Wednesday 3 December 2008

Book Review: Seamless Teamwork

I mentioned Michael Sampson's new book the other day and he was kind enough to send me a review copy to a look at. Seamless Teamwork is a book about using Microsoft SharePoint and other related Microsoft tools for virtual teams. When it comes to collaboration, this book fills one of the major gaps I've seen first hand in most organisations I've come across - and that is the availability of guidelines on how to actually use the technologies you have available. The need for guidelines is a general concept, but at some point you need to get specific and this is exactly what this book does for SharePoint users.

I'm really excited about this book - not because I'm using SharePoint to collaborate right now, but because I like the way Michael uses a story and weaves a combination of practical SharePoint how-to's with some useful concepts around collaboration theory and process. Read this book improve how you collaborate with SharePoint now, but even as SharePoint evolves or if you start using another platform you'll still have some useful concept to use. Some of the key concepts are the Five Phases Project Life Cycle Model (on page 20) that drives the structure of the book and the Seamless Teamwork approach (on page 86), which is built around the idea that collaboration consists of:

  • Doing the Work;
  • Coordinating the Work; and
  • Sharing the Context.

I should also add that Michael clearly outlines all the individual steps you need to follow to configure SharePoint for your project based on these concepts - even down to how you close down and archive your project (no one ever talks about that step in practical terms!) He also talks about using other technologies, such as Groove, OneNote, SharedView and Live Meeting.

You can of course follows the steps in Michael's book to the letter - and it really is a recipe book in that sense, rather than coffee table reading. However, I think you'll get even more value if you do treat it as a recipe and adjust to taste. Ok, enough with the metaphors, what I mean is:

  • Experiment with the process described in the book and see what works best for your projects;
  • As you experiment, start to develop your own 'guidelines';
  • Configure and optimise your SharePoint configuration to help automate the setup of project spaces based on your custom guidelines - e.g. templates; and
  • Think about how you can extend your guidelines to include the other technologies you might have available.

Now because this book is neither conceptual or a technical bible (which is why it fills such an important knowledge gap), I think there are a few different people who will benefit for taking a look:

  • Obviously, anyone who has been asked to collaborate using SharePoint is going to find this book valuable;
  • Anyone thinking of implementing SharePoint for project collaboration - it will help you to evaluate how SharePoint out of the box might fit your requirements;
  • People in IT departments should read this book to understand how people in their organisations might want to use SharePoint in practice and how to maximise the investment in Microsoft's technologies; and

Ironically, I also think that anyone using other project collaboration tools may also find it useful - not only is this a good example of what 'guidelines' should look like, you can also compare options, use cases and also learn the terminology and expectations that other people using your collaboration tool might have after using SharePoint.

BTW If you buy the book you will also get access to some free additional chapters on Sponsors and Stakeholders (available now) and Beyond Seamless Teamwork (available by the end of the year).

Overall, this book should be on your essential reading list if you are using SharePoint for collaboration.

(And if you aren't using SharePoint, beat your vendor over the head and find out why no one has written a book like this for your collaboration tool.)


  1. Anonymous7:42 pm

    Wow, thanks for this James. Glad to know that it arrived safely and struck a chord!

  2. Anonymous1:49 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation James - I've been project managing and architecting SharePoint implementations since SharePoint 2007 beta and it's always great to be able to point client's end users towards a good book.


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