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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SharePoint Fear and Loathing by Learning Professionals

I was surprised by the fear and loathing expressed around SharePoint yesterday at LearnTrends 2009.  I don’t think it’s the best tool out there, but it likely is the best tool being adopted by your IT department and is part of the Enterprise 2.0 plan in your organization.  My belief is that it’s going to be a big part of eLearning 2.0 for many workplace learning professionals.  SharePoint 2010 looks to be a much better product.

As such, I’m always looking for people who want to discuss how they are using it.  Certainly we’ll be doing more sessions like SharePoint in Corporate Learning - Free Micro Virtual Conference (see SharePoint Session Descriptions).  And I’ll continue to collect examples of how organizations are Using SharePoint.

In fact, towards that end, I would appreciate you connecting with me (email, LinkedIn) if:

  • You work in an organization that is using SharePoint and might be interested in sharing how you are using it.
  • You are a consultant who works on SharePoint workplace learning implementations.
  • You are interested in how SharePoint can better be used in your organization.

Look forward to connecting with you.


Vic Uzumeri said...

Sharepoint is here to stay. Most of the people I talk to don't like it, but accept its inevitability. It satisfies needs at the organization level (security, access, scale, version control, etc.) that corporate IT departments cannot achieve any other way (or not very many other ways). Individual opinions don't matter - the organization's needs do.

If my reading is correct, we need to reframe the eLearning technology question along the lines:

"If you must use Sharepoint [insert expletive here], what is the best use case and outcome that you can achieve?"

My company has approached the problem by exploring the emerging opportunities to embed rich media (videos, audios, Flash animations, etc.) INSIDE standard PDFs.

One of the key drivers IMHO is that this format plays so nicely with Sharepoint. It gives you multimedia without fragile linking structures. A single, self-contained PDF is well suited for Sharepoint management.

You can view some examples of this type of document at:

This web page

For us, the new question is "what kinds of creative media can we and does it make sense for us to embed?"

I would be very interested in reactions or ideas.

Paul Angileri said...

My organization uses SharePoint, and while it's not a much-liked system, it has its uses. One key use is setting up an error reporting interface for logging and resolving problems with training deliverables. There's some use for version control of specific documents as well.

Personally, I find the interface to be a bit overly complex (in terms of mouse clicks) and slow, but clean. It's gotten better since I first used SP in 2005, and I'm very interested in learning about 2010.

Andrzej said...

SharePoint is not liked for two reasons. One is rational the other has little to do with SharePoint.

1. SharePoint is only relatively elegant via Internet Explorer, it absolutely ignores other browsers. It is a big problem.

2. SharePoint implements security requirements of the enterprise. Nobody likes them especially because they are in conflict with knowledge sharing ideas. They are not problems of SharePoint, however, but information security policy. All Microsoft can do is deal with it as elegantly as possible and definitely there is some room for improvement here.

A side question. Did anyone see successful implementation of Basecamp in larger corporate environment?

Vic Uzumeri said...

Andrzej made my point about SharePoint far better than I stated it:

"SharePoint implements security requirements of the enterprise. Nobody likes them especially because they are in conflict with knowledge sharing ideas."

If there is a tug-of-war between operational freedom and effectiveness on one hand and IT security on the other, IT security will pretty much always win.

V Yonkers said...

Why does it have to be so darn linear?

Tony Karrer said...

@Vic - you lost me a bit on the specific example. Why do you see that as important? Maybe you are jumping right to having courses located on SharePoint?

@Paul - that's a good example of its use.

@Andrzej - I think your point #2 is the key.

I've not seen Basecamp being implemented in large organizations. I've heard of lots of people doing Basecamp like things with SharePoint (for internal projects).

@Vic and @Andrzej - I agree that limiting flow of information is part of the grudge, but most of the time that doesn't come through in terms of clunky interface. It's a bunch of other things that make it clunky.

@Virginia - great point. While the sentiments seem to really say Fear and Loathing, I'm sure we are all somewhere more in the middle on it. Well, actually, I've not found a whole lot of people who are big fans of it from a user experience standpoint. The primary rationale is what @Andrzej said.

Don Crossland said...

I might be a little biased because I'm not a huge fan of MS products but I have also heard lots of loathing about Sharepoint. I did some research and found Nomadesk. It has all the security features I was looking for along with sharing, syncing and even mobile access. Even better, they offer unlimited space for $15 a month. It is definitely a step above most of the other online services and an easy to use alternative to Sharepoint.

Vic Uzumeri said...

@Tony - As usual, I need some reps to clearly explain my ideas :-)

The reason for offering the PDF example is to suggest a possible strategy for dealing with corporate environments like SharePoint.

There seems to be a consensus that SharePoint is a cumbersome, restrictive, knowledge distribution system. For communicators, this is a terrible drawback. For paranoid IT security types, its a big bonus. As long as the IT folks hold sway, their view will prevail.

My demo example was intended to suggest a possible Plan B for creative communicators that are forced to adhere to the corporate restrictions.

Consider that if you are forced to endure a stultifying SharePoint system, you can at least think about being creative inside the individual PDF document.

The PDF is evolving into a powerful container for media - sort of 'microclimate' for creative communication that is insulated from the cumbersome, awkward, restrictions of the encompassing corporate environment.

I am mainly suggesting that we be creative where we can. The individual PDF increasingly offers a refuge where the IT Gods are less likely to interfere.

Northstar Nerd said...

Hmmm ... many folks are focusing upon why they don't like SharePoint. While one could go down this path, a better road to explore might be to accept that one's internal customers are using SharePoint for collaboration and perform research on how a learning group could insert itself into that interaction. WebParts although complex at times can be a great and wonderful resource.

Michael Hanley said...

Tony is right on the money when he states that the reality is that many organizations that use a MS Enterprise environment will use SharePoint (SP). It's a maturing product, so in one way I wouldn't be too critical of its current shortcomings.

However, in my experience using the platform (I've used it since it was WSS 2.0), the major issue I have encountered SP is the way it handles metadata. This is a serious deficiency in a CMS.

Here's an example: say you need to migrate content (i.e. PDF documents) to a new site collection. It's easy enough to physically move the files, but the metadata is stripped in the process. This means that you have to develop a C#-based runtime to interact with an API to generate/export/reintegrate an XML content package, or use Access or the 'Edit in Datasheet' feature to manually copy / paste the metadata (try that with 1000+ docs without making errors). Certain list and library types (i.e. Picture Libs) don't even allow this, so your only option may be to recreate the metadata from scratch. In all these scenarios, you also lose your version history, higher-level user permissions (i.e. Approve, Contribute etc), so these need to be recreated.

CMSs are about knowledge management, and if your CMS makes it difficult to manage your knowledge either from an admin perspective or for your users, it's failing its primary role - you may as well store your content in a master directory on a server somewhere.

These challenges need to be overcome, bit I suspect MOSS 2010 won't be the release to resolve them.

Clarity said...

The timing on this conversation is perfect. I'm starting to work on developing a truly useful presence for our group on our company's SharePoint site. We want a site that's facilitates our group working on projects together, and helps others in the company access work we're doing and learning opportunities we'd offer.
At the risk of being the newbie in the room, I'd love to know what resources you've found most useful in making the most of SharePoint. Thanks, Christine

Carl Done said...

We just introduced to the US market a new LMS based on SharePoint. If you would like a free trial version, please let me know.

Anonymous said...

My organisation has been using SharePoint for some time now and I must say am quite surprised by the seeming dominance against the system.

We have found SharePoint to be very suitable to our needs. I do contribute a lot of that to the planning prior to implementation as well as the continued thought/ planning and new ideas by various teams (who are willing to try out features in new ways). We are also an IT company and work in an industry used to constant change, so perhaps this was part of the great uptake - regardless of the reason, we don't want to remember life before SharePoint.

Well that's enough from the other side of the fence - good luck with your systems... and yes bring on 2010(!)


Scott Stein said...

SharePoint is generations behind when online L&D should be, but because IT would rather penalize and blame users for security issues instead of fixing them, we have to learn to like it, or do as this writer says in another post...."hack" :)