Past is Prologue: A Lotus Can Rise from the Muddy Waters of the Mississippi

The morning at CIEWG, Chemistry Is Everywhere We Go, a chemical manufacturing company based in Memphis, TN, is like any other morning. Thousands of employees in standard business-casual work attire glued to their phones and their large cups of coffee filed into the generic beige office building in single file, making beelines for their cubicles.  

A stone’s throw away from Beale Street, blues capital of Americathe only music playing was your run-of-the-mill elevator musicNo one spoke to each other, resigned to another day of essentially punching a time clock.  

For John, Senior IT Manager and 25-year veteran of CIEWG, his day started an hour and a half ago. He is responsible for maintaining the collaboration and messaging systems people use at the company. CIEWG has a patchwork of different online portals, file shares, and email systems – some have been around longer than John has been employed. Needless to say, his phone rings off the hook trying to put out at least 10 IT-related issues every work day. As he sipped his third cup of coffee and tinkered with his latest contraption – a dynamic time clock counting down to when he could retire … 4 years, 340 days and 7 hours from today – his phone began to ring. It’s literally 9:05 a.m., how could someone possibly be in trouble already, he thought to himself.      

IT … how can I help you?” John asked, picking up the phone on the fourth ring.  

“Hi John, this is Christine in Legal. We have a litigation inquiry and need to place a hold on a certain set of documents from 2012,” Christine, CIEWG’s Legal Analyst, replied. “The only problem is I can’t locate these documents. I looked through our online portal and file shares and they’re nowhere to be found.” 

John closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with his forefingers. This is the third time this week – it’s only Tuesday – that he’s received a similar call about this. If the executives had supported me when I tried to deploy a single collaboration and document sharing platform years ago we wouldn’t be in this mess, he muttered under his breath.   

Which department has – well, should have – knowledge of where these documents could be?” John asked.  

“Business Development – but when I asked them they said it wasn’t their problem and your team could figure it out,” Christine said apologetically.  

Sounds about right,” John said through gritted teeth. “You know what? Let me meet you over by the Biz Dev department. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a major system outage during an upgrade that year. Those documents might only be available as hard copies in one of their filing cabinets. They probably haven’t opened those things since 2012.” 

John and Christine met on the 15th floor and spent two hours looking through reams of files. Finally, in a mislabeled folder marked 2010 they found the set of documents Christine needed for the litigation inquiry.  

“You know, I’ve only been here for two years but I’m really tired of how backward our systems are,” Christine told John as they walked together to the front lawn of CIEWG’s campus to get some fresh air. “You’re always so helpful, but I feel like there has to be a better way to work together than hunting and pecking through all of these systems!” 

Christine was preaching to the choir. John fought for years to adopt a single platform to reduce the complexity in having disparate file shares and online portals to manage. He also argued he could then focus his time on driving value to other departments instead of constantly finding himself swamped in tedious IT management tasks.   

“I’m with you, Christine,” John said wistfully as he stared off into the distance, a late morning breeze softly rippling through the bamboo trees. “Back in 2010 I tried to bring Lotus Notes into our company to solve this problem. I somehow got the purchase approved without executives signing off on it, which I thought was great until I realized I had no support to implement the system, train people, and compel them to use it. It turned out to be a fantastic failure and almost cost me my job, much less any chance at a promotion to director. I’ve been here for 25 years, and I’m still a manager! Part of me wants to try again with this platform called Microsoft SharePoint, but I don’t know if my heart is really in it. I only have 4 years, 340 days, and 5 hours until I can retire and play with my grandkids. Is it really worth the trouble?” 

Christine felt for John – she can’t imagine being at CIEWG for 5 years, much less 25. It seems like everyone’s souls have been sucked out from their bodies the moment they enter through the office building’s doors and they just go through the motions. That’s not how she wants to live. She wants to enjoy her work, come in with a purpose, and leave fulfilled. Christine realizes that deep down John wants that as well – he just needs a little help.   

I’ve heard of SharePoint,” Christine said. “My ex-boyfriend was a salesman for a tech company and he sold management software for SharePoint. He explained what it did and then what he sold to try and impress me. I thought he was lying, but it turns out he lied about virtually everything except for the work he did. What do you have to lose? Let’s try to get SharePoint brought in so it makes both of our lives easier!” 

A twinge of optimism sprang up in John for the first time in what seemed like years. “How would we start?” 

“Well, we have a new CEO right?” Christine started. “We should probably come to him with our vision for how SharePoint will change the way we work for the better. Do you have time to meet in the next couple of days to sketch out what that looks like? After that, I can have the executive assistant for the CEO schedule a meeting for us – I helped her get out of a speeding ticket so she owes me.” 

“Sounds good,” John said as he looked at his phone buzzing out of control. “It’s probably another person who accidentally deleted documents from their file share asking me to recover them.  Did you hear that Hope the panda escaped from the zoo?”  

“I saw that on the news this morning!” Christine said. “Memphis isn’t exactly panda friendly beyond the confines of the zoo. Where do you think she would go?” 

They both looked around and spotted a panda quietly grazing in the lush gardens surrounding them. “Well, I guess if Hope can find her way to freedom chomping on bamboo, we can try to set ourselves free from the shackles of outdated file shares and portals,” John said.  

Tune in next week to find out how John and Christine put together a vision of their collaboration utopia with SharePoint before pitching it to the CEO. Can’t wait? Watch our on-demand webinar, Leap and the Net Will Appear: Risk and Reward in the World of SharePoint, today.  

*While the story mirrors a typical SharePoint deployment, the names, places, and company names used are all fictitious. No pandas were harmed in the making of this blog series, either.

Read the next chapter - Clear Eyes, Full Bamboo, Can't Lose: Defining the SharePoint Vision