This is article seven in the series exploring the Art of SharePoint Success, a framework for achieving long term business benefits from investments in SharePoint-based change initiatives.

There are four elements to the framework:

  1. Governance
  2. Strategy
  3. Architecture
  4. Transition

We are discussing the strategy element which began with the question, “What is SharePoint?” I suggested the following answer: SharePoint is a set of integrated technologies which provide a platform upon which an organization can build a flexible, long-term information and knowledge management infrastructure. The past two articles have explored the concepts of SharePoint as a set of integrated technologies, as an application development platform and the nature of infrastructure. This month we are going to wrap up the definition of SharePoint by looking at the idea that SharePoint is all about information and knowledge management.

Information and Knowledge Management

Peter Drucker said,

To make knowledge work productive will be the great management challenge of this century; just as to make manual work productive was the great management task of the last century.. The productivity of knowledge and knowledge workers will not be the only competitive factor in the world economy. It is however likely to become the decisive factor, at least for most industries in developed countries” (Drucker 1992)

Avoiding an esoteric discussion on the differences between information and knowledge , the management of information and knowledge are fundamental to the performance and competitiveness of all most every modern business. It’s about getting the right information (or knowledge), to the right people, in the right format, and at the right time in order to help them do their jobs.

The Information Workplace and What You Need to Build One

In 2005, analysts at Forrester Research Inc. coined the term “Information Workplace”, a vision of the workplace of the future for information workers. They describe the information workplace in terms of seven tenants.

Garfield_table.jpg

Table 1: Seven tenants of the information workplace (Driver and Moore 2007)

To realize the vision of the information workplace an organization needs a technical platform that provides the following set of capabilities:

  • content management
  • collaboration and communication
  • portal framework
  • pervasive business intelligence
  • office productivity
  • search
  • human-centric business process management
  • information rights management

Does any of this sound vaguely familiar?

Strategic Choices

In selecting a technology platform upon which to build an information workplace, you have three basic choices:

  1. Select best of breed products for each area and integrate them
  2. Select a unified infrastructure that delivers the breadth of capabilities
  3. Hybrid

Option 1 has the benefit of delivering best of breed functionality across all capabilities, but do you really need the best? On the downside, the IT function has to maintain several different technologies from different vendors who may all have different strategies and roadmaps for their products, integration can be difficult, costly and time consuming, and for the users, learning several different technologies can be a barrier to adoption.

Option 2 has the benefit of lower costs as a single license and technology platform delivers the breadth of capabilities, integration is simpler, and users only have one technology to adopt. Of course it would be very useful if the selected platform integrated seamlessly with your personal productivity tools, and if there were complimentary cloud, mobile and web-based technologies available, even better. On the downside, the single platform may not have the same depth of functionality as the best in breed products, and you may prefer not to put all your eggs in one technology vendor's basket.

A third option is to take a hybrid approach and select a best of breed technology for one or two core and mission critical systems and use a different unified platform for others. For example, a bank may decide that SharePoint 2010’s record management features aren’t deep enough to meet its needs and select a different ERDMS whilst still using SharePoint for team collaboration and enterprise search.

If you follow strategic option number 2 or 3 and select a mainly unified infrastructure, then your next challenge is to select the technology and vendor and I’d argue that Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is one of the market leaders.

Conclusions

I believe that implementing SharePoint should be seen as a strategic decision rather than a tactical one. Consider the value of information and knowledge in your organization, form a vision, devise a business strategy and then finally assess your technology strategy. The technology comes last, so it’s strange that in so many cases it’s the technology that seems to lead SharePoint initiatives. A question of a solution looking for a problem. Understanding the links between the value of information and knowledge to the features of SharePoint is a specialist area yet so few SharePoint project teams seem to include people with this perspective. Does yours?

For Next Time…

Keep an eye out for our next exciting episode that will be coming early due to the Christmas break. Next time we will be moving on to the next part of the Strategy element and looking at a series of "Strategic lenses" that I use to help clients form their SharePoint strategies.

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