Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If you need my opinion don’t ask me to answer with YES or NO

Sometimes people ask me: Why can’t you just answer with yes or no?

While yes/no answers are perfect in some occasions I find that they are the absolute killer of collaborative work. A yes/no answers do not start a discussion they close it. While many developers think that a short yes/no answer makes them look more responsible and valuable I tend to disagree.

What I usually want to understand is: Why do you ask? What is the context of your question? This not only helps with gaining some thinking time, but also gives an opportunity to view the issue at hand from at least two or more angles. Then answering the question takes a bit more time too, since the original question was not specific enough to begin with. Now there is real data to work with and the answer becomes more of a conversation.

When asked a question one should also consider another aspect. The person answering the question often can learn about something that was previously not known, so the conversation becomes balanced and more meaningful for both parties in the collaboration.

So next time you ask me a complex question, respect my opinion, don’t expect a yes/no answer, and If you demand one, my answer might as well be “I don’t know.”

Friday, February 05, 2010

How does the Ribbon in SharePoint 2010 fit the process platform?

I recall the first time I saw the ribbon in MS office. I loved it then and I love it now. The live preview felt really nice and many frequently used features sprung out to the forefront. In the last couple of days I had another look at the use of the ribbon in SharePoint 2010 and after running some scenarios around process personas in my mind I just don’t see how the ribbon is good for the hands down business user such as a claim processor or data entry. For this type of work context, simplicity and speed of execution are essential and I don’t see the ribbon providing real value - there are just too many options. Global 360 has identified this as an issue in SharePoint 2007, which partially lead to the persona-driven process management, and it will be perhaps even more valid in SharePoint 2010.

The reason why the ribbon was created in MS Office was to reduce the complexity of an overcrowded, multi-level menu systems that was extended for decades and had so many contradictions that the users utilized actively only a fraction of the features. SharePoint 2007 however did not have this type of issues. Frequently used SharePoint menu options were exposed in a rather simple (a good thing) set of context menus and drop down menus. Most administrative features were grouped in site settings pages.

In MS Office the ribbon did bring out more important features to the front and added live-preview and overall lead to simplification. In SharePoint 2010 it feels like the ribbon exposes the user to more features at once than in its predecessor. For many trivial options, such as creating and uploading new document, you have to go through several more clicks and discover the menu location. Other rarely used options are brought out causing clutter.

I realize that the SharePoint had to address a much wider set of requirements, but let’s have a look at some examples. Can somebody tell me what is the value in having this Browse tab as a default when browsing document libraries?

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Do you get dizzy only looking at the plethora of “useful” features brought out in the List tab?

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Don’t get me wrong I am not in the bashing business, but in the opportunity business. While traditionally the SharePoint community has dealt with the complexity with more training and custom developed solutions, there are other opportunities out there. Training is certainly important aspect for SharePoint developers, IT and operations, but when it comes to many process users it may not be enough, and custom development is costlier and riskier.

My take: SharePoint 2010 brings a wealth of new features in the ECM, DM, WCM, Social Networking and other areas that make SharePoint a great process platform, however the User Experience continues to be fairly unspecific and too busy for many business users who need less clutter, targeted and context aware business applications optimized for high volume productivity.