Information Stories

clip_image002That will soon be the title of this blog. I’ve registered the domain. I’ve mulled it around in my head and that’s the best I could come up with. Well, it’s not the best but technologyStories.com is a premium domain and GoDaddy wants $2,588.00 for it. Sorry. Not happening. Besides, it’s not about technology, it’s about information. Really, it’s about people, but this isn’t where I want to write about people. The fact of the matter is that it’s about inflection points.

SharePoint is at an inflection point. It went from being a hot new product to a must have product to, or at least it’s approaching being a legacy product. I should have known better when I named this blog. I’ve been in this industry for my entire career and technology is ongoing, but no single technology really has the staying power worthy of a domain name. It’s OK, the name had a good ride and if I manage the transition well enough, I’ll keep a few of you as readers. After all, you didn’t come here for my SharePoint knowledge. My favorite comment ever on this blog is “I like that you explore the ‘why’ behind the solutions.” The ‘why’ by the way is people.

I write about ECM and content a lot, but Content Management is at an inflection point. Some people say that it is past the inflection point. But, those are marketing types. Marketing types are always ahead of the curve with regard to change. Marketing types want to use terms at the moment of peak hype and then relegate them to the dustbin of ‘legacy’. Marketing types have had SharePoint and ECM in the rearview mirror for quite some time. I can tell ECM is in the mirror because ecmStories.com is available for 12 bucks.

I also write about process. People, process and technology are the things I’m told we need to focus on, and specifically in that order. I know that. I’ve always known that. OK, I haven’t always known that but I was told that when I asked:

“Why do I have to take The Psychology of Business when I’m studying Operations Research?” The answer was: “Because you’re going to be dealing with people.

Operations Research, by the way, was all about process. I love process but the instructor was right, it really is about people. ProcessStories.com is available, but is has those 3 s’s in a row and it sounds dumb. And really, who wants to read about process. Process is boring and belongs behind the scenes where it can’t hurt anybody.

So, Dan, why don’t you call it peopleStories.com? Well, there are two reasons: 1) peopleStories.com is not available. peopleStories.info is but, again, dumb. 2) I’m not qualified to write about people. 3) Wait, you said there were two reasons. I know, but 3) I write about people and my thoughts and ideas as they relate to people on No Facilities. See, I needed a third point to plug my other blog.

I write from my experience. My most recent experience is being collected at ANI. ANI is at an inflection point. We are planning for the retirement of a bunch of senior folks who have information in their heads. We are simultaneously planning to support a bunch of younger folks who want to be able to find that information without having to live in it. But, I can’t really talk that much about ANI.

So then, Information?

Yes, information. Because that’s what people need most, and that’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done. I have spent over 35 years finding ways to put data into context in order to create information and then to give people access to that information in a way that helps them to perform their business process.

Technology will continue to morph itself from file shares to SharePoint to a different kind of file share (DropBox, Box, ShareFile, OneDrive, iCloud – I have one of each of these) and onto other things once people discover (again) that file shares don’t really work and that search (alone) doesn’t really work. Dropbox and all the Dropbox wanna-be’s of the world will add metadata to their product, and the marketing folks will give it a clever sounding name and some dumb kid will create a blog using that word. A few months later, the marketers will tag the word as passé and a few years later, the industry will be calling it legacy and the dumb kid will be searching GoDaddy.

Thanks for reading this blog for over 5 years. I’ll be making the turn soon, and I hope to keep you on board.

Too Simple

imageI recently ran into a problem trying to replace the chain on my chainsaw. There were really two problems. First, there are almost no chains to be had in the state of CT after Storm Alfred dropped a few gazillion tree limbs on fences, roads and power lines. Second, Husqvarna changed the style of chain that my chainsaw uses without changing the model number of the saw. I purchased what the guide in the store indicated was the correct chain, only to have it not contour to the tip of the cutting bar. Standing in Home Depot, I started browsing through websites looking for tooth design, chain width, pitch, etc. when it finally occurred to me that if I simply bought a replacement bar and chain kit, my problem would be rendered mute. In addition, I would have Oregon’s model number for the replacement chain in the future.

The fact that I was heading down the more complicated path at first, is no surprise to me; sometimes I skip right past the simple solution because I’m looking for something elegant. Give me a minute; I can spin that last statement into something that sounds more noble than idiotic. I’m not sure if it’s the developer in me or the fact that I like to make my job interesting, but I will often start out pursuing a solution that could probably be considered overkill. In spite of that, we have had three bits of success lately with very simple solutions. Note that there isn’t anything remarkable about these solutions, other than, perhaps, the fact that I ignored or forgot about using them at first.

$9 Answer – When we upgraded our Internet-facing server from SP 2007 to 2010, we reorganized our content to make installation, backup and restoration easier. An unfortunate side-effect of this effort was that the URLs changed for the sub-sites. Since the main server home page is just the front door to services being provided to our members, policyholders, employees and a wide variety of vendors, nobody ever really starts there. They go there one time, click the link that applies to them and then they bookmark the page they land on. We started thinking of all the ways we could make those old URLs work, when we realized that we could simply buy a domain name for each sub-site. Now, no matter what we do with their content, even if we take it out of SharePoint, they know how to get to it.

A Library is as Good as a Site – OK, sometimes a library is as good as a site. We had a policyholder contact us looking for help uploading a bunch of large files. As I’ve written before, our first choice is to direct them to the site we have set up for their company on our server. In this case, the company doesn’t have a site yet. Our first thought was that we had two choices: 1) we could make them wait a bit while we built a site for their company, or 2) we could send them through the generic “drop box” library that we have. Then we remembered that libraries in SharePoint are permission-trimmed content. We didn’t have to build them a site (yet), we simply created a library on the main page of our Policyholder site that only they have access to. That way, they end up heading to the place we want them to get used to, and they have immediate access to all the common documents available to policyholders.

SharePoint Libraries are Email Enabled – As you’re probably aware, this isn’t a new feature, but it is one that I tend to forget about. In a meeting last week, a group of us realized that in order to resolve a problem we were having with a vendor, it would be necessary to review the emails we have received from this vendor. Most people admitted to routinely deleting these messages but since I file them in a folder, I offered to move them into SharePoint. Later in the day, when I went to create the library to move them to, I realized that I had already done that. In fact, the message distribution rules we established in Exchange, already route these messages to the library via the library’s email address. Note: for those of you that are about to chastise me for not having documented this composite solution, I did, I just forgot to look at the documentation.

Albert Einstein supposedly said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” In reading up on that, it is not clear to me that he actually said that, or that he meant “everything” in the way we mean everything when we refer to SharePoint. Still, he was Einstein, so…