The invisible paradigm shift …

Nothing to add to this post, just sharing it with you.

Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) has to be one of the most incredible technologies we offer today – and not so much because it implements some revolutionary new capability.  Document collaboration tools have been around for the last several years.  The most powerful aspect of WSS is how users can easily adopt it using the natural sharing processes (and the applications) they are comfortable with today.  Other solutions I’ve seen require the user to think outside of this process, hence they are never seriously adopted without training.  WSS can help create a subtle culture shift in how you share information.

Here’s a simple example …

I want to share a document (or three) with my team.  I’m an average person – I don’t understand what a portal or an online workspace is, but I do have the concept of a file attachment figured out, or so my Exchange mailbox administrator tells me every time I exceed my quota.  I include my documents in an e-mail I compose in Outlook 2003.  With WSS, I’m presented with two alternatives: a regular attachment (we know this route) or a shared attachment.  I want to share this attachment with my team, and by selecting the second option and sending the e-mail a number of things happen for me automatically.

1. WSS creates an online workspace for me and places a copy of my documents there.
2. WSS gives all the people on the “To:” line access to the site.
3. The e-mail includes an invitation to the recipient to participate in my new online workspace.

Now, let’s think about this from the perspective of the recipient.  I get this e-mail with three attachments and a linked invitation to an online workspace.  Honestly, I don’t know what a workspace is, but I do know those attachments are the documents I was asked to make changes to.  Instead of clicking on the link, I open the file attachment.  This doesn’t pose a problem – Office 2003 asks the recipient if they would like to see the most recent version of this attachment and downloads the latest copy from the workspace if they request it. 

Bottom line: The sender only ever needs to relay these files once.  It doesn’t matter how many changes we make as a team, every time I open the e-mail attachment I can refer to the latest copy of that document.  Office 2003 also pulls in all the functionality of the online workspace directly into the application.  Version control, user permissions, change alerts, task management, etc. are all presentated as though they were features of the Office application within the Shared Workspace task pane.  Notice, my IT department didn’t have to provision the workspace or manage the permissions for me.

I won’t even go into the IM capabilities that integrate with WSS (and Office 2003) that work really well in these types of situations.  The basic idea is that users can figure this out – it’s not significantly different from the process they use to share information today.  Still, it adds a much better collaboration environment and makes it much easier for IT to manage.

I use this feature nearly every day.  Give it a whirl yourself! (at http://www.sharepointtrial.com)

My only serious problem with WSS is we haven’t released any really thorough end-user documentation.  Perhaps someone on the product team is taking my commentary above a little too much to heart. 🙂  Users can’t do everything with their eyes closed but they can certainly get started.  If you enjoy really bad background music and would like to see a Flash demo of how this works, take a look here (press the mute button when the music finally becomes intolerable).

[Via Weblogs @ ASP.NET]

Peter de Haas
Peter de Haas

Peter is gedreven door de eindeloze mogelijkheden die technologische vooruitgang biedt. Met een scherp oog voor het herkennen van oplossingen waar anderen slechts problemen zien, is hij een expert in digitale transformaties. Peter zet zich met volle overgave in om individuen, teams en organisaties te begeleiden bij het ontwikkelen van nieuwe vaardigheden en het implementeren van innovatieve oplossingen.

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