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Cherry picking - out with the old solution, in with the new

When I was a kid my parents had a giant cherry tree that took pride of place in the front yard. That cherry tree featured in many of my earliest childhood memories and family photos. The tree had been a big part of our childhood games - we’d climb it, run around it, swing from it and hide behind it. We all enjoyed seeing the cherry blossoms in the spring and would watch them blow across the yard in the strong Wellington winds. The tree never had any fruit but it didn’t seem to matter (what young kid cares about whether a tree has cherries or not!).

Over the years time took a toll on the tree, rot set in, to the point that there was very little supporting the tree and the only viable option was to remove the old tree. So next time I went home for a visit the old tree had been replaced with a new cherry tree. It was never going to be quite the same as the old one. The new tree was healthy and sturdy and was more than just a flowering cherry tree (it produced fruit). But it wasn’t as big and didn’t have as many branches, it didn’t look like the old tree and it didn’t grow the same way. (I’d also grown past wanting to climb the tree or swing from it.)

So why am I reminiscing about an old cherry tree on the Intergen blog?

Have you ever been asked to replace an existing unsupported system? Or do you have an unsupported system that needs replacing?

Have you ever heard people say “...we want everything that we used to have and we also want...”? Sounds pretty reasonable! Why would you consider replacing a system with something that offers less than what you previously had?

Let’s take a real life scenario of an organisation replacing an intranet which is running on an unsupported platform. After a lot of research and soul searching it was decided that Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) is the ideal new platform. Great! The biggest technical decision has been made, we now have a new platform which has a whole lot of out-of-the-box features and functionality that we’ll need for the new intranet. And while the technical guys have been working out the platform, the key stakeholders have identified the Vision and Goals for the new intranet. The Business Analyst has also been identifying business needs.

Next step is we’ll do a content inventory of the old intranet to get up to speed with what we’re dealing. We can then start thinking about the information architecture, content migration strategy, solution design and governance model for the new intranet.

We still hear people saying “...we want everything that we used to have and we also want...”

Is it a case of simply wanting to stick with the familiar?

If we took this approach with the new cherry tree, we’d purchase a tree that produces fruit (which the old one never did). As the tree grows we’d need to consider grafting and pruning branches when the new tree isn’t exactly the same shape as the old tree. Seems like a lot of time and effort for very little value!

Okay, so let’s delve into a bit more detail on our intranet replacement project. As we start talking to people and asking a few more questions we start to discover they don’t really want everything they used to have - they couldn’t find everything they used to have or didn’t even know it existed!

While we’re working through each requirement with the business we demonstrate more of the out-of-the-box functionality of the new MOSS platform. Soon there is more of an appreciation of what the platform has to offer. As we design and build the new intranet we now start getting into a cherry picking scenario where we can pick and choose the MOSS features we want for the new intranet. The murmurings of “we want everything we used to have” die down as people accept the change and the added value that has been introduced as part of the new intranet.

Ultimately the project was a success and the business has a solution that aligns with the vision and meets their needs. Along the way we discovered they didn’t really want everything they used to have - they’ve got something that is much better!

As much as I loved the old cherry tree when I was a kid I’ve moved on since then. Last week I went out and bought an apple tree for my front yard!

Posted by: Bernardine Slagter, Developer Consultant | 10 September 2009

Tags: SharePoint, Change Management

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