Summit 7 Team Blogs

Resolving Turf Issues between your SharePoint Team and another Content Management Team

Many organizations bump into the problem of SharePoint's functionality competing with similar functionality in another platform. Often, the two teams who manage the competing platforms end up in a type of cold war where each team is trying to grab more of the larger content management process. Just because SharePoint can, doesn't mean it should in any given environment. But this is also true for competing products.

I've worked in several environments where SharePoint was deployed without any input or collaboration with the existing content management team. For example, I've seen SharePoint deployed into environments that already had Live Link, Documentum or Hummingbird. In each case, these platforms were supported by a team of people who took their roles and responsibilities seriously and were blind-sided by the SharePoint deployment. People take this kind of stuff personally and seriously. It's not the way to do business.

The clash points that are created in these scenarios are predictable and completely avoidable. Teams clash over:

  • Authority, roles and responsibilities
  • Process
  • Platform compatibility and maturity
  • Desktop compliance

These clashes lead to opportunity costs where team members stake out their territories and often dig-in when the conflicts heat up. Both teams may build coalitions with various other teams, departments and even divisions in the company, bringing these unsuspecting groups into their team conflicts. Sometimes, outside consultants are brought in to mature and strengthen each platform and justify the platform's (and hence, the team's) existence. This type of coalition building is unhealthy for the organization because the tension and conflict becomes shared in the organization. This creates distance and clash points that didn't exist before.

Sometimes, top talent on one or both teams leaves the organization just to get away from the emotional stress and overall fatigue created by the continued conflict. In extreme cases, teams look for ways to destroy each other, even if they destroy their users in the process. Once this slash-throat stage is reached, little can be done other than to terminate the employment of some team members and try to hire others who can work in the two-platform environment.

When Teams Collide, Do These Three Things

When the SharePoint and other ECM platform teams collide, there are three things you can do to fully resolve the fighting and get everyone on the same page. None of these three things are easy. All of them are necessary. Most organizations don't do them, which surfaces why the dysfunction exists in the first place.

Bring in Strong Leadership

In every customer environment that has platform turf issues, there has been no single individual or team who make the final decisions about which software platform the organization will use to host information and to support core processes. In other words, the organization lacks strong leadership when it comes to their enterprise application architecture. Deciding which platforms to use or not use can be as much a political as a technical decision. To lead is to decide and to decide means you'll sometime alienate others. Strong leadership can be hard to find, but it is necessary to resolve continued platform conflicts.

Without strong leadership, divisions, departments and teams are left to fend for themselves. So they do what is best for them, allocating portions of their budgets to software purchases and support services. Companies that embrace a federated decision-making process for software and devices always experience their teams purchasing conflicting or overlapping packages which leads to increased costs.

Develop an Enterprise Document Management Process

In these conflicted organizations, rarely is there a clear document management process which is enforced and followed by the members of the organization. In most cases, no process exists (at least in written form) and significant confusion exists at the desktop on how documents are to be managed.

The value of developing a process is that business requirements can be created from the process that will inform the decisions regarding the features and functionality needed at the software layer to support the process. By moving to a data-driven decision-making process about the platform requirements that will support the process requirements, we remove the emotion and selection bias that inherently exists in platform team turf wars. Instead of the platform's increasing adoption validating a team's existence and opinions, we validate functionality that supports the process and remove the need for the platform to persist due to the emotional needs of the platform's team.

Create a Process Support Team and Jettison the Platform Support Teams

Once the process has been created, realign the platform teams to support the process. Having a single technical team that supports the process software platforms with individual members that can work in the various software platforms refocuses the technical teams on what's best for the organization and removes the platform conflicts. In addition, the process becomes "king" and the platforms take on a supporting role.

Without strong leadership, a process and team realignment will not be possible. In the end, when teams are conflicted, strong leadership is needed to resolve the conflict, eliminate the opportunity costs and (perhaps) stop the bleeding of top talent to other organizations. If SharePoint is to "play nice" with other content management platforms in your organization, everyone must understand and agree to the role it will play in your core processes and which information types will be hosted and collaborated upon inside SharePoint. In other words, everyone must understand where SharePoint starts and stops in your overall application architecture and how it will be differentiated from the other content management platforms that exist in your company.

About Bill English