Shared Understanding, and a New Player in the SharePoint Space

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I just received notice from Amazon that my purchase of Dialogue Mapping: Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems by Jeff Conklin has shipped, and I am really looking forward to this book and expanding on my knowledge of this space to help further expand dialogue mapping concepts into the SharePoint community.

What is dialogue mapping, you ask? How does it all fit within the SharePoint space?

<storytellingMode>In the late 1990’s I was part of the then-thriving Rational Software community, and was writing articles for my new startup’s website (this was before the term "blog" was coined) about various software development and technical project management topics – including uses for the unified modeling language (UML). The idea of a common notation that could be used by technical and non-technical folks alike to design a system was very appealing, as I understood then (and had experienced first-hand) the frustration of trying to develop and deliver solutions when the business and engineering teams were not in sync. After almost a decade in business analysis and project management roles, I had learned the lesson (repeatedly) that to be successful, a project needed to begin with a shared understanding of the business problem and the proposed solution. In fact, if you look back at almost every failed project, you will likely find a disconnect between the business and the delivery team on how the problem was defined, and how it was to be solved.

Now, without retracing the history of UML, which did not quite take off the way many had hoped it would (it became increasingly complex and unusable by the masses, but really suffered a loss when Rational was acquired by IBM), the idea of a common notation was something that has faded in and out of IT for years. I remember seeing an early version of Visio, back before Microsoft acquired the application, thinking it would revolutionize project management and business analyst functions. Of course it wasn’t so much a method of notation but a digital whiteboard with common templates. But then it, too, got so complex and, in my opinion, less useful…and then it became displaced by Balsamiq as my quick-and-dirty tool for mockups and wire frames. </storytellingMode>

But I’m getting slightly off track, here. My point is not to talk about mockup tools, and not really even notation methods — but the larger concept of developing a shared understanding of technical and business problems.

<additionalStorytellingMode>A couple years back, I attended a governance workshop in Bellevue, Washington being conducted by my good friend Paul Culmsee (@paulculmsee), in which he shared some of the work he had done for customers using an information-based information system (IBIS) notation referred to as issue or dialog mapping (which Paul has written about the topic extensively, if you’re interested). It wasn’t the first time I had seen Paul’s work — we had been talking and sharing notes for a couple years, but this was the first time I had been able to join one of his information architecture and governance master classes and get an in-depth view of his dialogue mapping technique and the Compendium tool. Given my history with other tools and methods, I instantly understood the power of this tool, and while it had limited use within my role at the time, was something I knew would come into focus in the future. </additionalStorytellingMode>

As some of you may be aware, with my move from the ISV world back into consulting, I have taken on a few new clients in my role as Managing Director at GTconsult here in the US. One of those customers is Paul’s new company, Glyma, which I am helping to expand into the US. What Paul and Chris and the Glyma team have created is a dialogue mapping solution that simplifies the IBIS model — and, more importantly to this audience, uses SharePoint to store all of its maps and artifacts. They’re doing some really innovative stuff, and in the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more about what I am learning.

The company is still in pre-launch mode, getting features ready and a partner program in place. In the meantime, I’ll be reading the Conklin book, using Glyma to capture some of my historical content (such as my 200+ OneThing videos on YouTube) and map out the various topics and relationships and context within each. It’s not a small project, but I think will provide a lot of value to the SharePoint community.

Watch this space for updates!

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.