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Recently we've seen two articles about sharepoint as a CI tool. As well there were some discussions on this issue during recent workshop run by Aurora WDC (Intelligence 2.0 Clinic ) at annual SCIP conference in Chicago.

I do not consider myself an expert in CI software field but as I see more and more written and said on this topic maybe my small experience with this topic could help someone in their decision. My intention here is to share my own experience about this topic and I'm neither in favour of some specific CI software nor firmly against using sharepoint as CI tool. As this is my first post, I'll try to be short.

I managed a project of development and launch/implementation of CI software based on sharepoint at my previous employer. Important to consider is that we've done CI in this company for some time, the decision to do it with sharepoint was influenced by IT department mostly (could be a very long story), and an external party did the development.
Having this in mind, among others our key issues were:
- customize to make sharepoint (the menu) as user friendly as possible
- customize it to level we can include some CI analytical tools.
- making this the priority of external party.

Certainly, other issues are not to neglect (getting support and buy-in,…).
The decision was made by management at the end of 2006 and it was launched in begining of 2008. Real work on it from scratch to launch was cca 7-8 months.

We have done this in my opinion with a reasonable success. Some things that came up where mentioned in article “Can SharePoint 2007 Be Used To Assist CI?” . For example automatic search alert functionality we spent a lot of time and effort on this and it would require a lot of programing time which was not there. Some issues mentioned in article were solved with customisation, for example we managed to categorize each entry in the calendar and included additional info and some other things as well.
From what I've seen from this experience I think that a lot of improvements and additions could be done in terms of CI process support. But I would agree with conclusion made in the article mentioned that indeed a lot of programming is required. Basic functionalities which are there are not enough (depends of course what your needs are).
Regarding information architecture issue mentioned in another article „Information Architecture: Why SharePoint 2007 Needs It“, a study could be written on this. We involved heavily all relevant departments and came up with the taxonomy reflecting our general external information needs. I think it was a good exercise that help educate the others in the company at what we were up to do. In my opinion we slighlty „overdid“ it in terms of details. Also we had a customised tool supporting categorisation of information which worked pretty well. The key issue here again is how to make the taxonomy flexible and changeble without too much need to involve IT in it. Some of the issues mentioned in this article I can recognize (start small, prototype first, don't overcustomize,…) but again it depends a lot on each case, time, money, support, expectations etc.
To conclude, in my experience a lot could be done with sharepoint, but..... depending on your's company needs great amount of customisation could be needed. The question is now who will take care of this and who will update this if necessary few years from now? How much time you have for this, is your CI process functioning properly so that you can focus on developing your own CI system,.....?
At the end, even if you write down your requirements in details don't forget to have someone to translate your requirements to IT and vice-versa. They seem to have very different views on meaning of the words "information structure" :) . Not to forget than many iterations are needed to get it right.
But overall, with all issues involved it was a great experience developing a CI software tool.

Hope I helped
Regards
Mislav

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Comment by Chris Hote on May 18, 2009 at 1:28pm
Eric, Arik, I echo your comments and wish to add SharePoint is mainly used by Digimind customers to disseminate information collected, filtered by an actual CI software product.
The benefit here is to have the CI professionals managing information, performing analysis in a dedicated environment until information is pushed to SharePoint portals.
Collaboratively, non CI professionals may feedback additional pieces of information (field intelligence) to the actual CI tool via SharePoint or via email.
Comment by Eric Garland on May 11, 2009 at 10:05am
That was the point of Sharepoint, wasn't it? To give the impression of allowing collaboration, while working as hard as possible to make sure people to leave the magical, manicured garden of MS Word.

Bill Gates made a fortune providing a standard for a world of individual machines that needed a standard. A world of interconnected machines need a different set of standards, flexible to all machines, PCs, mobile devices, refrigerators, cars (really) and I'm not sure that Microsoft gets invited to the next party.

I feel comfortable with that.
Comment by Arik Johnson on May 11, 2009 at 7:19am
Great comment Eric and thanks for starting the discussion Mislav.

We've been starting up a systems consulting business over the past couple of years concentrated on REALLY understanding software and technology and the Sharepoint problem is not a small one. Whenever IT is involved (albeit that's decreasing in recent years as the cloud model has made IT more of a utility than a staff) and Sharepoint is the environment it's virtually impossible not to force "integration" of systems to collate and synthesize the environments.

The systems we''re seeing emerge as best-in-world at what they do are, as a result, increasingly specialized to the task at hand and less "enterprise" in their meeting of intelligence needs... the idea of a single system to govern the intelligence process completely from end-to-end is a flawed theory on many levels, but none so much as the idea that you can get everyone to use the same system.

Arguably, we already have a system for this and it's not Sharepoint; it's email. In fact, I Twittered a great meeting last Thursday in Chicago on prediction markets hosted by Inkling where the topic of CI was an application of the technology in the context of decision making. Guess what? As soon as the system was integrated with email, orgs like the World Bank saw a huge increase in participation and engagement. What a rich, urgent opportunity this is and now that prediction markets themselves have passed the hype cycle we can start to think of these as real CI tools.

Tom Davis gave a great presentation on the topic at SCIP09 and my own prediction will be that, we'll see this emerge in the toolkit of CI practitioners everywhere - though I seriously doubt the sponsors will be from the CI function. It'll be line of business or corporate or anybody else who finds the standard model of intelligence in business to be too klutzy to work anymore.

New ways of knowing, indeed!

Maybe the consolidation of SCIP is merely symptomatic of a need to change the way we think of CI in the modern business enterprise. The Cold War model clearly isn't finding traction anymore...
Comment by Eric Garland on May 11, 2009 at 2:46am
Sharepoint is just one way for a company to push its culture toward Enterprise 2.0, or for our purposes what Arik Johnson, August Jackson and myself choose to refer to as "Intelligence 2.0" and "New Ways of Knowing."

I have seen Sharepoint used for CI applications within the organization. I think its benefits are the following:

1. It works with Microsoft documents

Frankly, that's about it. At least in the applications I have seen, it doesn't create the velocity, the ease of use that allows people to contribute all kinds of data. And of course, the hidden agenda of the software is to keep you attached to Microsoft products, which are rapidly being supplanted by cloud computing, Open Source solutions, and all kinds of new ways to share information.

My company has had great success with Clearspace, which allows all kinds of data to be shoved into it, but which focuses on community as the guiding force. The internal blogs and community spaces really make the system come alive. After all, in this world of giant syndicated reports, salespeople brimming with competitor info, multiple offices around the globe, and The Google, it's not the data that limits us, but our simply ability to create connections, trust, and regular communications. Only then can you get to analysis and action, the tough parts.
Comment by Mislav Jurisic on May 6, 2009 at 2:47am
Thanks for your feedback Giora.
I'm glad someone else tackled this issue as well.
When I mentioned analytical tools it was mainly about competitor profiles, benchmarking, things like that and using sharepoint lists to present some information in structured way, the one we use more often.
We have used forms as well for putting in information as well as some news and documents. And it can be done pretty quickly and easily. In my experience it is very easy to "overdo" this part with forms.
Comment by Giora Ketter on May 5, 2009 at 1:39pm
Thank you, Mislav.
A very insightful post.

The CI process could be segmented to several steps.
The SharePoint could support some parts of it relatively easy. Mostly those which could benefit from its high CSM capabilities.

Here are few CI activities which I used the SharePoint for:
1. Competitors Profile.
2. Organizational blogging - writing a blog about CI and the KITs we were interested in.
3. A CI form which enables all the emploees to inform of relevant information.

The automated collection of information and analysis tools (besides competitors profile) were out of scope.

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