SharePoint Adoption and Success: Navigating the Chasm of Despair

Every time I see Sadie Van Buren talk about her truly excellent SharePoint Maturity Model, I think of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ work on Death and Dying. Yes, that may sound weird, but I find that many technology implementations do through the same phases to some degree.

Here are the five stages, as documented on Wikipedia:

1. Denial — “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”

Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that will be left behind after death.

2. Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”

Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy.

3. Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…”

The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…”

4. Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die… What’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”

During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.

5. Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

In this last stage, the individual begins to come to terms with her/his mortality or that of a loved one.

Replace “death” and “loved one” with “SharePoint implementation” liberally, and you may see what I mean. SharePoint is just the technology; we’re asking people to fundamentally change the way they work. That’s hard, and going through the denial-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance path is natural in most significant changes we have imposed on us. Change sucks, and we all have to deal with it every day.

(Please don’t think that I am in any way trivializing what people go through with a death. Far from it. I just find that this model applies to more situations than EKR originally intended.)

There is almost always a “chasm of despair” people must accelerate through to succeed with a significant change, whether a technology change or any other. One of my theories is that the organizations that have a high velocity when they enter the chasm can get out of it faster. There are some leading indicators for this, which are soft and fuzzy, just like all technologists look for. Not.

The things I look for in organizations that I think are indications for success:

  • Organizations which are strategically and organizationally nimble
  • Flatter reporting structures
  • Organizations without rigid job descriptions (the willingness and encouragement to step out of one’s role as needed)

Note that budget doesn’t always enter into it. I’ve seen organizations do amazing things on a shoestring and I’ve seen $100 million spent for little to no return. (Literally. I was part of a $100 million effort that was a total failure, IMHO.) Oh, there’s another indication: the ability to name something a failure, accept the blame for it, and learn from it openly.

One of the HUGE things that I feel has been missing in SharePoint’s first 10 years is a clear focus on measurable results. As Christian Finn kept saying at this summer’s SPTechCon keynote: deployment is not adoption. Unfortunately, it’s taken 10 years for Microsoft to really say this out loud in public.

In other words, we still have a lot of work to do. Sadie’s model and [hopefully] thinking about change management, and measuring success in meaningful ways (not page hits or number of documents uploaded), can help us reach that next stage of SharePoint maturity. That ought to mean the next level of organizational efficiency and effectiveness on many levels.

What do you think of all of this?

Boston KM Forum Meeting Notes

On Wednesday, July 20th, I attended the latest Boston KM Forum meeting at Bentley University. The theme was Fitting SharePoint to Knowledge Initiatives, which the content loosely followed and every presentation was valuable on some level.

There were probably about 30-40 people in attendance (crowd estimation not being my forte). It seemed that the majority of people in attendance had some exposure to SharePoint or worked with it on a regular basis. Since the KM Forum covers far more topics than just SharePoint, there were also some people who had never touched SharePoint. That made for a refreshing change in the tenor of some of the discussion.

I sat on the “Panel of Experts” by invitation, and it was great to be able to answer questions and espouse on how I feel SharePoint supports good knowledge management, as my background with knowledge management goes way back to the mid-1990s when I focused on KM and performance improvement while working at Renaissance Solutions (sadly defunct).

It’s interesting to step out of my SharePoint cocoon from time to time to see what “real” people think of it. There still seems to be a lingering distrust of SharePoint, probably more due to it being a Microsoft product  than any specific shortcomings as a technology. However, when you view SharePoint from a knowledge management perspective, there are definitely warts.

As I wrote in my last post, we need to constantly be asking ourselves if what we are building for organizations with SharePoint is really good enough. When you hold those implementations up to the core tenets of the knowledge management dream (or the collaboration dream which has followed it), they don’t usually get high marks.

This is mirrored in the results that Sadie Van Buren (@sadalit) has gathered for baseline data in her fantastic work with the SharePoint Maturity Model. While we are doing some good things with SharePoint, there’s just so much more we can do.

The full agenda (with links to presentations, where available) are below. I’ve “borrowed” this from Lynda Moulton’s blog post link above, so if you’re interested there may be more up-to-date follow up there.

What is SharePoint and When do you need a 3rd-party add-in?, Analyst Perspective (9:30 – 10:15) – Leslie Owens, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research

Break: 10:15 – 10:30

The Process for Selecting any Collaboration/Content tool, Recommendations for the Buyer (10:30 – 11:15) – Jarrod Gingras, Analyst, Real Story Group

A Case Study featuring SharePoint, User/Implementer Perspective (11:15 – 12:00) – Glynys Thomas, Senior Knowledge Manager, The Parthenon Group

Lunch: 12: – 12:45

Planning for SharePoint: SharePoint Maturity Model (12:45– 1:45) – Sadie Van Buren, Senior Software Engineer, BlueMetal Architects

Panel of Experts: Marc Anderson, Sympraxis Consulting, Mike Gilronan, KMA LLC, Michele Smith, The MITRE Corporation, Marc Solomon, PRTM

Moderator, Larry Chait, set the stagefor SharePoint preparedness, then introduced the panelists by asking each one a question to set the stage for their perspectives.

Suggested Topical Areas for the Q & A

  • Selection and justification [MS is offering many non-profits “free” SharePoint. Should you take them up on it?]
  • Implementation and integration [What is the best implementation approach after choosing SharePoint as the platform?]
  • Interface design and usability [What features in SharePoint 2010 contribute the most usability benefits in your organization?]
  • What have you learned about SharePoint that makes it valuable in a knowledge sharing environment?
  • Taxonomy and search [How is the taxonomy being developed and implemented to support better search?]
  • Security, scaling and support [Where are the bottlenecks and what are the issues that had to be confronted in your enterprise?

Wrap-up: Larry Chait, Chait & Associates

Last Thursday Was a Very Good Day

Last Thursday was indeed a very good day. I got to do [at least] four great things:

  • I wrapped up some cool jQuery/SPServices/jQueryUI-based functionality to enhance a site which uses workflows extensively. The functionality allows us to add dialog popups which display all the underlying tasks for a running workflow. No postbacks! More on this in a future blog post.
  • I met with Sadie Van Buren (@sadalit) to talk about her SharePoint Maturity Model, which, if you read my post entitled Applause for Sadie Van Buren’s SharePoint Maturity Model, you know I think may actually be competing with sliced bread for greatness. As cool as it already is, keep an eye on the site and what Sadie’s up to, as there’s more to come.
  • I met Claire Willett (@clairedwillett) from SoftArtisans (Sadie and I also had lunch with Claire and the CEO of SoftArtisans, David Wihl – it’s great to connect sharp people then stand back and see what happens!). Claire’s tweets (as @SoftArtisans) and posts caught my eye a while back and I wanted to find out more about what SoftArtisans is all about.
  • I got a demo of SoftArtisan’s OfficeWriter and Pylon products from their team and was *very* impressed. You should definitely check out their stuff.

If there is one great benefit to being a Microsoft MVP for SharePoint (yup, I just mentioned it – for context), it’s the fact that it opens some doors to these types of discussions. I love talking about what I do with SharePoint and getting to do so with new people and hear different perspectives is primo.

Watch for follow-on posts about SoftArtisans’ OfficeWriter product (awesome) and Sadie’s SharePoint Maturity Model (awesome) in the days ahead.

Applause for Sadie Van Buren’s SharePoint Maturity Model

When I go into a new client, I immediately start watching for the subtle cues which will tell me how the project will go. I don’t have a formal checklist, but I pay attention to some things which might seem a little odd: the noise level in the office, the number of private offices vs. cubes, the way people defer (or don’t defer) to each other. To me, SharePoint, while it is obviously a technology, falls down on the subtle stuff. Do the executive share the way they want the “regular” people to share? Is the IT organization flat or overly complex? Is there a clear set of business goals? (That last one is a swamp unto itself!)

imageSadalit “Sadie” Van Buren (@sadalit) has taken my not-even-back-of-the-envelope approach to dizzying new levels with her work on the SharePoint Maturity Model. I was a speaker at SharePoint Saturday Boston yesterday. (Another truly great effort by the Talbott Crowell / Pradeepa Siva / Geoff Varosky triumvirate, but I digress…) Prior to the event, Sadie sent out a mapping of all the SharePoint Saturday Boston speaker sessions to the SharePoint Maturity Model. That really made me take notice of what she was up to. Sadie had done a few posts on about the model (v1 and v2), but I’d never made the time to do anything more than note they existed. I went to Sadie’s session yesterday, and now I’m hooked. I want to attach myself to these ideas in any way that might help Sadie move along.

If you are committed to maturing your SharePoint implementation, the Maturity Model can help you develop your strategic roadmap, and ultimately lead to:
–Greater business process efficiency
–A more trustworthy SharePoint environment
–Happier, more empowered users
–More time for YOU to innovate, rather than putting out fires or answering the same question over and over.

I truly believe that Sadie’s work is the next better-than-sliced-bread concept in the SharePoint world. Why, you ask? It doesn’t tell me anything about how to set up my server, you might posit. It doesn’t educate me on good coding practices or show me how to work with the 2010 sandbox. It doesn’t tell me how to work with claims. No, it doesn’t do any of that. What it does it help you to start thinking about your work around SharePoint strategically in an organized way.

If you want to understand where you are versus other SharePoint users, this model can help you in that understanding. More importantly, it can help you to understand how to move forward and “take it to the next level”. The world is littered with SharePoint efforts which are listed as successes (but aren’t), with failures that aren’t analyzed (but with just a little push might have succeeded), or are humming along but just don’t quite meet the promise of this great technology (and maybe up to $8+ of other expeditures per $1 of software costs) in which organizations have invested.


If you’re familiar with the Capability Maturity Model for software development which was developed at Carnegie Mellon, then you know the gist of the idea. What Sadie has done, though, is to take that great set of ideas and apply it directly to SharePoint. The model helps you to understand where what you are doing stacks up along eleven dimensions (see the graph below). By taking a quantitative look at yourself along those dimensions, you can see not only where you stack up against others that have gone through that same ranking effort, but what you might be able to do to improve.


I urge you to read up on the model and contribute your data to Sadie’s efforts. The more data she has, the more she can tune the model and the more valuable it will be. Give Sadie your input on what you think of the questions, metrics, and ideas, because she wants to hear them. You’re going to hear a LOT more about this model, IMO, so pay attention!

Sadie’s goals are not as megalomaniacal as I think they should be. I think she can change the way *everyone* works with SharePoint and make the world a better place for every single one of us SharePoint practitioners. I hope along the way Sadie figures out a way to prosper herself, because this is damn good thinking, and merits rewards.