Challenging Goliath

Martin White asks if Microsoft is inhibiting enterprise-wide information management.

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Invisible roadmaps

One of the benefits claimed for cloud solutions like O365 is that the ability of the vendor to undertake immediate upgrades and fixes means that there is less of a load on IT. Almost every day there is something “new” on O365 and that has two implications. The first is that the Microsoft roadmap is invisible; you know when there is an upgrade when it happens. But this could easily be mid-project. The second is that this may require training and a reconfiguration of the Teams site. Indeed Microsoft seems almost to have released Teams as a beta application, rather than even 80% thought through.

What always happens when enterprise systems do not work is that employees find work-arounds. I was looking at a ranked query list for a global company recently and found that the second most popular query term was [Box] with over 100,000 queries in a six-month period. Looking at ranked query lists is always a good way of spotting work arounds! Try it yourself.

The adoption of work-arounds is prevalent in large enterprise content management systems. There was an interesting paper published in 2017 entitled “Information quality, user satisfaction, and the manifestation of workarounds: a qualitative and quantitative study of enterprise content management system users.” The article is behind the Springer firewall but the abstract gives a good overview of the research outcomes.

In the 1960s IT departments started to be concerned at the quality and cost of solutions from IBM and Amdahl. Companies such as Digital Equipment and Data General stepped into the market with lower cost, more flexible solutions, and the rest is history. Could we be at a tipping point with Microsoft? Google and Facebook are both committed to their enterprise solutions and have the money to hang in there. A new generation of content services platform vendors is now emerging, and you can download the Gartner Magic Quadrant analysis of this sector from the Alfresco site.

Microservices…unifying disparate applications

Another important development is that of microservices. These are software components that can link together a wide range of disparate applications. The model for this approach goes back to the Enterprise Portal applications that were the vogue in the first decade of this century but were ahead of the capabilities of the core software. Inevitably with IT, with flexibility comes complexity, but IT and business managers may well be considering if a monolithic adoption of Microsoft technology is no longer the optimum strategy. There is an increasing number of analyses that compare Google and Microsoft as productivity tools, and this is just one example.

I have been saddened over the last year or so to see the enthusiasm with which the Microsoft consulting community has greeted each new release. Among the exceptions is Sam Marshall. Technically the upgrades are impressive, but will they enhance or hinder the way in which your organisation works?

Never has there been a more important time to have an information management roadmap based on a blend of business objectives and user requirements. You need this as a benchmark to assess what level of resource you should invest in adopting enhancements (especially training) in whatever desktop IM application you are using. In addition, it will provide you with the basis to decide what the optimum mix is of applications in what will be an increasingly federated IM arena.

Martin White is the Managing Director of Intranet Focus 

This is an edited version of an article first published in UKeiG's eLucidate journal. For more information on eLucidate (the e-journal of CILIP special interest group UKeiG).

Contact Gary Horrocks 

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