appeal to the audience you determined in point 3? Variety is the spice of life and you can apply that cliché to your website to good effect.

 7. Websites Frequently Lack Engaging Content

It is a tough one but the reasons why blogs are starting to dominate search engine results is because websites lack engaging and useful content that is regularly refreshed. Of course one of the ways to solve the issue is to add a blog to the website but I would suggest that there is no reason why a website should not have plenty of fresh and rich information and article pages that are regularly updated.

Go one further and build the website using WordPress or similar so that it is in effect a blog at heart which then allows easy addition of new news articles and items of interest. I visit websites annually that fail to change one word year on year and most certainly do not contain informative articles.

With the easy access to YouTube there is also no reason why the website should not contain plenty of video material that adds a layer of engagement and infotainment that is still largely lacking in most sites today.  
Whilst I mention content it is also amazing how core content on website pages is badly written, lacks spell-checking and is grammatically incorrect. It may not matter to you, but it may matter to someone looking to spend tens of thousands of dollars with you.

 8. Websites are Often Guilty of Trying Too Hard

You know when you are being sold to and so do I. Therefore it should come as a surprise that many websites continue to be so unsophisticated, so overt if not clichéd in the way they overtly (over)sell their messages with over-the-top statements, outlandish claims and corny one-liners. Put simply, overt selling turns people off and audiences today are far more sophisticated than web marketers give them credit for.

It is not good enough to say we are the leading Office 365 partner, the number 1 Microsoft partner, the partner of the year or the award-winning…these statements are only minor underscore of a much larger value proposition and its sadly the larger value proposition that is rarely stated in plain English and without marketing lingo.

Go and read the jaded comments for YouTube video ads for an hour or two and digest how today’s jaded audiences actually react to cheesy one-liners and audacious statements, you will find plenty of thumbs down. If you allowed a bunch of tech savvy teenagers onto your website would you gain many thumbs up or thumbs down, be serious. Objectivity regarding web collateral is hard but you will do yourself a great favour if you do use an objective focus group to assist you in removing the worst of your web marketing sins.

 9. Websites Follow a Formulaic Structure

Do you know why Contact Us appears to the right hand side of the menu on most websites? Do you believe people work across a website menu from left to right? Have you any evidence of this yourself? Too many websites are designed using a painting-by-numbers template formula whereby everything from the home page structure to the menu wording is via a design that everyone chooses to employ.

What this really means is not that people will find your website easy to access and use but that it looks just like everyone else’s and therefore fails to distinguish and differentiate itself in those first crucial seconds. More time needs to be spent at creating a website structure that underpins your specific call to action rather than whether it contains the same elements as found on other websites.

10. Websites Lack Proactive Tuning

That’s it done, the website is built so we will come back and visit it again in a few years. That is all too often the problem with websites. In designing and building a website, it should have metrics that can be measured and monitored and tuning of page design, content, messaging and other elements to drive the call to action by the visitors. If this is employed then there is a far greater chance that the website is a valuable asset that underpins organisational growth rather than being an expensive albatross round your neck. As with point 1 in this article, investment is required and this means continuous investment by those who are skilled in web design and strategy.

If you do not know what the website is specifically there to achieve and there is nothing measurable to check success criteria against then there is no way of knowing whether any investment in a website presence is required or is gaining a return.


Of course, many organisations have become side-tracked by building a social network presence, presence in Facebook (cheap and fast), Linked-in (cheap and fast) together with other social outlets. Whilst these certainly play a part in brand expansion, most user information searches are still performed via the primary internet search engines.Therefore whilst finding your website in search is critical, once found, if your website fails any or many of the points featured above then your web presence may achieve anything from maintaining the status quo to turning potential clients away. The task is to impress your visitors but you really need to check whether you are failing.

I am sure that some readers will be reading this article feeling pretty pleased that the points raised surely cannot apply to them as they have recently launched a brand new website with lots of fresh new graphics and a glossy new look. I have only today viewed three newly launched websites from technology companies that in fact fail on most of the points above. They look expensive but they fail to impress and I won't be back.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Best Laid Plans: Ten Reasons for the Requirement for a Client-Side SharePoint™ Project Manager

It is fascinating how many SharePoint™ clients adopting SharePoint fail to consider employing a dedicated SharePoint-literate Project Manager in a timely and appropriate manner. Given the fact that the Salem™ series of SharePoint™ strategy articles advocates a professional programmatic approach to a highly-involved platform, it is therefore natural that we turn our attention to the subject of the SharePoint project manager, or more specifically, the lack of one.

I cannot count the number of clients who, in engaging with SharePoint have failed to see the need for a project manager with any skills in the platform which underlines the common problem that client organisations see SharePoint as just another software platform that can be controlled and managed through to service delivery by anyone who can create a timeline, write a risk report and issue log, yet with no appreciation of what they are about to encounter nor embrace.

Let us therefore consider, in a pragmatic way, ten random but poignant reasons why every client without question should consider the requirement for a client-side, appropriately experienced and trained SharePoint Project Manager.

Here we go then:

1. Delivering SharePoint is a full time, skilled job

SharePoint™ requires a portfolio of skills that may not be found with a traditional project manager. I have worked in many environments where the traditional PM sits 8 hours a day staring at a risk log and Gantt chart and communicates with the stakeholders mostly by phone and email. With SharePoint the PM is actually performing a wide range of roles simultaneously, frequently at the coal face, performing everything from presenting the benefits of the platform itself, to presenting and leading stakeholder meetings, to acting as pseudo business liaison officer, to working with the service delivery partner all the way through to training administrators and other personnel.

There are so many strands to successful SharePoint service delivery on the client-side that employing someone who is unable to plan and anticipate what SharePoint will require to occur is a highly risky business prone to failure.

By employing someone who already knows that these tasks will be, how they work best, how to engage both the business and technology and anticipate risk, the better time will be used and the more likely you will be to progress.  For clients, ignore this advice and investment at your peril.

 2. SharePoint requires a central, experienced liaison point

Delivery of SharePoint services requires liaison between a wide range of personnel both within the client and with suppliers, contractors and service delivery partners. Think of it like spinning 50 plates at once and these plates start spinning very quickly with the PM standing at the centre. Keeping everyone inter-connected and communicated with regarding what needs to happen and when only comes with experience in the SharePoint field, therefore platform literacy is needed to ensure that everyone is asked the right questions and provides the right questions at exactly the right time. A generalist PM will probably not know which questions will need to be asked, why, when and what the follow-on actions will be.

Central liaison on a SharePoint project requires immediate understanding of what is happening and why and is something that, if learned as one proceeds, will slow the entire project down and start to increase costs and timeline impact. One cannot underestimate the amount of liaison required with business stakeholders and how it can stretch both available time and resources.

 3. SharePoint is the sum of series of interconnected projects

Inevitably and so frequently wrongly a business service will be deployed using SharePoint without any thought or consideration to any further service that ends up using the same platform. Consequently design and service decisions are sadly made in isolation, driven by stakeholders who have a somewhat understandable myopic view of things and aren’t typically interested in other projects but primarily their own.

Whilst many clients are notorious for avoiding ‘program manager’ roles in favour of the rather more mysterious (i.e. non-existent) and somewhat cheaper ‘Senior SharePoint Manager’ role, many SharePoint Project Managers are indeed fulfilling the vastly more complex role of the SharePoint Program Manager. That is in itself a good reason for selecting a SharePoint-literate project manager.

What the SharePoint Project Manager does is knowledgably anticipate business decisions and advise accordingly to ensure that some decisions do not occur in isolation when they will clearly affect parallel and subsequent projects using the same platform. It is the anticipation of the inter-connectedness of SharePoint services that is critical and something that the SharePoint PM suitably provides.

Whilst you may rightly argue that design decisions should be led by solution architects, the architect sessions are frequently usurped by ad hoc and sporadic decisions by business and IT stakeholders when the partner architect is not present, therefore it is down to the client-side project manager to fill the gap, temporarily.

 4. SharePoint uses a specific vocabulary

Whether it be content types or site collections or content databases or web parts there is an intrinsic language to the scripture of SharePoint that is not learned and understood overnight. Working with a partner organisation any client will be expected to understand the language and therefore the SharePoint Project Manager acts as the skilled translator or interpreter who can translate what may be complex technical queries into suitable business language appropriate to the audience in hand. The SharePoint Project Manager can speed up the entire process by working with the business stakeholders separately and educate and prepare them with the language until everyone is speaking the same language. Failure to address this role will present friction amongst a number of parties caused back failure of communication.

 5. A partner requires a SharePoint literate liaison point

Further to the above, the SharePoint partner, if there is one, will be asking very specific questions of the Project Manager which the PM will be expected to understand and action. The more a partner has to spend time supporting the client project manager the slower things will progress and the more likely there will be friction, issues and mistakes if the client PM is not clear what is being asked of them.

The SharePoint Project Manager will be working in unison with the partner project manager, solution architects and lead developers amongst others and may need to liaise with other related partners for workflow, packaged applications and other services. The sheer weight of current market knowledge and partner experience will ensure that the SharePoint Project Manager is able to drive the project or program forwards whilst keeping control of both the budget and the partner activities like the conductor of an orchestra. Would you employ a conductor that had never heard the piece of music before?

 6. Failure to anticipate will cost time and money

As a SharePoint Project Manager is an extremely knowledgeable resource, so they will be able to advise where and when things should occur and when money will need to be spent and where it can be saved. Here is a simple example. In deploying a SharePoint solution there may be a requirement for cross-training the incumbent second level support team. This may not have been anticipated in terms of cost and budget but by understanding the potential requirement, the SharePoint Project Manager could suggest that the incumbent team is trained to deploy the solution iterations as part of the testing phase which in itself acts as a cross-skilling exercise.

There are a thousand examples just like this. The more the SharePoint Project Manager brings to the table, the safer the client program/project will be.

 7. SharePoint PM skills establish a standard base line for the future

In a SharePoint service implementation the SharePoint Project Manager is able to lead by example, to demonstrate how things should be done, by putting into place the project assets and collateral that can be reused time and time again. Assuming that SharePoint is not being deployed for a single business service and that many others will follow, so the skilled Project Manager will be adapting current processes and existing project templates and documentation to suitably fit the subject of SharePoint for future projects and as such will establish a performance and process base line. This will occur as a natural part of the initial service delivery process. It would be almost impossible to achieve this using someone not already literate and experienced in SharePoint projects.

8. SharePoint Project Managers can see all sides of the service equation 

Whether you wish to call it empathy, pathos, understanding or comprehension the SharePoint Project Manager is able to work with everyone from the infrastructure architects through to senior business management and take on board all aspects of the equation and fit them together to ensure that SharePoint is delivered fit for purpose.

Whilst some of this occurs via the solution architect role, the SharePoint Project Manager is partly fulfilling a role of a SharePoint Business Strategist (hopefully Salem™ certified) and taking no sides but working out how to fit the greater parts of the strategic jigsaw together and then advising accordingly. In other words the SharePoint Project Manager knows how to handle the complexities of the SharePoint project in an objective fashion but to fight the corner of those who are under-represented.

Into this area one can also pull the complex area of SharePoint governance where diplomacy and skill is required to put together the governance structures and groups who will drive the policies that underpin the SharePoint program and projects.

 9. The SharePoint Project Manager is Switzerland (i.e. politically neutral)

There is a great deal of benefit to be said for bringing in an independent SharePoint Project Manager from outside the organisation (but not from the delivery partner) for the establishment of the SharePoint business service program and duration of the first SharePoint project delivery phase. This suggestion is primarily to gain an independent view of the entire status quo, to ensure readiness and preparation on behalf of the client and to allow the PM  to say and do things that are independent, unencumbered, uncomfortable, unpopular or indeed impossible for an incumbent member of staff.

A SharePoint Project Manager role is not an easy one and straddles a number of political camps regarding ownership, business versus technology and others. I have encountered a large SharePoint program where two directors competed continuously with one wishing the other to fail. By being independent there is a greater chance of success because the SharePoint Project Manager can drive through change and (hopefully) remain above the day to day politics inherent in any organisation.

10. The SharePoint Project Manager is really a Program Manager and SME 

The chances of a SharePoint Project Manager hiding behind an MS Project Gantt chart and weekly status report are none existent. From the word go SharePoint is an all-encompassing, all day, full-time activity that requires everything from ingenuity to strategic skills to pull off successfully. For most other ‘players’ on the SharePoint chessboard, they have very specific roles to play but the Project Manager is asked to wear many hats, fill many shoes and sit in many chess squares, all at a moment’s notice and be a friend, confidant and educator to everyone else. It is for this reason alone that those who have successfully delivered a number of major SharePoint projects have developed a skill range that is often exceptional, though all too often underappreciated and undervalued. 

Due to the wide ranging insight and knowledge that SharePoint Project Managers bring to the table, they are often seen as on-site subject matter experts handling far more than an individual project and very often the entire service program. It is no wonder therefore that to seek substantiation in their position, SharePoint Project Managers are now seeking further substantiation of their experience and skills through tracks such as the Certified Salem™ Practitioner. 


I am sure you can add to this list but these are ones that stand out for me. All Project Managers, whether SharePoint literate or not, aim to deliver solutions to time and to budget as well as to client satisfaction. When one project finishes another may commence or a number of projects may run side by side. Most Project Managers are certified in one or more project management methodologies which assist in establishing process and control and can be adapted for any particular organisation's internal processes. These things should be an absolute given.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that there are very specific reasons why SharePoint Project Managers are specialists who have a very particular, beneficial role to play and are very valuable to the success of any client SharePoint™ engagement. There will always be those who believe they know better on the client side and select someone from their own internal team who is requested to learn on the job. This decision often marks the difference between those clients who succeed with SharePoint™ and those who fall by the wayside. For me the SharePoint Project Manager is all too frequently the unsung, heroic lynchpin of the SharePoint client service industry.

Copyright Genius! by Morgan & Wolfe. All Rights Reserved 2013.