The “Model Office” and improving user acceptance

In a recent post on SCRUM, Adrian McGrath made a comment about the use of a “Model Office” approach for gathering requirements for systems.

This piqued my interest…what is a “Model Office”?  So I started reading more.

In comparison to the “Waterfall” method, which involves capturing requirements, designing, building, testing and deploying, the “Model Office” approach offers a far-more “collaborative” way of designing a system.

Adrian McGrath has written an excellent post on the “Model Office” (see link below). In it he points out that the The success of a implementation is heavily dependent on the up-take of the solution and buy-in from the user base, and further to that, during requirements gathering, most users “don’t know what they don’t know”.

By using the Model Office approach, the “end product” is created, and the users are allowed to interact with it , and become familiar with it. Changes are made iteratively until the end-solution is something that the end-users are happy with.

My initial reaction to the “Model Office”

Most of the large projects I have been involved with have made use of the “Waterfall” approach.

As a result, in my mind, the “correct” way of designing a system was first to get the users to define their requirements, independent of any specific end solution. Then a suitable solution was designed that would meet these requirements.

Even though I had discussed SCRUM methodology earlier, I didn’t think that it was suitable for a large system, which required a more formal approach to design & development.

However, as Adrian pointed out – “a user doesn’t know what he doesn’t know”. This makes me think about Henry Ford’s quote “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’.”

When dealing with new technology that offers a totally different way of working, it is a bit unfair to ask the users for requirements. Often they can only describe what they want in terms of what they know. This means there is a risk of missing the full potential of a system. And, as Adrian also mentions, it means that the adoption of the new system by the end user is very slow.

And, in terms of the “Technology Acceptance Model“, because the user has not been truly “involved” with the design process the “perceived usefulness“, and the “perceived ease of use” are not great.

Taking this all of this into consideration, I find the concept of the “Model Office” an exciting one. I can certainly see advantages of it in terms of user adoption.

“Model Office” Resources

  • Adrian McGrath’s excellent post “The Virtues of a Model Office“
  • AIIM‘s Knowledge Center Blog – “The Use of a Model Office“
  • Expert Program Management – “The Model Office“
  • RMS Bulletin – The Role of the Model Office in a Successful EDRM Implementation
  • Simulating Business Processes – The Model Office Approach
  • The “Model Office” and user acceptance
  • The Curious Case of Scrum Master’s Role

Is Microsoft a Religious Experience?

A Tweet by @pelujan the other day started me thinking. The tweet was:

I responded to his tweet because I do remember “workflo”. It was something that FileNet developed back in 1985. I admit that this was indeed 10 years before I got into IT (having spent those 10 years doing stuff in laboratories), but I was very aware of it as it played a big part in a lot of their technology.

In fact, my first introduction to ECM was PC Docs, and also FileNet’s early Content Management application “Saros Mezzanine”. This was followed by their Image Management Services application running on an AIX system. It stored scanned images on WORM disks in an OSAR unit, and had a robotic arm jukebox. It was a bloody impressive , but also daunting, system (especially when you are new on the job, and you’ve been told to support this system at a very hostile client site).

Over the years I got more an more involved with FileNet and their products, getting to know the idiosyncrasies of each one. I worked as a consultant, and each client had its own unique requirements, environments, and situations.  Very often I would go home  at the end of the day feeling beaten up.

At the end of 2006 I moved into a position working with Documentum, and quickly after, SharePoint. However, this time, I was the client, and so if something didn’t work, someone else was responsible for “fixing it”. This gave me more time to think about the potential of the systems in terms of the industry I was now working in. I actually went home feeling a lot more relaxed.

Now, the one thing that always struck me, when I was working with FileNet, was that, compared to a Microsoft product, there was not a lot of material available. The majority of what you learnt came about through personal experience. You were on the battle field getting the scars. You felt that you had “earned it”.

Of course, there were forums available, and FileNet themselves had a great store of answers to questions, etc. (I used to trawl their partner site just to pick up nuggets of knowledge). Documentum (now EMC) have the same thing which I still use.

At the end of the last century (gawd – that sounds awful) I got my MCSE, and have kept up to speed with Microsoft technology since then. In 2007 I developed a Portal site that hooked into Documentum, and then, having got some scars with that, I got my SharePoint 2007 certification.

Is Microsoft a Religious experience?

Now I am trying to build up my knowledge of SharePoint 2010. This time I’m trying to take a more business application view of the technology. I did AIIM’s SharePoint Master course, which gives a more “real” view of SP2010, especially with regards to Document Management. (See this post, and this one.) However, I realise that it’s still handy to have the MS certification under my belt, so I am working towards Microsoft SP2010 certification also.

I’m don’t want to pay for a course, and so I’m using the over-abundant resources that can be found on the internet (white papers, MS videos, MS learning material, etc). The more material I cover the more I am aware that the same message is being thrown at me – “how great SharePoint 2010 is”. (I’m not going to get into a discussion regarding this, as this has been covered by multitudes of blogs and forums on the internet).

The fact is I find myself slowly, (and blindingly), convinced. I’ve started chanting the mantra, and doing the dance.

Microsoft has produced so much stuff on their latest “shiny object”. It’s amazing. There books, videos, whitepapers, forums, faqs, technet articles, etc, etc, etc. There is also a conference/user group/gathering for the devout, almost every second week. And there are “evangelists” – people who spread the Word.

Got to admit, I am going to one of these conferences in April – the Best Practices Conference, being held in London (#bpcuk). The US one has just finished, and I was following the tweet stream (#bpc11). The funny thing was – I got to the point where I was “religiously” checking on the progress of the conference, and the activities of the participants (albeit the more “tweetal”  – think of the word “vocal” but in terms of tweeting – amongst them). And I found myself just wishing I was there, wishing I was with these people and seeing, and sharing, what they were. (Quick – slap me!)

I never got this “ecstatic feeling” with FileNet. It was all mud and barbed wire. You were earning your stripes “old school”. And even though I have attended the Documentum user group conferences (Momentum) for a few years now (which is one of the high-points of my year – have only missed one over the last 5 years), I’ve never felt the (illogical, zealot-like) fervour that I am starting to experience now.

Related Links

  • Is the SharePoint Community Past Its Prime?
  • Best Practices Conference 2011 – Europe
  • Best Practices Conference 2011 (US) Twitter activity (thanks to @VeroniquePalmer)
  • Momentum (2010)
  • AIIM SharePoint Course

Applying (loosely) the Technology Adoption Model to a Real-Life situation

Technology Acceptance Model

In an earlier post (Predicting User Acceptance) I discussed using TAM, or the Technology Acceptance Model, to try to predict user acceptance of a system.

This evening I was looking through some of my old posts, and was reading this one: ““Selling” something new to the users – a case of how NOT to do it”. And then I started trying to apply TAM to this.

I’ve read several theses (plural of “thesis”) and studies regarding TAM. Most of them involved getting users to fill in questionnaires, and then using advanced statistics to come up with some meaningful numbers for the “Perceived Usefulness” and the “Perceived Ease of Use“, thereby resulting in a meaningful prediction of the acceptance of the technology.

At the vendor demo described in “Predicting User Acceptance” I did not get the users to fill in any questionnaires. However, from the comments made during the demonstration, along with the body language, I got a gut feeling for what the users thought of the technology.

What follows is an unscientific application of the Technology Acceptance Model:

There were 9 “business users” at the demo. Of these there were 3 that were dead against what the vendor was demonstrating. 2 people seemed quite enthusiastic, and the remaining were neither enthusiastic, or negative.

Listening to the comments that the people who were against the technology (see the “Selling” post), it was apparent that these could be equated to the  “Perceived Usefulness”. However, the way the technology had been presented (too much at once) can definitely be categorised under the “Perceived Ease of Use” heading.

I won’t pretend to be able to give meaningful values to the factors. As mentioned, some sort of statistical analysis was used in the studies I read. So lets just describe in words what each factor would be:

  • Perceived Usefulness: The majority of the audience had no strong opinion, and that there were more people against the technology than in favour of it.
  • Perceived Ease of Use: This would be “no ease of use”.

So considering that these two factors are what determine the acceptance of technology by a user, the outcome is not looking hopeful.

What could be done to change this?

Certainly a more gentle approach to “introducing” the business users to the new technology.

“This IS the technology you are looking for.”

Predicting User Acceptance

AIIM’s Email Management Practitioner Course

e-mail messages

Recently, I was on business about an hour north of Chicago for two weeks. I was staying at a hotel, and this is always a great opportunity to get some study done. (I know – sounds boring, but there is only so much drinking and partying that one can partake of).

In 2009 I had paid for an AIIM Email Management Practitioner course. This is an online course, and had an expiry date. Unfortunately over the last two years, things have been pretty hectic, and I never got around to doing the course. But thanks to the great people at AIIM (especially Angela) I was able to get the course extended past its expiry date a few times.

I started the course with, I have to admit, low expectations.

However, I quickly found that the course was incredibly valuable.

As well as covering the basics regarding e-mail such as architecture and protocols, it went into governance, ways to capture e-mail (as well as the attachments), and classification,  as well as discussing the various regulatory requirements, and “discoverability”, etc. It looked at email from the Records perspective.  (You can read more about the content of the course here on the AIIM site)

What I really liked about this course is that it also discussed the challenges & pragmatics of email management (including the limitations). It raised points that I have never really considered.

And that is what I liked. I didn’t feel that I was learning dry details. The course presented things in a way that I found myself, during the middle of the presentations, thinking about how I could apply what I was learning to real-life situations (clients I have worked with, etc).

All in all – I am really happy with the course.

Useful links:

  • AIIM
  • AIIM EMM course
  • Why Managing E-mail Matters
  • website
  • Archiving 101 blog
  • Electronic Discovery and Evidence blog

Why Managing E-mail MattersWhy Managing E-mail Matters

  • Management of Electronic Records Still not Taken Seriously (

Quick and Angry – More on SCRUM


In connection with my last post (“Fast and Furious – SCRUM“, I found this video on YouTube.

It’s a great “SCRUM in 10 minutes” video.




The Fast and the Furious – SCRUM

One thing I used to hate was working on Projects that had no “definition”. They were usually just a case of stumbling along, hoping that everything was going according to plan (not that there ever was a “plan”). And then working madly at the end to get something that was close to what a sales person had promised a client.

Then, over the last 5 years I have learnt a more methodical way of carrying out a project. A way that ensured that the project was well defined, had suitable requirements,  had appropriate milestones against which the progress of the project could be measured. This methodical way ensured that the correct documentation was created at the correct time, and followed a suitable life-cycle. Very much based on the PRINCE2 methodology.

And I liked this way of doing a project. It had structure. And is still very relevant and appropriate to many situations.

Recently I have become more aware of the SCRUM methodology. Originally I thought it was to do with the sport Rugby, and since I was brought up to worship the All Blacks (part and parcel of the culture I grew up in) I was surprised that SCRUM, in this case, had nothing to do with men in rugby jerseys fighting over possession of an oval ball.


No – SCRUM, it transpired, is a “different” way of doing a project. The more I read about it, the more I thought “hey – this makes sense!” SCRUM also has a set of practices, and a set of predefined roles. Whereas PRINCE2 has it’s Executive, Key Customer & Key IT board members and a Project Manager, SCRUM has its SCRUMMaster, Product Owner and Team. However the difference is that, while PRINCE2 is a process-driven project management method, SCRUM is reactive/adaptive method.

This is highlighted by the fact that the SCRUM methodology involves several sprints – periods of two to four weeks – where the team work on  creating a potentially shippable product based on high-level requirements.

Obviously this way of working is not suitable for everything. I mean, just imagine a company building a motorway, or a high-rise building, where every four weeks that make changes based on “high-level” requirements. In those situations, you do want your processes.

However for smaller projects, such as developing a corporate portal, or similar, the SCRUM methodology seems to really make sense. Especially when you are relying on requirements from users who don’t really understand, or know, what they want. In this case, the build it, and then “rebuild/modify” based on feedback is a faster way of working.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to SCRUM. Heck – I’ve really only “discovered” it. There are some pretty good references on the internet.  (See below).

See also: Quick and Angry – More on SCRUM


  • Wikipedia’s description of  SCRUM
  • Wikipedia’s description of a Rugby scrum
  • The Home of Scrum


Frikkin’ Presentations

I’m trying not to get into the habit of just using someone else material as a post (even when giving them all the credit).

I know I’ve done this a few times recently. It’s because I have come across something that I really want to share.

This is one of those times.

Below is a link to an article entitled “Top 20 Reasons Presentations Suck and How To Fix Them“. Even though the format is in a series of slides that you have to click through, which I (and, looking at the comments, others) found annoying, there are still many good points made.

According to the text on the last slide “The more people who read this post, the fewer sucky presentations we’ll ALL have to sit through.”

So, have a look…

Top 20 Reasons Presentations Suck and How To Fix Them

Thanks to @The14Folder, who tweeted about this originally.

Related PostTips for creating Great PowerPoint slides 

SharePoint “Upgrades” and discovering a small compatibility issue.

Recently a friend of mine was working on creating a Document Management portal.

That is, he was using SharePoint as the user interface, and was populating the pages with web parts that would allow the user to interact with a back-end document management system.

He had built up the Portal using SharePoint 2007, and had created several sub-sites that contain web parts that were relevant to the requirements of specific groups of users. He had run some informal testing and had confirmed that the web parts were offering the business users the functionality that they required. He had also spent some time on the design of each page. He was using a standard master page  so that each sub-site had the same look and feel, but had made small tweaks to each page so that the presentation of the web parts was optimal.

Then he wanted to move the system to a SharePoint 2010 system. Fortunately the Portal site was not yet in use, and nothing extra, or unknown, had been done to the sites, so was pretty sure there wasn’t any customization. However he wasn’t sure what the best way to get his Portal from 2007 to 2010. So he called me.

We had a look at the options:

  1. In-place upgrade,
  2. Database Attach
  3. Build the site from scratch.

SharePoint 2010 had already been installed on a new, suitably spec’d server, so an in-place upgrade was not an option.

We examined the database attach method. This would involve making a backup of the 2007 content database, restoring it in the new SQL Server installation on the the new server,  This sounded like a good option. The only thing we were worried about was the third-party we parts (the ones that hooked into the third-part document management system). We weren’t quite sure how these were going to respond.

We considered the third option – building the site from scratch on SP2010. This also introduced new challenges. Could we migrate the default. master from 2007 to 2010? I knew that 2010 didn’t use default.master, but now used v4.master. What impact would that have? We also had the ribbon to contend with, as well as the “Tags & Notes”, and “I like it” buttons.  (The sites were meant to be static, offering only the ability of users to work with their documents. It was not meant to be a “social” site.)

One other benefit of an in-place, or database attach upgrade, was the fact that SharePoint 2010 offered a “Visual Upgrade”. That is, the 2007 look and feel is maintained, and there was the ability to “preview” how the sites would look in 2010. Once you were happy with them, you could make the changes permanent.

This would have been nice, but, because of the fact that we wanted to make sure that we could document how the Portal was built up, we decided that option 3 would be the best option.

So – the decision was made. The first step was to install the third-party web parts. And this is where it got interesting. We were using the latest version of these web parts that were SharePoint 2010 compatible, so we thought there would be no problem.

Except there was one small thing…

The third-party web parts were designed to use WSE.  WSE, or Web Services Enhancements, is an add-on to the .NET framework that offers improvements to security and communication. It was released in 2005. The SharePoint server had been installed by another department according to a “standard”, and this included WCF, or Windows Communication Foundation. WCF was brought out as the “next-generation web service/interoperability framework”.

So here was the question: Do we get the department that installed the SharePoint server to uninstall WCF, and install WSE? Or do we ask the vendor to test, and certify that their web part technology will work with WCF?

Removing WCF and installing WSE would have very little impact to the overall scheme of things (the server was not being used for anything else), BUT it would mean a non standard installation.

On the other hand, the vendor has stated that their application was compatible with SP2010, and one would assume that it would be designed to use the newer WCF component.

Currently the discussion is going back and forth between the two options.

One thing though, this small compatibility issue wouldn’t have become quite so obvious if we had not decided to build up the Portal from scratch.

Related material:

  • Determine upgrade approach (SharePoint Server 2010)
  • Interoperability between WCF and WSE 3.0
  • What’s New in WSE Version 3.0
  • What Is Windows Communication Foundation