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Finding value in SharePoint and Google Wave: More feedback from Gilbane Boston 2009

I've compiled more thoughts on Gilbane Boston from our team here. Some big topics of conversation at the show were SharePoint, Google Wave, and collaboration, which were explored and parsed in various ways throughout the panel sessions. Here's our take on some of the sessions we attended.

Thoughts on A Conversation About Content, Collaboration and Customers keynote:

SharePoint is widespread, growing, and a major player in the enterprise collaboration space. But it is not a fool-proof solution. A recent IDG Research study found 53 percent of surveyed CIOs are using SharePoint enterprise wide.

More interesting, however, is this study found 55 percent of respondents reported that SharePoint challenges are impacting their business. Some of the reasons cited include SharePoint sites become information silos, and costs to manage the environment can be high.

All in all, SharePoint is a good platform with a vast volume of functionality. But there are gaps, and the implementations are not easy or fast. It's a platform, and platforms come with big footprints in the enterprise.

It seemed attendees are hesitant to purchase/implement sophisticated CMS's (content management systems). Organizations have spent billions on ECM (enterprise content management), enterprise search, and CMS, but many are taking a hard look at what those systems have accomplished, and how they can be leveraged for even greater benefits. In fact, 40 percent of session attendees use open source CMS, and 60 to 70 percent of attendees use multiple CMS systems.

Companies are looking for solutions that are easier to use, implement, maintain, and adopt by their users. They do not want to (over) purchase, implement, and deploy more than what they need. Companies are also finding skilled CMS resources in decline and more difficult to find. Thus, simpler solutions are deemed more attractive.

Video and rich media are becoming more prevalent with business users, particularly as companies look to leverage social media for internal and external brand development.

Waiting for customers to come view your corporate Web site info is not enough today. Instead companies need to begin "pushing" content to their audience(s). Content communities are popping up everywhere, and it is important to differentiate the parameters for communities inside and outside the firewall. Social media products provide increased productivity at a relatively low cost point.

Thoughts on Collaboration Challenges 2: Sharing Content session:

One of the biggest collaboration challenges we found among attendees at Gilbane Boston is sharing content. Company e-mail is still the most common content sharing tool. But it is limited, and will be used less often as social media tools become more popular.

If fact, one question on our minds is, Will social technologies make e-mail obsolete? Geoff Bock, moderator and Senior Analyst of Collaboration and Enterprise Social Software for the Gilbane Group, made the comment that going in to work is "oh-so 20th century." Maybe communicating by e-mail will be "oh-so 2009" as social technologies take center stage in our collaborative lives.

Another chronology point was the fact that over the past 10 years, we've had an incredible explosion of data. Now we are experiencing an explosion of content delivery mechanisms as a result. What will be the outcome?

There will be a lot of weeding of vendors. As we've said before, the E2.0 technologies that get it right will be chameleon-like in their ability to fit into any organization's structure and culture. These technologies will also be customizable, as companies figure out the right balance of social for their enterprise. Companies are looking to control how content, knowledge, and collective input is connected and used.

Panelist Bob Lindenberg, Senior Vice President of Putnam Investments, believes new tools won't be deployed until they are "controllable." This is particularly true for the financial industry, which has strict regulations around using social technologies.

Lindenberg as well as fellow panelist Ginger Richards, Knowledge Management Specialist of Pew Research Center believe their users want to "pull content together with a common view" for their users. Richards also believes social networking is so prominent in our daily lives that we are starting to expect it in the way we work.

And panelist Jason Corsello, Vice President of Knowledge Infusion, stopped using SharePoint and began using Jive because he wanted easy and fast content collaboration. He believes that organizations need to work off a platform, and surround themselves with "edge" technologies to fill in the gaps.

Thoughts on SharePoint Case Studies and Strategies session:

Panelist Sadalit P. Van Buren, Microsoft SharePoint Consultant, advised SharePoint projects should be treated and structured like product development projects. They should have the appropriate design, develop, test, etc. phases, instead of trying to get something up and running fast and then modifying or adding to it as you go.

This model might work for some, but many do not have the option to invest the time into a big implementation. Small, more flexible deployments would be a better fit. Plus, with social technologies rapidly changing, companies need to be flexible enough to keep up with these changes, and not bogged down in a lengthy deployment.

For increased user adoption, Van Buren also recommended companies add fun, quirky things to their home page(s), which tends to engage the users. This might be true, but in our point of view, it does not necessarily convert to real business benefits. Organizations need ROI, not social networking for employees.

Thoughts on Collaboration Challenges 5: Fostering and Supporting Innovation session:

Panelist Mary Lou Tierney, Lead Technologist of MITRE, had a few good pieces of advice:
  • Top-down, bottom-up approach is required for a successful innovation practice.
  • Senior management support is a must.
  • Single point person within the customer is required for a successful project.
  • After her latest project was completed, many employees felt the project could have been built with a platform like SharePoint. But they also realized it would have take a couple of years and required more money vs. purchasing a product.
  • MITRE will look to add socialization in 2010, and will consider getting Google Indexing and other means for bringing more content into the company.
  • Stay with core business elements.
  • Structured project guidelines are required for success.
  • Look for different ways to differentiate from the competition.
  • Embrace failure to learn.
Panelist Melanie Browne, Librarian and Project Manager of Maple Leaf Foods offered the following:
  • Maple Leaf Foods needed common taxonomy/platform for content sharing.
  • It wanted to push new food trends to external sources.
  • Having an innovation practice adds creativity and trust amongst employees.
Thoughts on Microsoft SharePoint 2010: How Will It Impact Your Collaboration Strategy? session:

SharePoint is a very large platform, yet most companies have a limited use case in play. Companies are now looking to control and take advantage of SharePoint by establishing internal SharePoint practices for project roll-outs. Disciplined and structured guidelines are needed for success.

Thoughts on Google Wave: Collaboration Revolution or Confusion session:

Panelists' first impressions of the product include:
  • It needs a lot more refining. It's still in alpha, but some cautioned Google has a history of having successful adoption in beta.
  • There's tremendous upside potential.
  • There's no revision tracking or other CM features yet.
  • It can be confusing, considering all of the streams of content. (This is much like Instant Message, if several users were to all be contributing content into the box.)
  • It's designed for enterprise use, unlike some other social products.
  • An analogy that was offered to describe Wave: "Twitter is a golf shot, while Wave is a round of golf."

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