The facets of collaboration Part 3–The feature jigsaw

Send to Kindle


Hi all and welcome to part three of my series on unpacking this mysterious phenomenon known as collaboration. In case you missed the first two articles (and I highly suggest that you read part 1 and part 2), I spent some 500 odd hours last year developing a SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture course. Amongst the sweat and tears of that particular endeavour, I researched many papers and online articles that attempt to look at the multitude of factors and variables that impact on collaborative scenarios where SharePoint might be leveraged. I also talked about Robot-Barbie, which represents the tendency for SharePoint features to be combined in such a way where the benefit gained is much less than the potential of the individual parts. Robot-Barbie solutions are to be avoided at all costs.


In part 2, I explained each of the facets using the model above, identifying four key facets for collaborative facets: Task, Trait, Social and Transactional.

  • Task: Because the outcome drives the members’ attention and participation
  • Trait: Because the interest drives the members’ attention and participation
  • Transactional: Because the process drives the members’ attention and participation
  • Social: Because the shared insight drives the members’ attention and participation
  • An interesting use of the facet diagram is to plot where various tools and technologies are located and therefore, where their strengths may be. In this article, we will go through some of SharePoint’s collaborative components and see how they fit together.

    The document is dead – long live wikis?

    When I have asked people to draw where Wikipedia lies on the facets, the most common answer by far is on the trait side of the collaborative fence. This seems relatively straightforward. After all, the authors of Wikipedia articles obviously have a shared interest in the topic matter. Without an interest in the topic, there would be little incentive to take the time to write about it. Furthermore with Wikipedia, authors are highly unlikely to be working on the same project or task, since the author can be anybody in the world. But, authors are likely to be performing similar tasks in their respective organisations. A classic trait based scenario.

    Wikis also are open and essentially unstructured, relying on authors to link to other content to build contextual relevance. By this logic, Wikipedia is a strong trait based collaborative system and the dominant process driving the use of the tool is insight more than process. Therefore wikis are socially oriented more than transactional. I would suggest that very few Wikipedia authors indeed would be driven by a process that mandating they update an entry.

    Closer to SharePoint home, Look at the success of SPDevWiki as another example. If you were to plot it across the spectrum (and remember this is about collaboration using the tool, not individual use), it would appear in a similar position on the model to Wikipedia. People use SpDevWiki because they wish to develop and contribute to a repository of knowledge to help others in similar situations. This reciprocal behaviour serves to help the individual in their own endeavours.


    But there is an interesting change if I ask people to simply draw “a wiki” on the model, rather than the specific example of Wikipedia (the mother of all wikis). The model tends to look something like the image below. Suddenly the scope of wikis expands more into transactional, but few people draw a wiki across the whole collaboration spectrum. As a result of this pattern, one question I make a point of asking people in all of my classes is whether they have ever seen or used a successful project management wiki. I have asked this question in London, New Zealand and around Australia, and the overwhelming answer is no. One respondent stated that his organisation had implemented a project management wiki, but conceded that he was the only one who maintained it.


    The reason I continually ask this question is that I wanted to know if the pattern I had observed was common, as I can only base observation from my own client base. Using my clients, I have seen two occasions where wikis were particularly successful. The first was a wiki for programmers who worked for the same company and the second was a school, where teachers maintained a wiki as part of a SharePoint solution that we put in. Both of these examples are clearly trait dominant in that the authors were in a very similar role. Perhaps a gross generalisation is that wiki’s are best suited to trait/social based collaborative scenarios? If so, it raises an important issue. If a task based collaboration effort has a varied mix of participants, then using the model suggests a wiki may not necessarily be the way to go.

    By the way, I have learned over the years that as soon as you make an assertion to rightness, someone will come along and prove you wrong. For example, I strongly advise people not to use the Microsoft pizza/pie diagram to introduce SharePoint to new users, but Ruven Gotz proves that it is perfectly acceptable to do so. Therefore in the example above I am only reporting on my observations, plus feedback from those who have attended my classes. I am not trying to prove right or wrong here as I know many will disagree with the diagram. But what I am interested in, if you can prove the assertion wrong, is what you did to make a wiki successful in the other quadrants?

    Wikis vs. Custom lists

    In typical SharePoint fashion, there is always ten ways to do something, each with their own pros and cons. Both wikis and SharePoint lists are flexible information repositories, that differ by the degree of structure imposed. Lists offer the creation of custom columns of different kinds, that allow tables of information to be stored and via the use of views, to make sense of the content. You get a few other niceties like datasheet view, attaching files, and export to Excel/MSAccess. In fact, many people like to adopt lists because they previously used Excel for storing information and Sharepoint offers similar functionality with improved data entry and multi-user support.

    Someone once told me that more critical corporate data is stored in excel than any other database system in the world. I am not surprised in the slightest.

    When asked to place where SharePoint lists fit on the facets model, many users tend to link it to transactional based collaboration that is equally task or trait based. Lists it seems, are well suited to tracking “stuff”, which lends itself naturally to transactional collaboration where process tends to govern interaction.

    Lists also tend to need more up-front work where a wiki usually does not. Before content can be effectively added to a list, you need to define columns or content types in advance and hope that you get it right. Information Architects routinely get paid to help do this. Remember that transactional collaboration is the world of well-defined inputs, because process governs the interaction. As such, project delivery (a transactional/task oriented process) often uses list based techniques because of the improved ability to track, slice and dice information, when compared to a wiki. Dux Sy’s book on using SharePoint for Project Management is a good illustration of this approach. Wiki’s do not even get mentioned in Dux’s book. Why is this? Perhaps the tracking of time, resources, costs, risks, constraints and work performed is best delivered via lists? Certainly, more fully fledged PMIS systems like Microsoft Project Server are highly database driven and designed for transactional work.

    It is then quite interesting to overlay SharePoint lists and wiki’s together. Is it possible to make a more educated call as to when one option is more suited than the other? Take a knowledgebase scenario which could easily be either a wiki or a list. Perhaps the decision as to use wiki or list should be based on the nature of the collaboration? If a bunch of people linked by trait are creating a knowledge repository, a wiki is a proven approach – Wikipedia shows this to be the case. But if this is for say, a more transactional scenario such as a call-center, where KPI’s are based around quick turnaround and resolution of common problems, a list approach might be better?


    At this point I can feel the heat of offended Enterprise 2.0 fanboys. Please understand, I am not anti wiki’s or anything 2.0 – we use these tools in our practice. Furthermore SharePoint blurs the above distinction anyway. Columns can be added to wikis and they leverage SharePoint’s version history too. In other words, you can make a wiki look and feel somewhat like a list. Furthermore, SharePoint wikis can be integrated with information management policies and workflow. When you add those additional capabilities to the mix, you might draw things differently. Nevertheless, I think this is a useful exercise because it might offer insight as to why certain portal features rarely, if ever get used in certain situations.

    Document Collaboration – Transactional or Social?

    Finally for now, document based collaboration seems to fit into any quadrant (and is therefore quite tricky at times). This is because the “document” is simply a medium of collaboration (as is a wiki for that matter).

    For one extreme, take the example of a quality management system (policies, procedures, manuals). Given that a QMS is usually part of a compliance regime, requiring audits and demonstrated conformance, document collaboration is fairly rule-based and managed via well defined and understood process. Therefore, we are talking transactional work. In this world, SharePoint features like content types, metadata, policies and workflow are fairly easy to define and implement.

    But a QMS, via policies and procedures, guide the behaviour and decision making in organisations. So while transactional, it is oriented towards trait based. This is because a QMS is rarely installed to deliver a single project, but to guide delivery of many projects. One thing that might be guided by a QMS is the creation of a legal contract that outlines the scope and responsibilities of two parties undertaking a project. Documents such as contracts, while also usually transactional, are task based they outline a legal commitment to achieving an agreed outcome.

    Contrast this with a team collaborating via documents. A team can be driven by an outcome or common interest (department) and as a result covers both the task and trait based quadrants. Often the rules of engagement are much less rigid or formalised with regards to document use and structure. Thus, a lot of team document collaboration is more social and trying to fit this into an overly strict or complex taxonomy can do more harm than good. I noticed with great interest that recently, certain SharePoint elephants in the room are starting to be named. The recent articles on NothingButSharePoint entitled “SharePoint Content Types: Is this a lost cause?”, highlights what I mean. In this article, repeated attempts were made to try and harness the value and power of content types into a large enterprise. However despite the effort, they were rarely used.

    To me, this highlights the characteristic of team collaboration – particularly knowledge workers. If collaboration is not a predefined interaction, then content types, which by definition, force us to go to a lot of effort to define inputs when those inputs are not necessarily known. Perhaps the nature of the collaboration taking place played a part in the lack of take-up reported in the aforementioned article? Those who advocate metadata as the only true solution may in fact be pushing a transactional paradigm onto a collaborative model that is ill-suited?



    As a general rule, in transactional scenarios, the classification of the document is of more importance than the content of the document. This is the records management and compliance paradigm, where the fact that the document is controlled is the key driver. However, in team collaborative scenarios, the content of the document is usually more important than the metadata classifying it. From a team members point of view, metadata that helps to indicate content is more important than metadata that indicates compliance.

    As documents age however, the value of the content tends to diminish and the value of the classification increases. Balancing the need for compliance against the need for collaboration is a key document management challenge irrespective of the tools and systems that underpin it. There is a large smackdown looming between the worlds of compliance vs. the world of government and enterprise 2.0 and I will eventually write on that topic.

    Once again, the key point here is context. Some document oriented collaborative scenarios are highly structured and well suited to well-defined taxonomy and metadata. Others are somewhat less so. Perhaps a tool like this helps to work out when certain information architecture decisions are applicable when it comes to document collaboration?


    You might have noticed that this post has more questions than answers. In doing a model, I never said I would provide more answers. Instead, more of a frame or perspective to ask certain types of questions that many SharePoint practitioners have increasingly be asking (as evidenced by the content type post above). In the next post, I will conclude by using the facets to examine several common arguments seen in organisations, where people in particular roles are in effect, predisposed to having a bias in one or more of these facets. We will also look at SharePoint as a whole, as well as examine what we can glean about user engagement and buy-in.

    Until then, thanks for reading.

    Paul Culmsee

     Digg  Facebook  StumbleUpon  Technorati  Slashdot  Twitter  Sphinn  Mixx  Google  DZone 

    No Tags

    Send to Kindle

    The facets of collaboration Part 2–Enter the matrix!

    Send to Kindle


    Hi all

    In my first post in this series, I introduced you “Jane” and a true story about her missteps when implementing popular social networking technologies within her organisation. We then asked some deep and ponderous questions, before meeting Robot Barbie and the crazy world of SharePoint Robot Barbie solutions. Finally I outlined a simple mental model that I developed that I have found to be quite a useful method to look at collaboration more holistically and help with the user engagement and information architecture aspects of SharePoint governance.

    Now before we start, I want to make a four points to pre-empt the type of replies that I anticipate from putting this model out there.

    1. Kailash once told me that the problem with models is that their creators fall in love with them. They forget that they exist to help us to understand the reality around us, but this doesn’t make them reality. For that reason, I do not love my model and see lots of flaws. I also look forward to seeing better ones that people come up with. The key point is this: No model can ever capture the total sum of variables combine to make a collaborative situation look or feel a certain way, all it can do is approximate. This is my attempt at approximation.
    2. Imagine watching the Matrix movies without the car chases or kung-fu. It would be long, full of nonsensical dialogue and you would come out saying “I have no idea was that all about”. Mental models are a little like that too. This model is designed to be simple and explainable within 2 minutes. Any concept that takes more than a beer to explain will forever be in the realm of academia and get little real-world use.
    3. Some people (particularly scientist types), will look at a matrix like mine and automatically think that is measuring something. This is because there is an X and Y axis and usually, their presence indicates two variables that can have a range of values. In my case though, I was not thinking about an axis in that way. I just saw that each of the facets identified (task vs trait and social vs transactional) seem to me to be the extreme ends of an axis that I as yet, have not worked out :-). The point is, matrixes don’t always work for these people and they tend to avoid drawing quadrants with explicit lines because of the implicit suggestion that a situation falls into one quadrant or another. If you are of this persuasion feel free to develop it in a way that works for you. I think when we hit part 3, you will see that I use the model in different ways.
    4. Remember that this model is about collaboration. By definition, this involves more than 1 person. I was not thinking of individual people when putting it together. It assumes a bunch of people interacting and each facet I guess, highlights a dominant collaborative trait.

    So let’s examine each facet in turn

    Task Based Collaboration (Outcome driven)

    Task based collaboration is typically characterised by short(ish)-term groups, comprised of people with a shared goal or common outcome (i.e. a "project”). The membership of a task based group is typically fairly diverse because it is the outcome drives the members’ attention and participation. Members are chosen because of their ability to play a part in achieving the outcome and it is not necessarily true that they have a say in that outcome.

    The dominant characteristic of a task based collaborative group is that members do not necessarily have shared interests beyond the outcome being delivered. A SharePoint project team is a good example of this, because of the multidisciplinary skill set required to deliver it. Outside of that project, people may have vastly different interests and skills, and may have nothing in common beyond the outcome being sought. Some organisations are like this, where the people you work with you do not necessarily have any social interaction with beyond the interactions required to get the job done.

    When you look at the matrix below, the top and bottom left quadrants are therefore driven by outcome. (i.e. getting something done).


    Trait Based Collaboration (Interest Driven)

    Trait based collaboration is comprised of users who are related through shared traits or long-term interests. As I stated in the first post, members may not be consciously collaborating on the same task or outcome, but may be highly likely to repeat or augment tasks already accomplished by other group members. Therefore, trait based groups tend to come together to share their learning and experiences. It is the shared interest that drives the members’ attention and participation. There is no deadline as such, or a specific task being shared among the group.

    Examples of trait based groups are special interest groups (fans of a particular musical group) and occupational groups (via job role or even department). When you think about it, Facebook is the mother of all trait based collaborative platforms because members almost overwhelmingly are there connect with people who have a shared trait of some fashion. Also consider a community driven site like NothingButSharePoint or a conference such as SharePoint Best Practices. Both are excellent examples of trait based collaborative scenarios. We use these collaborative environments to gain insight and learning from sharing experiences with like-minded individuals.

    When you look at the matrix below, the top and bottom right quadrants are therefore driven by interest.



    Transactional Based Collaboration (Process Driven)

    Transactional collaboration takes the form of a business process where various people or groups interact to get something done. In this scenario, inputs and outputs are fairly well defined and the process is repetitive by nature. Think of airport baggage handling as a great example. This is a process that has to be run efficiently and consistently. As a traveller, I want baggage handlers to be making sure my suitcase is on the right flight. I don’t want them all sitting on say, Yammer or MSN to co-ordinate the delivery of baggage. But I sure as tell want them to be able to tell me the status of my bag pretty much instantly.

    One interesting characteristic of transactional based collaboration is that the people in the process can often be “swapped out” with other people, because transactional process is designed to be well defined, optimised and easy to follow consistently. It is the process that drives the members’ attention and participation, and governs the interaction between participants.

    As stated in part 1, another characteristic of transactional collaboration is that it is usually not a place of spontaneity. Consistency is key to success and processes are designed to run with a minimum of variation and margin for error. As a result, this is the sort of stuff that well defined business rules, metadata and rule-based workflows handle well.

    When you look at the matrix below, the left and right bottom quadrants are therefore driven by the process that governs the collaboration.




    Social Based Collaboration (Insight Driven)

    Social based collaboration is an interesting one. Truth be told, I knew that this one would have the greatest connotations because of the wildly different interpretations of the word social. From the point of view of my model, I offer the following explanation.

    Social collaboration is the other extreme of transactional. This is usually characterised by more ad-hoc sharing of perspectives and information. It is realisation or insight through pattern sensing via group interaction, rather than structured business rules. It looks beyond the process and attempts to get to the ‘big picture’ of an issue, problem or constellation of problems.

    Therefore social collaboration cannot really be a predefined interaction in the transactional sense. It is not a structured workflow, a rule or something with well defined inputs. But it is the place where tacit knowledge creation, development and exchange typically occurs. It is where hard decisions sometimes have to be made and where innovation tends to come from because it is the shared insight that drives the members’ attention and participation. It is the world of wisdom of the crowds – collaboration in all its messy glory.

    As a simple example of what I mean, even the best business process modelling guru will never be able to document the process a board of directors would go through when performing strategic decision making. If for example, someone worked out the business process diagram that would tell any organization how to develop the next iPod or to master the stock market, then we wouldn’t marvel at Steve Jobs sixth sense for product delivery or Warren Buffets ability to consistently out-perform the market.

    Therefore in the matrix below, the two top quadrants are therefore driven by the insight gained from the collaboration.



    To Summarise

    Hopefully after that explanation, each of the quadrants start to make more sense. The facets of collaboration can be summarised as follows:

    • Task: Because the outcome drives the members’ attention and participation
    • Trait: Because the interest drives the members’ attention and participation
    • Transactional: Because the process drives the members’ attention and participation
    • Social: Because the shared insight drives the members’ attention and participation



    In the next post, we will use this simple model to examine several common scenarios and see what insight we can glean from looking at collaborative tools and situations through this lens.

    Thanks for reading

    Paul Culmsee

     Digg  Facebook  StumbleUpon  Technorati  Slashdot  Twitter  Sphinn  Mixx  Google  DZone 

    No Tags

    Send to Kindle

    The facets of collaboration Part 1–Meet robot barbie

    Send to Kindle


    Hi all

    I have a friend, lets call her Jane (not her real name), who was a huge web2.0 fan. Seriously, if it was a wiki, blog, tweet or anything remotely sounding like RSS, Jane would wax lyrical about how it was the answer to all that was wrong with the silos of the old world and if only people would get with this new paradigm and embrace the social revolution, collaboration within her organisation would markedly improve. After all, look at the popularity of sites like facebook, wikipedia and twitter. Jane also had a very strong vision for what this new world would look like and had spent a lot of time and money investing in customising SharePoint to meet this vision.

    Much to Jane’s dismay, her project failed miserably. Her organisation ultimately wanted something much more boring – a solution to help them manage their files better. All of this “new-age gen Y social crap “ was of little interest to the masses.

    Janes story is actually a very common pattern with SharePoint projects. As it happened, Jane had committed probably the most cardinal sin of information architecture. She had projected her ideals onto an organisation that did not necessarily subscribe to her view. Therefore SharePoint represented her vision and little else. Few others shared it and to this day I think she blames the culture organisation she worked for. I say that she did not do enough to develop a shared understanding of the problem, and shared envisioning of the solution.

    Now most of us know that SharePoint can be a platform for going gung-ho social if you wish, given that it has features like wikis, blogs, folksonomy and RSS. But it can can also be a platform for structured business process via features like workflow, BCS, information management policies, content approvals and the like.

    So that raises a really important question. Why is it that a particular collaboration feature (such as a wiki) might be total nirvana for one situation and can be a project killing fatal flaw in another? Since SharePoint has a ton of collaborative tools in its toolkit that can be rolled up in different ways, when do certain features work well together and when do they completely suck balls together? Why do some people have such wildly differing views on the nature of collaboration and what potential solutions should look like? Why do some people look at the SharePoint feature-set and say “meh”, while others are totally charmed by it?

    This was a question worth pondering and I did look into this in some detail while I was creating my SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture course. In this short series of posts, I am going to introduce you to a way of looking at the wide spectrum of activities that all fall under the guise of this term called collaboration. This mental model seems to help paint a more realistic picture of the collaborative world than the simplistic views that Jane and her ilk use. It goes some way to many of the questions that I raised above. Furthermore, the model has been very well received at my courses. Maybe there is something to this?

    Introducing “robot barbie” – the yardstick for SharePoint information architecture

    Say hello to Robot Barbie, my all-time favourite SharePoint metaphor. I use this picture in all of my classes and talks, such is its persuasive power.


    I first saw this picture via a talk that Joel Oleson gave. The story behind it was that Joel came across this very real toy in a market somewhere in Asia. When Joel asked the storekeeper what the idea was behind the toy, the reply he got was along the lines of:

    “Well, boys like robots and girls like Barbie. Therefore, if we put Barbie’s head on a robot, then logically both boys and girls will like it.”


    Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t see that boys and girls would suddenly drop their respective robots and Barbies and start playing with this ugly hybrid. In fact, when you look at the result, it is this bizarre, somewhat disturbing combination of features that brilliantly demonstrates the folly of taking two things that work really well alone and expecting that by combining them, things will work even better. Instead, we have a combination that is much less than the sum of its parts and unlikely to satisfy anybody.

    Robot Barbie is a very powerful visual metaphor for SharePoint information architecture because SharePoint is full of Barbies and full of robots. In fact the global SharePoint information architecture mantra should be “avoid robot barbie”. To that end, when I show this image to clients or conference attendees, I ask them the question, “So is your SharePoint implementation a robot-barbie solution?”.

    Many people will admit to varying degrees of robot-barbie. How then to avoid it?

    Research into collaboration itself

    The only SharePoint person I have met who goes to a university library to research more than me is Erica Toelle. In this section I am attempting to make her proud – hehe 🙂

    Since these questions around collaboration came to me while I was developing an Information Architecture course, I became curious as to whether academics, authors or bloggers had ever actually attempted to deconstruct collaboration itself into its core elements (in effect, performing an information architecture exercise on collaboration itself). Surely understanding the some of these elements would help us gain some hints or insights into how collaboration works and in turn, help us avoid Robot Barbie?

    So I hit the journals and did some digging. As it happened, some academic research had been undertaken over a long period of time, trying to codify this lofty ideal called collaboration. As expected, authors looked at the issue from various angles. Some looked at it through the lens of the type of conversation taking place, some via the nature of the problem solved, some through “business activities”, some via the characteristics of group doing the collaborating and others examining the underlying purpose that drove the collaboration in the first place.

    Some of the more interesting writing that I examined in developing my own model included:

    I read all of these papers in detail and then converted the arguments made by each into IBIS and created a single (admittedly very large) issue map to try and draw out any patterns from them. I would group all of the various concepts in the map together in different ways to try and elicit some sort of insight. This proved to be quite a frustrating process because of the various different ways each writer tackled the subject matter. The map was huge and I was at first, unable to find a pattern that worked for me. All of them seemed to have some interesting elements, but they all seemed incomplete or over-thought in some way.

    In frustration, I gave up and slept on it. During the night my subconscious must have kept working to unscramble the map because the next morning, I had my model within a few minutes. I looked at the map again and saw a pattern immediately. It was in essence, a combination of some work by Chuck Hollis and interestingly, Microsoft Research (The last two of the above references).

    Meredith Ringel Morris and Jaime Teevan of Microsoft research wrote a brilliant paper called “Understanding Groups’ Properties as a Means of Improving Collaborative Search Systems”. For the record, anyone that is looking to leverage user profile data via mysites should read it. In this paper, Morris and Teevan divide collaborative groups into trait or task, based around the longevity of a group. They also use group identification in the form of group membership being implicit or explicit. For my own purposes, the implicit vs. explicit membership of a group was not overly relevant so I discarded it. But I found the notion of trait and task based groups fascinating.

    Morris and Teevan characterised task based groups as short term and comprised of people with a shared goal and working together to achieve that goal. (They are describing every project team right there). Trait based groups on the other hand were comprised of users who were related through shared traits of long term interests. Here was the quote that really made me sit up and take notice however. They also suggested that trait based “group members may not be consciously collaborating on the same task, but may be highly likely to repeat or augment tasks already accomplished by other group members” (Love it – they are describing every discussion forum right there).

    So I had my first dimension of collaboration. Task vs trait.


    In 2007 Chuck Hollis of EMC wrote a really insightful blog post entitled “Beyond Document Collaboration”, where recognised that via the advent of social media, organisational collaboration was changing and that “different collaboration models are emerging, each one with entirely different value propositions”. Hollis identified three such models and labelled them transactional collaboration, document collaboration and social collaboration.

    Hollis described transactional collaboration as “workflow, or business process management, or something else” and was characterised by “humans are largely automatons; repetitively processing the output of one function for input by another function.  Not much spontaneous creativity interaction here, nor is it usually encouraged!”. Hollis then spoke of document collaboration and explicitly mentioned both Documentum and SharePoint. He finished with social collaboration, which he described as “It’s not predefined interaction.  It’s not a structured workflow.  It’s something entirely different than the other two collaboration models”.

    After reading that post, I thought Hollis was definitely on to something but I felt his descriptions didn’t quite encompass what I was looking for. Like the Ringel/Teevan paper, I felt that elements of Hollis’s breakdown didn’t quite fit for me. After I had slept on it, it dawned on me that document collaboration was the odd one out. I liked his distinction between transactional and social collaboration, of structure and predictability versus a non predefined interaction because the social dimension to me was describing knowledge work. But document collaboration did not work for me at all. A document is simply a medium, as is a wiki or a forum. Structured, process driven collaboration can still use documents, and so can relatively unstructured social collaboration. They just use them in different ways. The same can also be said for whether the collaboration is task based (ie outcome driven) or trait based (interest driven).

    So I discarded document based collaboration and in doing so had my second dimension.


    Making a model

    Out of all of the material that I researched, I found that these four dimensions or facets of collaboration (task, trait, transactional, social) helped me explain most collaborative scenarios and understand why Robot Barbie solutions occur. Of course, the great thing about distilling it down to four dimensions is that I then I got to do what academics live for. Make a 2*2 matrix!

    Academics simply love doing this, because it helps them deal with over-analysing everything that moves and justify all that R&D that they do! :-). In all seriousness though, people love creating 2*2 or 3*3 matrixes to explain concepts for the simple reason that they make good mental models to help us understand reality. After all, one of the key purposes of information architecture itself is to help users create mental models of a site (“Don’t Make Me Think ”).

    So here is my complete model. In part 2 I will explain how I use this model and the insights that it gives in preventing robot-barbie outcomes.




    Thanks for reading

    Paul Culmsee

     Digg  Facebook  StumbleUpon  Technorati  Slashdot  Twitter  Sphinn  Mixx  Google  DZone 

    No Tags

    Send to Kindle

    More SharePoint Governance, Information Architecture and *Sensemaking* Classes Planned

    Send to Kindle

    imageHi all

    A big chunk of last year had me off under a metaphorical mushroom, putting together several days of courseware on the topic of SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture. My take on these topics are influenced from some odd places, and the course drew on a lot of the non IT work that I do, that involves collaboration on some very complex problems indeed.

    In November and December of 2010, we took this “on the road”, so to speak, firstly in Dublin, then London and Sydney. The courses were sold out and feedback was terrific. Here are a few choice quotes (check out the hyperlinks for full reviews)

    “Did it meet my expectations? Well I’d have to say that it far exceeded them. There had obviously been a large amount of effort in preparing the courseware and modules. They covered the important missing links currently absent from the Microsoft and traditional training courses” – Wes Hackett.

    “I’ve just finished the second day of the SharePoint 2010 Governance and Information Architecture Master Class presented by Paul Culmsee with the support of Andrew Woodward . I can wholeheartedly say it was one of the best courses I’ve attended both in content and presentation style and they deserve a lot of credit for putting together a fantastic course. Paul in particular has put a huge amount of effort into the slidedeck, sample documents and enormous manual (almost 500 pages worth!) let alone all the great additional insight he could provide in person over both days” – Brendan Newell

    “Finally …. after 12 years in the IT industry a course which covers some of the fundamental issues governing project success.   This course is a real eye opener and a must for any IT professional involved in project planning and delivery” -  Stephen McWilliams

    “I just came back from the best technology training I have had in years: a world-first Microsoft SharePoint Elite Information Architecture course designed and delivered by Paul Culmsee. It has taught me a great deal across ALL facets of the day-to-day work that I do as a SharePoint architect” – Jess Kim

    Based on this and similar feedback, we are going to do it again. Locations confirmed so far are London (#SPIAUK), Sydney (#SPIAAU) and Wellington (#SPIANZ) in February and March 2011 and in the pipeline is The Netherlands (#SPIANL) and at least a couple of US cities!

    In addition to the unique content on these classes, I am honoured to announce that I am now authorised to teach the official Cognexus Issue Mapping courseware – the only non Cognexus Dialogue Mapping practitioner authorised to do so. As such, we will be running the inaugural Issue Mapping class in London in late February as well (wohoo!)

    So, here are the details for each location:

  • (Register now) February 21, 2011, London   #SPIAUK SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class (Download Flyer)
  • (Register now) February 23, 2011, London #IBISUK Issue Mapping Master Class (Download Flyer)
  • (Register now) March 10, 2011, Sydney  #SPIAAU SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class (Download Flyer)
  • (Register now)March 14, 2011, Wellington #SPIANZ SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class (Download Flyer)
  • (Register soon) May 9, 2011, Utrecht, Netherlands (watch this space)
  • Wondering what to expect in these classes? Read on!

     SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class. 2 full days of real world, examples knowledge and techniques

    Most people understand that deploying SharePoint is much more than getting it installed. Despite this, current SharePoint governance documentation abounds in service delivery aspects. However, just because your system is rock solid, stable, well documented and governed through good process, there is absolutely no guarantee of success. Similarly, if Information Architecture for SharePoint was as easy as putting together lists, libraries and metadata the right way, then why doesn’t Microsoft publish the obvious best practices?

    In fact, the secret to a successful SharePoint project is an area that the governance documentation barely touches.

    This master class pinpoints the critical success factors for SharePoint governance and Information Architecture and rectifies this blind spot. Paul‘s style takes an ironic and subversive take on how SharePoint governance really works within organisations, while presenting a model and the tools necessary get it right.

    Drawing on inspiration from many diverse sources, disciplines and case studies, Paul has distilled the “what” and “how” of governance down a simple and accessible, yet rigorous and comprehensive set of tools and methods that organisations large and small can utilise to achieve the level of commitment required to see SharePoint become successful.

    Master class aims:

    • Present SharePoint governance and Information Architecture in a new light – focus on the “blind spots” where the current published material is inadequate
    • Cover lessons learned from Paul’s non IT work as a facilitator and sensemaker in complex large scale projects
    • Examine the latest trends in the information landscape for industry and government and review studies that inform governance and Information Architecture efforts
    • Present an alternative approach to business-as-usual SharePoint governance planning that focuses on real collaboration
    • Provide quality information that is rigorous yet accessible, entertaining and interesting

    Master class outcomes:

    • Understand the SharePoint governance lens beyond an IT service delivery focus
    • Develop your ‘wicked problem’ radar and apply appropriate governance practices, tools and techniques accordingly
    • Learn how to align SharePoint projects to broad organisational goals, avoid chasing platitudes and ensure that the problem being solved is the right problem
    • Learn how to account for cognitive bias and utilise tools and techniques that help stakeholders align to a common vision
    • Understand the relationship between governance and assurance, why both are needed and how they affect innovation and user engagement
    • Understand the underlying, often hidden forces of organisational chaos that underpins projects like SharePoint
    • Understand the key challenges and opportunities that SharePoint presents for Information Architecture
    • Learn how to document your information architecture
    • Practical knowledge: Add lots more tools to your governance and IA toolkit!

    Course Structure: The course is split into 7 modules, run across the two days.

    Module 1: SharePoint Governance f-Laws 1-17:

    Module 1 is all about setting context in the form of clearing some misconceptions about the often muddy topic of SharePoint governance. This module sheds some light onto these less visible SharePoint governance factors in the form of Governance f-Laws, which will also help to provide the context for the rest of this course

    • Why users don’t know what they want
    • The danger of platitudes
    • Why IT doesn’t get it
    • The adaptive challenge – how to govern SharePoint for the hidden organisation
    • The true forces of organisational chaos
    • Wicked problems and how to spot them
    • The myth of best practices and how to determine when a “practice” is really best

    Module 2: The Shared Understanding Toolkit – part 1:

    Module 2 pinpoints the SharePoint governance blind spot and introduces the Seven Sigma Shared Understanding Toolkit to counter it. The toolkit is a suite of tools, patterns and practices that can be used to improve SharePoint outcomes. This module builds upon the f-laws of module 1 and specifically examines the “what” and “why” questions of SharePoint Governance. Areas covered include how to identify particular types of problems, how to align the diverse goals of stakeholders, leverage problem structuring methods and constructing a solid business case.

    Module 3: The Shared Understanding Toolkit – part 2:

    Module 3 continues the Seven Sigma Shared Understanding Toolkit, and focuses on the foundation of “what” and “why” by examining the “who” and “how”. Areas covered include aligning stakeholder expectations, priorities and focus areas and building this alignment into a governance structure and written governance plan that actually make sense and that people will read. We round off by examining user engagement/stakeholder communication and training strategy.

    Module 4: Information Architecture trends, lessons learned and key SharePoint challenges

    Module 4 examines the hidden costs of poor information management practices, as well as some of the trends that are impacting on Information Architecture and the strategic direction of Microsoft as it develops the SharePoint road map. We will also examine the results from what other organisations have attempted and their lessons learned. We then distil those lessons learned into some the fundamental tenants of modern information architecture and finish off by examining the key SharePoint challenges from a technical, strategic and organisational viewpoint.

    Module 5: Information organisation and facets of collaboration

    Module 5 dives deeper into the core Information Architecture topics of information structure and organisation. We explore the various facets of enterprise collaboration and identify common Information Architecture mistakes and the strategies to avoid making them.

    Module 6: Information Seeking, Search and metadata.

    Module 6 examines the factors that affect how users seek information and how they manifest in terms of patterns of use. Building upon the facets of collaboration of module 5, we examine several strategies to improving SharePoint search and navigation. We then turn our attention to taxonomy and metadata, and what SharePoint 2010 has to offer in terms of managed metadata

    Module 7: Shared understanding and visual representation – documenting your Information Architecture

    Module 7 returns to the theme of governance in the sense of communicating your information architecture through visual or written form. To achieve shared understanding among participants, we need to document our designs in various forms for various audiences.

    Putting it all together: From vision to execution

    As a take home, we will also supply a USB stick for attendees with a sample performance framework, governance plan, SharePoint ROI calculator (Spreadsheet), sample mind maps of Information Architecture. These tools are the result of years of continual development and refinement “out in the field” and until now have never been released to the public.

    Note: The workshop sessions will be hands on, we provide all of the tools and samples needed but please bring your own laptop.

    Issue Mapping Master Class. Your path towards shared understanding and shared commitment

    “Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.” Laurence J. Peter

    Presented by: Paul Culmsee

    Courseware by: Cognexus Institute and Seven Sigma

    “Not another $#%@*$ meeting!”

    All of us have felt the frustration of walking from yet another unproductive meeting, wondering where the agenda went. Yet, as problems become more complex, meetings are still the place where critical strategic decisions are made.


    What is Issue Mapping?

    Issue-Based Information Systems (IBIS) is a sense-making framework used to support group discussions to assist all involved to come to a shared understanding. It visually maps participants’ points of views, problems voiced, the rationale and reasons leading up to decision(s). The maps can be easily read and understood by everyone, even by those not part of the discussion group.

    Why Issue Mapping?

    • Maps detailed rationale behind decision-making as well as the decision; maps the thinking process of the group
    • Concentrates on pros and cons to an idea, encourages and explores all views, taking the sting out of differences
    • Represents and clarifies diverse points of views, conflicting interpretations and goals, inconsistent information and other forms of complexity
    • Everyone gets a chance to speak, if they want. People are heard and contributions are acknowledged. Interruptions, repetition and dominance of the loudest decreases
    • Keeps participants on topic because they can visually see the progress of the discussion
    • Keeps everyone’s attention
    • Meeting progress/result can be seen
    • Map helps participants come up with ideas/arguments
    • Visual display of progress to review summary if need so the brain can absorb the bigger picture and appreciate the validity and value of a larger perspective
    • Avoids jumping to easy answers or superficial conclusions
    • Promotes deeper reasoning, rigor and even wisdom
    • Everyone can visually see everything discussed- leaves no room for misunderstandings
    • Documents can easily be attached to map to back up ideas
    • Participants can see effectiveness of mapping and genuine will try to make it more productive

    About Seven Sigma

    Issue Mapping is a life skill that can be applied to many different problem domains and scenarios. Participants will gain proficiency in a craft that can be applied long into the future, to help them and others bring clarity and convergence to the management of complex problems. At Seven Sigma, we practice Issue and Dialogue Mapping routinely and this has brought us many satisfied clients. The Mapping in itself is part of the ‘secret sauce’ that makes Seven Sigma’s reputation renowned.

    Seven Sigma Business Solutions is the only recognised designated partner of Cognexus Institute, founder of the art of Issue Mapping, in the world. We recognise that without reaching shared understanding, you will find yourself at yet another meeting, rehashing the same unresolved problems, listening to the same arguments month after month. Or, if a decision has been made, it has not been followed up to fruition due to lack of commitment/buy-in.

    We are proud to be part of your journey towards shared understanding and shared commitment.

    Master Class aims and outcomes:

    • Be able to create great maps – issue maps that are clear, coherent, and inviting
    • Immediately start using Issue Mapping effectively in your work and life; the class will focus on practical experience and map building
    • Command a rich range of options for publishing and sharing maps
    • Lead with maps: create direction, momentum, and energy with issue maps
    • Quickly and effectively do critical analysis in dynamic situations
    • Organize unstructured information and discover patterns and connections within it
    • Make critical thinking visible for inspection and analysis
    • Recognise early, the symptoms of wicked problems and the forces behind group divergence
    • Recognise the importance of capturing the rationale behind decisions, as well as the decisions themselves
    • Rethink the traditional approach to meetings and decision making
    • Start capturing the rationale leading up to the decisions by using IBIS and Compendium software

    It will also give you a deeper understanding of:

    • The fundamentals of IBIS and Compendium
    • The structural patterns that give clarity and power to issue maps
    • How decision rationale is represented in a map

    This master class will be hands on – please bring your own laptop with Compendium software (freeware) installed.

    Duration: 2 days, with homework after the first day

    Audience: For both IT and non-IT audience; those involved in highly complex projects including leaders, consultants, facilitators, organisational development professionals, change agents, managers and engineers.

    Prerequisite: An open mind geared for shared understanding and shared commitment

     Digg  Facebook  StumbleUpon  Technorati  Slashdot  Twitter  Sphinn  Mixx  Google  DZone 

    No Tags

    Send to Kindle