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The CIO And SharePoint
Why should CIOs pay close attention to this particular Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) product (as opposed to the myriad others you support in your organization)? Because it's viral (meaning its use is probably growing in your company, whether you know it or not), and it needs to be managed closely to get the most of out it.
Russ Edelman is the president of Corridor Consulting, which specializes in enterprise content management (ECM) -- in particular, helping companies implement and make the most of SharePoint, Microsoft's content management system. (He's also the co-author of the forthcoming book, Nice Guys Can Get The Corner Office: Eight Strategies For Winning In Business Without Being A Jerk.) He sent me a report on Microsoft's SharePoint conference earlier this month, some perspective from a significant user of the product, and some tips on making the most of it:
As a barometer of the momentum of SharePoint, Microsoft's content/document/image/records management system, the SharePoint 2007 conference, held in Seattle March 3-7, was a complete sell-out, with a wait list of over 500 people. In fact, some desperate SharePoint people even showed up without conference passes, hoping to scalp a ticket to get into the event. And if you believe SharePoint is simply a departmental solution, think again. Many of the companies in attendance were global, and their use of the product expansive. If you're not paying attention to this phenomenon, you are doing your organization a disservice.
Elliot Gerard is the manager for the Microsoft Development Center of Excellence at General Mills. Gerard shared the stage with Bill Gates as a featured keynote speaker at the SharePoint conference. After the event, Gerard told me, "General Mills has a practice of partnering with a few key vendors like Microsoft. That creates great collaboration opportunities." Terry Brown, VP of Information Systems for General Mills, added, "This approach gives us the opportunity to deliver value to the business faster and with a lower TCO." Gerard added, "Microsoft is one of our key vendors and SharePoint has been employed since its original debut back in 2001."
Organizations generally rely on SharePoint to serve as a centralized repository for a variety of files, and it does a good job at that: Most of the files can be easily searched for quick access. But SharePoint also has proven to be a very successful collaboration platform; its workflow capabilities, while not best of breed, are helping information and process workers get their jobs done more efficiently.
General Mills' Gerard said, "Despite some of SharePoint's earlier limitations, it has progressed and evolved considerably within the company. At General Mills, it is now considered a critical technology that has been woven into the fabric of the company." Brown wrapped up his comments by saying, "We envision one hundred percent of our unstructured information will eventually reside in SharePoint, where we can apply our record-retention policies and index the content, enabling our users to perform full-text content searches."
General Mills is indicative of how organizations are employing SharePoint; however, they are well ahead of many on the adoption curve. As companies accelerate their SharePoint activities and broaden its footprint within their server farms, there are a few words of caution that were shared at the conference.
>> First, SharePoint often grows in a viral capacity, as many business people take the lead in standing up systems without an appreciation for corporate standards. Get a governance policy to manage the provisioning process, as otherwise it can backfire.
>> Second, ECM systems have a tendency to be great "technical successes" but not great "business successes." Many critical business ingredients are often neglected, such as communications plans, change management, and configuration management. Weave these important elements into your strategy because if you don't, you will experience a series of false starts.
-- Russ Edelman