21 June 2011

Technology Just Gets in the Way

The idea that most folks in IT, and even some  on the non-IT side, spend way too much time worrying, thinking and generally kvetching about technology is almost passé these days – everyone knows it true, but they still get wrapped up anyway.  Incredibly, most people tend to see the process of solving business challenges exclusively through the lens of what a specific tool can solve.  This condition is never more obvious than when firms start discussing SharePoint. 

Inevitably, there are discussions that start out well – focused on business needs and what users have to accomplish.  Then, for some strange reason, things go seriously awry.  In the words of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective – “Gee, Chuck, the date started out good. Just before we got to the party she seemed to tense up.”   Perfectly rational people start discussing if SharePoint’s wiki has sufficient functionality, can the firm really use the out of the box search, are the records management features robust enough for the entire enterprise?  All of these questions are very reasonable to ask if two conditions have already been met: 1) you know what problems you’re trying to solve and 2) you have well-defined goals and corresponding metrics to measure if you’ve successfully met those goals (notice I avoided using the word “requirements”).  Unfortunately, most organizations fail to satisfy either condition before pushing head long into a “how do we implement SharePoint” discussion.

If you regularly read this blog, you’ll know that I’ve already said SharePoint is not the answer.  However, this is true of any technology if you haven’t clearly defined what you want to accomplish.  No matter what tools you might be considering, you must be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish AND ensure that your goals are achievable.

Published on the Word of Pie blog, there’s a great post about taking a break from ECM that illustrates this point perfectly (though through the broader lens of ECM).  In the post, Laurence Hart (@piewords) describes all of the challenges with ECM implementations.  He does such a terrific job that I’ll end this post with only one bit of advice; read his post.

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