If You Build It Right, They Will Come

I recently heard a director-level executive—a clear headed, intelligent individual—lay out a set of requirements for increasing user productivity. While you've heard me say that SharePoint is not a silver bullet, in this case, SharePoint and Office 2007 delivered exactly what she needed. Then, interestingly, she said, "I don't want to push SharePoint, because it may erode the use of \\[the competitive product we already have installed\\]." That comment took be a few moments to process, because it came out of left field from someone that I expect to be a strategic and practical manager. I'm editing out the name of the installed product because I think the product is lousy, and there's no point in rubbing salt in that product's wounds.

I explained to her just how SharePoint would help her meet her goals. SharePoint would deliver the entire set of requirements, most of which, on analysis, boiled down to creating collaborative solutions that users would actually be able to use easily, and would want to use. And yes, SharePoint would supplant some (or all) of the functionality that users were supposed to be getting out of the other product. But that's exactly the point. The other product has been sitting, mostly languishing, because it's just not user friendly. A solution that has to touch the 'masses' of end users and transform the ways they work must deliver clear value and must be insanely usable, otherwise it won't get adopted. There is a huge, clear story that SharePoint has to tell about its integration with über-familiar Office client applications such as Excel, Outlook and Word. And honestly, if the existing product isn't succeeding at delivering an effective and usable and adoptable collaborative platform, shouldn't it be shown the door?

Her problem, of course, is mostly political. Someone higher up made a decision a long time ago to use the other product. And, to be honest again, at the time the decision was made it was probably the right decision, as SharePoint would not have met the requirements at that point in time. But the 'ownership' of that decision is a tough thing to challenge, politically. How do you address such challenges in your enterprise? How do you get past the "it was a right decision at the time" to "we need a new decision now"?

Unfortunately, I won't have the answer for you here. That's a totally socio-political task that goes beyond the scope of a technical newsletter. However, I have two ideas that might be part of the solution. First: knowledge. Sometimes it really is just a matter of bringing the right information to light and my experience has been that the more you can stay focused on requirements and solutions, the better off you are. It's tough to argue with a proposal that clearly aligns the two. Second: consultants. Sometimes it's helpful to have an expert from outside facilitate a discussion, and share that information. I can tell you I've had more than a few engagements where I was basically clearing away the noise so that both sides could see that they were really heading in the same direction and that the solution was more readily identifiable when the requirements were agreed upon.

IT Connections Relocates to Vegas and Joins SharePoint and Windows Connections
Last week, I mentioned IT Connections. It's a brand new event that's focused on bringing both the IT Leadership (managers, directors, and CIOs) and the IT Professionals of enterprises large and small together, to solve problems. Too often, CIOs hear strategic and competitive guidance at their events, and IT pros drink the technical Kool-Aid at other events, and they aren't on the same page. IT Connections aims to solve that, by providing both strategic and technical deep dives, then bringing both the leadership and the IT pros together for panels and discussions around key technologies. This kind of opportunity can address just the type of challenge I described earlier. It allows the team to get expert, independent insight into both the ROI and implementation of technologies.

Last week, IT Connections got a big boost by being relocated to Las Vegas, November 10-13, where it will be co-hosted with Windows Connections, SharePoint Connections, Exchange Connections, and the Dev Connections events. One registration entitles you to attend any session at any of the events, so you can really mix up an incredible batch of knowledge to take back to your enterprise or, better yet, bring some of your team and take advantage of this great opportunity. You'll find more info here.

Joel Oleson Joins IT Connections
Also, I'm happy to announce that Joel Oleson accepted our invitation to present at IT Connections. Many of you will know Joel from his work on the SharePoint product team at Microsoft, which he left to pursue new paths earlier this year, and from his blog. He'll be presenting his fantastic SharePoint Governance session, which is squarely aimed at both leadership and IT Pros and is a perfect example of why it's important to bring the team to this kind of event.

Joel also published, this week, a great list of resources about list scalability—our topic last week.

Microsoft's New "I'm a PC" Ad Campaign
I'm a FAN!! Microsoft recently entered the second phase of its expensive ad campaign, which began with the very funny if completely "random" Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld ads. The new ads have a much clearer message for the viewing audience who "woke up" from the first round.

I love learning from good communication, and I think this is a great example. If you're a student of communication, read Microsoft's press releases about the ad campaign and what it's trying to get across. I think the first of the new TV ads, and the new press ads, are spot on. They center around the line "I'm A PC," taken squarely out of the "I'm a Mac" ads. The ads highlight the incredible diversity of the global market for Windows. They cleverly undermine the snobby, sarcastic, and competitive Mac ads (which I also liked, but got very weary of) and deliver the message that more than 1 billion people use Windows-based PCs (not to mention the thousands who use Vista on their Macs). Future ads will extend the campaign's tag line, "Life Without Walls", to further highlight the concepts of community and the breadth of devices we use every day that are powered by Windows.

Check out the ads on Microsoft's site or YouTube. I'm so impressed that Microsoft managed, by almost all accounts, to reclaim the conversation and to begin to center it on substance and humanity rather than style. I know there are a lot of companies and political parties that could learn from that achievement. And the ad campaign has reduced my Mac-induced false inferiority complex! I can now work anywhere on my laptop or my smart phone listening to my ultra compatible MP3 player without shame. Now if we can only get PC makers to make sexy PC hardware—more on that next week.

If it's done right, people will use it. Period. A billion PC users. Millions upon millions of SharePoint users. They're talking with their wallets and demonstrating that a technology meets their needs. And isn't that what it's all about?

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