By the way, that’s not ‘pointless’ just SharePoint-less and not totally without SharePoint. Before continuing, I should advise you that I left my laptop at work, I’m not going back for it so my trusty editor will not be able to proofread this post. All bad grammar is my fault. Oh, and there won’t be a picture until sometime later because all the pictures are on my laptop.
Earlier this year, one of my coworkers told me:
“I think part of the problem with SharePoint is that people don’t understand why we need metadata and stuff like that.”
She was right. Not because we hadn’t tried to teach those subjects. I think I had a course titled “Metadata and stuff like that” but I always tried to shape training from within. In other words, I talked about metadata from the perspective of our company. I think that might have been confusing. Metadata is somewhat abstract, but when you define it using precise, well-known examples, it becomes less abstract (see, my editor would cross out ‘less abstract’ and pencil in something different), sorry, my bad, your loss.
We made arrangements with The Holly Group to have Steve Weissman work with a woman on my team to develop and deliver a different kind of training course – SharePointLess, as in “without SharePoint.” What is taxonomy? What is metadata? Why are they important? What can we do with them once we have them? How do we find stuff? I love the last one. Steve was very deliberate (my editor might suggest that very deliberate would be like very unique or very pregnant) in that he did not say “how do we search for stuff?” Steve is all about “value” and search doesn’t add value, finding something adds value. If I had been teaching this course, I would have shown a SharePoint search example. Steve had better things to talk about, and the students appreciated avoiding the SharePoint example.
Two days later, the woman on my team started bringing Steve’s message home. She talked about our taxonomy, our metadata and the specific things we need to find. She pointed out the various ways some of our ordinary attempts at organization have failed. She showed a screen shot of my Outlook folders. She showed documents named with terms like ‘final’, ‘final2’, ‘finalFINAL’ and ‘finalfinal2’. Finally, she showed certain parent folders on our K: drive with counts of duplicate files, 4,000, 7,000 and upwards of 14,000 duplicates. We talked about why we did what we did. In the absence of a better system, naming conventions work – to a point. In the absence of a repository that can hold email and a tool like Harmon.ie, Outlook folders work – to a point. In the absence of collaboration software, sharing files with email works – to a point, but that point is when every recipient thinks it’s a file worth keeping and stores it on their segment of the K: drive.
Then, 5 hours into 6 hours worth of training, only then did SharePoint show up. She showed us organized libraries. She us showed Views. She showed examples of workflows at work and she showed examples of versioning. In fact, the example of versioning that she showed was a more recent collection of files that were previously named something like ‘final.docx’
The difference with this training was that by the time we got to showing SharePoint versioning, we all knew what business problem it was solving. By the time we saw the results of a workflow, we knew what business process was being improved. By the time we saw examples of views, we could recognize the value that the metadata was adding.
I wish we had done this training earlier, but I’m not one to focus on what’s behind me, I’m a “mirrors forward” kind of driver. I look forward to building our next solution in SharePoint because I know it will be easier to build and that the result will be even closer to the bulls-eye. Our focus going forward is to extract value from the stuff we are saving. SharePoint isn’t just a repository, it’s a working platform.