The challenges of applying a Darwinian approach to SharePoint 2010

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In the May-June 2011 edition of IDM magazine (I’ve written for them too in the past), I’ve just enjoyed reading Ishai Sagi‘s article on empowering users with SharePoint 2010 using what he calls an “evolutionary approach” (what some of us would say is actually about supporting emergence). This is one where IT allows users more scope to build their own solutions (in SharePoint, of course) but with some oversight and expert advice when necessary.

Sagi’s has observed – like me and many others – the way that users make use of relatively simple desktop tools, like Excel and Access to build their own business tools. In fact, we might claim that spreadsheets are the original Enterprise 2.0 tool. The software risks of doing this haven’t gone unnoticed over the years either, but user needs typically wins out when IT can’t deliver.

Sagi concludes that the shift to a Darwinian model is scary for IT department and ultimately this is the challenge I’ve observed with SharePoint over the years. There is no doubt that SharePoint 2010 is a massive improvement on previous releases, but I’m a little unconvinced about applying an evolutionary approach to large, vanilla SharePoint deployments. In fact, Sagi hints at the role of 3rd part products to make the evolutionary approach easier.

I think Sagi is on the right track as being one of the few SharePoint evangelists I’ve come across who recognise the importance of building human-centred information systems and adopting an IT abundance mindset. For that, I welcome him warmly to the conversation, but I think he is still very much in the minority in the SharePoint and intranet community. And since the door has been opened, if you need 3rd party plugins to make SharePoint work effectively in this model then maybe a better approach is to treat SharePoint as a capability layer, as Lee suggests.

What do you think?

Image credit: lego desktop wallpaper CC BY-NC

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