It’s The Information…

clip_image002See the picture to the right? Do you know what that represents? If you guessed ‘information’ you are correct. Last Monday, I walked over to the Info360 conference in Washington, DC to get my registration badge and speaker material. While there, I ran into Bob Larraviee from AIIM and during our conversation, Bob told me about a place to snag a great hot dog. This involved exiting the rear of the convention center and looking for the non-descript street vendor shown here. Very good food, reasonable prices, short lines, and, if you have been to as many conferences as I have, you know that beats “convention center food” hands down. But why is it my poster child for information? Well, to understand that, you would have had to have attended Bob’s session at Info360 titled: “Business Intelligence: More than Just Data Mining” to hear Bob tell us that the goal for BI is “to get the right information to the right person at the right time and to have it be accurate!

Info360 was full of accurate information in so many flavors that it always came down to choosing between two or three “right sessions” but the results were amazing. My first good choice was a session was by Niels Nielsen, Joel Rothstein, and Meghan Walsh on how Marriott transformed their web publishing from a piece of software to a scalable publishing platform (their words, paraphrased). Their system has nothing to do with SharePoint, but I learned about how important it is to properly manage users in terms of who can add, edit, alter and who should just be relegated to viewing. Another great session was on SharePoint Governance by Russ Edelman. Russ is such a good speaker that, well he can make a presentation on Governance interesting, ‘nuff said. One of the points Russ made paralleled the theme of my presentation, the need to think about “how do I make the user’s life easier?” My favorite session was by Patricia Eng and Eric Sauve and it was a “Knowledge Management Case Study” at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This session hit home for me, because we serve the same industry and we share some of the same challenges. Patricia described a home-grown system that was designed to feed SharePoint in the future (if it has to), but the important information wasn’t about the platform, it was the way that she works to overcome technical and budget limitations to push the concept of knowledge management into the mainstream at the NRC. I learned a lot from Patricia that I hope to use when I get back to the office.

I also really enjoyed listening to the people from Box.net talk about Cloud-based solutions in general, during a keynote by Aaron Levie (CEO, Box.net) and later as they led a panel discussion on the value of cloud-based ECM. I am not going down that route today, but I can’t wait until either Microsoft or Apple makes it easier to access and work with SharePoint from my iPad. I know it can be done, but let’s face it, it’s a kludge today and it really needs to be a dirt-simple one-touch solution. One signal that came out clear and strong in many sessions was that, if we don’t make our solutions better, our users will find other solutions. So, if anyone from Microsoft reads this blog, please make it so I can work directly with Office Live and the SharePoint web-based Office apps on my iPad – and ‘no’, I am never going to buy a Microsoft tablet. When I get back to work, I will be ordering iPads for about one-third of our employees; that’s not a lot of units, but that’s the Tablet we are standardizing on.

I don’t want to pick on them, but while I can afford to be Microsoft centric, I can’t be all Microsoft, all the time. I don’t know about the readers of this blog, but I know my job is to make technology work for my coworkers. That mission is what caused me to choose SharePoint in the first place, but nothing in IT is permanent. In fact, SharePoint almost failed as a solution for my most supportive users because of its poor integration with Outlook. Fortunately, the good folks at Harmon.ie came to the rescue; their product makes email integration work the way it always should have worked in SharePoint – I mean, in case the Exchange and SharePoint folks don’t know it, you do work for the same company. Harmon.ie was also on the show floor at Info360 and it was great to meet them in person. Before finding Harmon.ie, I had been listening to people at Info360 talk about how they manage email, so I knew there had to be a better solution than what I had to offer. Fortunately, I found that solution.

I also listened to a session by Rami Al-Ghanim about document management at Saudi Aramco and how they work to put all kinds of information at their employees’ fingertips. In his world, SharePoint is one of several front-end access paths to an ECM solution anchored by Documentum. The good news for me is that given the difference in our respective size (55,000 employees vs. under 200 total users); I can provide the services they offer in a system anchored by SharePoint. The ideas I picked up in that session also tie back to what Bob said about getting the right information, to the right, people, at the right time. That’s my ECM mission.