SharePoint and Flying Sailboats

SharePoint and Flying Sailboats

oracle_boats1_lrgJust to get this out of the way up front, other than Larry Ellison’s (founder of Oracle) carbon fiber hydrofoil sailboats at right, I don’t have a pretty picture or a nifty interactive for this one. What this post does get at is why Larry has the cash to build flying sailboats, why he lives in Tony Stark’s (Ironman) house (or the other way around) and how this may matter to you.

One thing about being an instructional designer is that as you move along in your career, even if you had the skills initially, most of us end up doing less flashy, photogenic interactive and graphic stuff as we progress in the field.

I still have those skills but, my focus has shifted mainly to leading specialists and teams and the important stuff, i.e. effectiveness, making instructional projects and teams successful.

One of my favorite tools to that end is SharePoint, but don’t hate me for saying so. SharePoint is one of those  a little knowledge is a dangerous thing tools, and people build some hideous/hilarious things with it, but in the right hands, SharePoint and Web based relational databases can do remarkable things in the knowledge management, performance support and instructional design space.

I recently worked with an international economics firm to transition their shared drive based document management to SharePoint. They now collaborate much more effectively, using managed document libraries, discussion forums, task lists, etc. In simplest terms, there’s a lot less “where the heck is that…”, “who’s doing what…”, and “what did we do way back when…”, all valuable things in any business.

This isn’t instructional design per se, but instructional design projects tend to accumulate heaps of documents, media, files, during long, convoluted projects that if not well managed, can result in wasted effort, duplication and missing information. If content isn’t document managed from early on, it can rapidly become a haystack full of needles.

Instructional design projects are also usually very collaborative, so ability to share files, interact in discussion boards and surveys, and tag documents can really streamline complex projects, project management and instructional business analysis. Getting collaboration on the Web, all in one place is very helpful in any complex project.

Finally, SharePoint is part of the Microsoft Office Suite. Haters gonna hate, but I’m a huge MS Office fan. Integrating SharePoint with Office means tight and automatic integration between a Web based database and the rest of the suite, as well as control and automation via VBA.

One thing I enjoy about instructional design is where it crosses over into business analysis. There’s often a lot more going on than just instruction in designing a comprehensive solution. While SharePoint is often misused to build wacky, neglected file junkyards, it’s really a powerful relational Swiss army knife for those who can wield it.

… And that kind of power, in a roundabout way, is part of the reason Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle and an early implementer of relational database tech, can afford carbon fiber flying sailboats.


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