Thursday 25 September 2008

Mike Gardner from EDS on how to keep the MOSS beast under control

Having dropped off it entirely at one stage, these days I’m only an occasional lurker on the ACT-KM mailing list. Probably because I have SharePoint on the mind right now, this gem of a reply from Mike Gardner, who is part of the CIO Knowledge Management team at EDS, caught me attention – here is the core of what he said:

SharePoint can be used as an information management repository for the corporation and then this can be supported by using it as a collaboration environment as well (which is what we have done).

However, this needs to be properly structured so that the "best" content can more easily be identified and found by search tools (be they out of the box SharePoint search or other search tools). It also needs some careful consideration of metadata management (column management, something SharePoint is currently very weak in).

By building (or buying) additional tools you can maintain consistent metadata across thousands of sites enabling very effective metadata search capabilities across millions of documents. You then have an information management repository solution that can be fairly simple for the users to use.

However, the tool needs to be supported by the right business processes to encourage folk to store and share their content (as well as to look to reuse content where it is already available). This may also mean looking at reward cultures and thinking about these (do you reward subject matter experts? if so, are you encouraging them to hoard their knowledge and not share it?) If people are not sharing, think about why not? Look for ways to encourage them. These may even be short term to get them in to the habit of sharing.

I contacted Mike by email, to see if I could quote him here on the ChiefTech blog, and I commented that there appears to be a gathering body of evidence that SharePoint can work, but it needs to be managed and configured well. Mike replied:

I agree with you. SharePoint is a simple solution to a complex problem, but it's very simplicity works for many users. However, if you let it run free you find you end up in a bigger mess than you started with. We started off thinking of SharePoint as an Information Management solution and not a Collaboration solution which meant we placed controls around it to start with. This has proved to be the right decision as we kept control of the site structures and were able to expand to collaboration easily. The opposite would probably be more difficult to achieve.

There are some valuable lessons here.

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