Dedicated to SharePoint™ Strategic Excellence. The published articles of a Certified SALEM™ Practitioner (CSP), Certified SALEM™ Master (CSM), Certified SALEM™ Sales Expert (CSSE) & SharePoint Business Strategist. Certifications may be gained from www.sharepointcourses.net
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:
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speaks of a confused, out of date, badly constructed, impossible to navigate,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?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
'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.
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
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.
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
overdecade 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
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.