When it comes to information worker tools, it’s rare I hear someone from IT say “we walk a day in the life of our end users and start backwards from there.” Seldom do they ask “how do our people want to work?” or “what tools and information do our workers need exactly?”    

Today’s information worker is impatient and just wants what they want when they want it so they can get their jobs done. It’s that simple. They don’t have the bandwidth to absorb the thousands of technical features all information worker tools have to offer. They’re overloaded by projects, meetings, calls, emails and information. And they generally don’t care what the name of the tool is or where data is stored, where it comes from or the systems behind it all.

They need tools that make their work lives less complex and more productive. The more complex the technology, the harder it is for the average worker to understand, and the less chance users will adopt the tool and realize any productive gains.

Okay, this month’s theme is “SharePoint and the Information Worker” and you know where I’m going with this. Yes, SharePoint is feature-rich, broad in use-cases and sometimes complex. Team sites and document libraries are simple enough for the average user to understand.

However, the challenge is getting more out of the investment made in SharePoint and focusing on what your users need to get their jobs done. That means translating all those feature-rich capabilities of a platform like SharePoint into something of value an end user or executive can understand. 

The Art of Translation

Flashback: I remember Steve Ballmer’s keynote at the 2009 SharePoint Conference where he opened with “I Love SharePoint.” He then followed that with the #1 question he gets asked by CIOs and executives: “what the heck is SharePoint”?  

Enter the infamous SharePoint wheel which attempts to explain SharePoint. The problem is that showing that SharePoint wheel to an end user or executive is simply a waste of time as it falls short of encapsulating the breadth of capabilities relative to business and information worker value. The results are that SharePoint is under-leveraged as a platform and undervalued (in terms of hard ROI) in some organizations.   

Much has been written about SharePoint being a Swiss Army knife of capabilities. As a platform, there are a plethora of applications and solutions from third party vendors that take SharePoint to a whole different level.

There ARE Fortune 1000 organizations who are investing in SharePoint as their next generation social networking intranets, extranets and public facing internet sites. And there are countless other organizations who have built custom solutions leveraging the capabilities of the platform to address specific business problems, automate processes and realize a hard ROI. There also continues to be a tremendous focus on SharePoint in the media alongside the hype of mobile, social and the cloud.

If there’s one thing that's certain, SharePoint is here to stay and not going anywhere anytime soon. 

Enter the Information Worker Wheel

If you’re lucky, you have a partner or an internal “Yoda” that can talk about SharePoint and the art of the possible.  Let’s not forget a C3PO who can translate all the “geek speak” into “end-user speak.” Unfortunately a SharePoint Yoda and C3PO are the exception vs. the rule. It’s far too easy to get lost in a discussion of features instead of explaining the value to the information worker and how SharePoint will help workers get their jobs done better, faster, cheaper. So here’s what I propose, a brand new wheel …a wheel NOT focused on features or capabilities but the information worker.  


Yes, you -- manager of projects, process and people. Yes, you globe-trotting mobile warrior who needs to connect anywhere at any time from any device. Yes, you -- the worker who needs the right information, to connect with the right people, to leverage the right knowledge & expertise, and to make real-time decisions at the right time. Yes, you social networker, collaborator and sharer. And you, worker concerned about security, risk and compliance.

Each organization needs to define their own flavor or flavors of their information worker.  You have to start with the end-user in mind and determine where the fit and gaps are with a platform like SharePoint.

If there are gaps, do you use a Microsoft partner solution?  Or do you look elsewhere or to the cloud (which presents some advantages along with its own enterprise risks and complexities)? SharePoint can be THE platform to enable your workforce. So start talking value and focus how the feature-rich capabilities enable the information worker to be more productive. I don’t know about you, but I can’t sleep until they reveal the updated wheel for SharePoint 2013 …