Stop “rewarding” me and just leave me alone!

In a TED talk that is very persuasive, Washington, D.C. author and speaker Dan Pink explains why traditional forms of reward and punishment do not actually improve productivity for the modern organization. Citing scientific studies, Pink illustrates how rewards improve only the most basic and repetitive of task output; tasks which are typically automated or outsourced to low-skilled labor. High thought work, on the other hand, is negatively impacted when rewards for performance are introduced.

This should – but probably won’t – have a big impact on recent pushes for “pay for performance” in both the U.S. government and the public school systems. What do you think? Do you find yourself nodding along as you hear Pink’s research and analytic conclusions? Or are you comfortable and satisfied with your current compensation structure?

Two faces of SharePoint [clarification]

In my last post, I stated why I think SharePoint should not be considered “enterprise 2.0.” I specifically did not say it should never be used, just that it should not be considered the foundation platform upon which a transformational collaborative tool suite (and culture-shifting initiative) is built. However, some colleagues of mine educated me on the difference between SharePoint and “SharePoint.”

Which of the following sites would you guess was built with SharePoint?

forgemil (DoD version of SourceForge)


Dell Computer's Ideastorm


Accenture consulting

If my sources are correct, all of these sites are built on Microsoft’s SharePoint.

The difference is that SharePoint is used to refer to both the out-of-the-box implementation that many organizations deploy and a highly customizable content management system that can be made to do almost anything. The out-of-the-box version is the one Microsoft tends to sell as the panacea to all collaboration needs. It is typically deployed on an intranet and offered as a way for teams to quickly create a site to share documents and create conversations. Often, they can also create sub-sites with unique levels of access control.

It’s not fair to compare these two. One of the goals of social software – web 2.0 and it’s cousin enterprise 2.0 – is to put content creation and distribution in the hands of the masses (leveraging the “wisdom of crowds”). In an organizational context, this ability (or perhaps even responsibility) should be distributed to the widest possible audience.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, SharePoint is inherently designed to restrict who can participate and contribute in a site. And my observations of the functional limitations of the typical SharePoint site still stand. Designing a custom SharePoint site requires a level of technical expertise that is rare even within the realms of technologists. On the other hand, creating wiki pages (with whatever wiki software you choose) or setting up a WordPress-MU (multiuser) blog gives you complete control within the range of what the tool can do. Better yet, these platforms are designed to be open by default and users can easily create interlinkages between them.

SharePoint is not enterprise 2.0 [a zen moment]

Update 9 Sept: This post refers to the out of the box version of SharePoint. It does not apply to highly customized deployments which basically use SharePoint as the content management system backend.

That’s right. No bolding. No ALL CAPS. Just a simple statement of fact: SharePoint is not enterprise 2.0. I reached this zen moment and it only took six hours of exploring a test site alongside a SharePoint expert for me to get there. At hour six, I realized two things:

  1. The structure of SharePoint is based on the fact that people within an organization inherently do not trust one another.
  2. SharePoint plays by the Vegas mantra: What goes on in SharePoint stays in SharePoint.

While it is fine for some types of file management and communication, organizations wanting to evolve to more efficient knowledge management processes should not use SharePoint as the primary platform. “Enterprise 2.0” is supposed to be different from its “1.0” predecessor. It should help transform and evolve the way an organization’s approach to knowledge management and collaboration. Instead, SharePoint enables the old and broken ways of doing business.

It’s not that I don’t trust you…oh wait, yes it is.

It took two hours for me to fully explore and understand the convoluted permissions structure. I’m tech savvy and have worked with a number of platforms that include permissions management, but none have offered as robust a way to micromanage an individual’s every move in the space. There’s something wrong with the design of a supposed enterprise 2.0 application if that much time is devoted to teaching how to keep people out.

Back in March, Thomas Vander Wal wrote about how SharePoint is a “Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools” in which he pointed out

SharePoint does some things rather well, but it is not a great tool (or even passable tool) for broad social interaction inside enterprise related to the focus of Enterprise 2.0. SharePoint works well for organization prescribed groups that live in hierarchies…this is not where organizations are moving to and trying to get to with Enterprise 2.0 mindsets and tools. The new approach is toward embracing the shift toward horizontal organizations, open sharing, self-organizing groups around subjects that matter to individuals as well as the organization.

SharePoint typifies the conundrum many organizations face when looking to improve their knowledge management sharing across groups: Do you want to harness the collective wisdom of your organization OR do you want to keep your information locked down? Logically, you can’t have both.

One size fits…none.

Dion Hinchcliff, in a 2007 post on the state of enterprise 2.0 states, “Enterprise 2.0 is more a state of mind than a product you can purchase” and emphasizes that a solid strategy can include but not be limited to the use of SharePoint.

Microsoft markets SharePoint as a “one stop shop”  for the social enterprise needs. Like other one stop shops, this one promises more than it can deliver. Far from being everything to everyone, the standard out-of-the-box SharePoint is nothing more than a file manager, calendar, workflow manager, and discussion board. Where’s the wiki? The blogs (yes, plural)? (Update 10 September: I have since re-discovered the suboptimal wiki and blog functionality that is prepackaged with SharePoint.) Since the plugins are expensive and cumbersome to integrate, you’d think it would be easy to create links to knowledge in other collaborative platforms. But no,  SharePoint…

penaltyDoesn’t play well with others.

Beyond this human approach to choosing and using a knowledge platform, however, is the technical limitations of SharePoint. Because it works only within its own ecosystem, SharePoint essentially keeps your data hostage. This alone can’t discredit it as being non-2.0 since other commercial platforms like Traction TeamPage do the same thing. Heck, even Facebook is an all-in-nothing-out kind of site, but there’s no way the Facebook isn’t 2.0, right? (right?)

This is antithetical to the way the web works and the way intranet should work. I should be allowed to create interdependencies between various social enterprise tools rather than have to only choose from a limited menu of plugins.

Again, Vander Wal pointed out that

…information is locked in SharePoint micro-silos and it is nearly impossible to easily reuse that information and share it. Not only is the information difficult to get at by people desiring to collaborate … it is not easily unlocked so that it can benefit from found in search.

As SP began as a web-based file manager, it shocked me to learn that when you edit or move a document loaded onto a SP site, the links are only updated from within SharePoint. Any links to documents from outside the SP site – say, from a blog, wiki page, or even an email – will be broken the first time the document is edited.

Microsoft – as is it’s style – even engages in monopolistic behavior since SharePoint is all but useless when using any web browser besides Internet Explorer. Gone are the days when proprietary standards were in vogue (were they ever, really?). Microsoft doesn’t seem to get that browser interoperability is what is needed and wanted, even at the enterprise level.

Let’s review, shall we?

To avoid seeming like I’m bashing poor SharePoint, let me quickly review what I’ve learned about the platform and compare it against what many still point to as the standards for judging enterprise 2.0 options: Andrew McAfee’s SLATES model:

  • Search. Good for local sites but fail enterprise-wide. Since SP excels at establishing (or maintaining) stovepipes, even discovering that the information exists is near to completely impossible.
  • Links. Nope, not from outside the SP site anyway.
  • Authorship. Nuh-uh. The key words here are “every” and “easy,” neither of which apply to working with SP.
  • Tags. Complete fail. SP is hierarchical and rigid when it comes to putting data in. And since the SP admins dictate the structure, if you’re a user, you’re stuck.
  • Extensions. Hmm, sort of, but only within your SP fiefdom.
  • Signals. Again, if you’re in, you’re in. Notifications are sent to other users of the same SP site.

So here’s your challenge: prove me wrong. Explain why SharePoint in your organization is the best thing since sliced bread. Tell me how it has transformed knowledge sharing, expert finding, reduced redundancy, increased creativity, and generally jazzes your workforce about using it.


I thought so.