Avoidable Failures: SharePoint, Where Information Goes to Die

Written By: Michael Hughes, Senior Account Manager


Writing in The Checklist Manifesto, the American surgeon and writer Atul Gawande noted that:

“We have accumulated stupendous know-how.  We have put it in the hands of some of the most highly trained, highly skilled, and hardworking people in our society…Nonetheless, that know-how is often unmanageable.  Avoidable failures are common and persistent…”

With such an accumulation of knowledge comes the question of how best to manage, surface and then share that information for patrons and end users.


The Goal of Knowledge Services

Guy St. Clair artfully defines Knowledge Services as an approach to managing an organization’s knowledge.  Mr. St Clair goes on to explain that we should strive to manage an organization’s knowledge “by converging information management, knowledge management (KM), and strategic learning into a single enterprise-wide discipline. Its goal – very simply – is to ensure the highest levels of knowledge sharing within the organization”.

A clear and simple goal indeed.  And certainly one worth aspiring to in any organization.  But how to achieve such a goal?  What software tools can be leveraged and applied to assist info-pros in this endeavor?  For many people it has been Microsoft SharePoint, most often at the insistence of their IT departments.


SharePoint’s Failure

SharePoint thrived in its heyday and “was essentially a Swiss Army knife platform: content management system (CMS), collaboration suite and simple website generator, all in one”.  However therein lies a problem at the very outset: a multi-functional tool is usually less effective than a tool designed to achieve a more singular goal.

Indeed, selecting the right tool for the right job makes far more sense in times of Linked Data and API driven systems interconnectivity.  However well-intentioned SharePoint implementations may be for info-pros (and often they are not, given that they can be seen as a lazy or free option on the part of IT departments giving info-pros short shrift), it is the system’s potential for unfettered growth and bloating that can work against the very reason for implementing such a system in the first instance.  Namely, going back to the father of knowledge services, St. Clair, managing an organization’s knowledge.

There exists a very real potential to create a Write Only system with a poor SharePoint implementation; a black hole into which information is deposited and then lost forever (or at best becomes very difficult to retrieve).  Others have labelled SharePoint as the “place where information goes to die” citing poor search operation and confusing and inconsistent sharing and security permissions that exacerbate the unwelcome black hole effect.


Avoidable Failures

Is SharePoint the best place to store organizational information and know-how?  Unlikely if our goal is to easily and readily place information into the hands of the highly trained and skilled people in our organization.  Avoidable failures really need to be, well, avoided!