Recently, Global360 and KnowledgeLake sponsored a study by Influencer50 to identify the 50 most influential folks in the SharePoint space. If you follow SharePoint and the people who often blog, tweet or otherwise consult, you’ll know that trying to identify the 50 most “influential” individuals is no trivial task. However, that’s exactly what the Influencer50 study aimed to accomplish.
When the study was released, I was slightly surprised to be see my name among the 50. Though thrilled to be included with folks like Andrew Connell (Critical Path Training), Tony Byrne (Real Story Group), Tyson Hartman (Avanade) and Sue Hanley (Susan Hanley, LLC), the study got me thinking about what it means to be an influencer and how much weight to give to the study.
Rob Bogue was the first public critic of the SharePoint Influencer50 study that I’ve seen so far. In his post, he makes his argument along a few dimensions:
- It’s challenging to measure influence
- Difficult to gauge how a potential buyer will react to any influence given the sheer number of variables involved
- Influence changes depending on the situation and, to point #2, there may be influencers that are “hidden”
- You can’t be an influencer if you aren’t directly involved in the space
- [Implied] Vendors sponsored the study (credibility issue)
- [Implied] The firm conducting the study is using a potentially unsubstantiated methodology
Some of Rob’s arguments are compelling. I would wholeheartedly agree with items 1, 2 and 3. As Rob points out, it’s difficult to “predict the weather,” due to the sheer number of variables involved. The same is true of buying decisions; you just never know what factors are involved in getting someone to purchase software. Further, the influencers for a given buying decision will change; in the SharePoint space, I’d rely on an infrastructure focused consultant for Farm configuration best practice more than I would someone like me who tends to be more focused on development.
That said, I’m not sure all criticisms he raises are valid. I found the Amazon discussion regarding book sales a bit of a red herring; sales popularity does not imply fitness or validity. I also disagree that someone like Jon Powell from Alfresco can’t be influential. It doesn’t make sense that one would be influenced only by those folks who only support one position or another. I think it’s reasonable that potential buyers listen to Mr. Powell as much as a SharePoint MVP; his criticisms are at least as telling as positive statements from SharePoint pundits. Finally, while the study was sponsored by vendors, it shouldn’t be dismissed on that fact alone. While Rob is critical of the Influencer50 list (and “top” lists in general), he is a part an “elite” list – the list of SharePoint MVPs; a fact he promotes on his blog. Like the Influencer50, the SharePoint MVPs represent a group of individuals named by Microsoft and must fit a specific criteria.
Ultimately, any study or list should represent just a single data point in a collection of research. SharePoint is a very broad product with lots of capabilities and it’s unlikely that any singular list, whitepaper or study could cover everything. The SharePoint Influencer50 study is one way to discover potential sources of intelligence on SharePoint, but it’s not exclusive. I’d recommend using a few sources of information and draw your own conclusions.