The LandPhil be honest, be honorable, be kind, be compassionate, and work hard.

January 26, 2011

Context is everything

Filed under: General — phil @ 6:54 am

I have often been amused at my own ignorance. More than a few times over the past 10 years or so I’ll stop and reflect back on a situation and think, “Wow, I didn’t know a damn thing back then, did I?”

Today, as I perused the giant repository of information called the internet, it struck me again. I’ve been pondering this whole SharePoint thing recently, from the what-business-value-does-it-actually-provide perspective. And I’ve been testing and playing with different aspects of the software. Recently, that has been the My Sites social media experience that they now tout. Now, I have long been of the opinion that social media has no place in the workplace. It is a distraction at best and a productivity killer at worst. I know, I’ve killed my share of productivity. However, it would seem that the business world is moving in this direction. Blogs, tweets, networking, all ways to stay connected…to your business associates. Fine.

This presents a problem, however, when the institution hoping to implement this idea does not have the back end infrastructure to support it. SharePoint is a Microsoft product, and as such, it is tied very heavily into Active Directory. Most places don’t use Active Directory solely as their identity management system as many institutions long ago implemented mainframe systems to house human resources and financials information. Unfortunately, Microsoft has made Active Directory so robust and useful that it’s hard to deny it’s benefits from a systems management standpoint. So, now you have a particular employees information stored in two places: the human resources system and the IT system.

Ideally, you’d only have one system, but that’s never the case. At best, a company will undertake a project to synchronize their multiple directory services. At worst, the two systems never talk to each other. Usually, there’s some hybrid fix that allows limited functionality both directions.

(This is the part where I made the initial “Ah ha!”. See, I’d been at institutions in the past that implemented these synchronization projects, and I’d thought, “What’s the point? The IT folks will keep doing their thing and the human resources/financial folks will keep doing their thing. So, really you’re just making more work for me.” Context is everything.)

So the question becomes, “How does one present the idea that synchronizing a directory system is in the best interests of everyone?” The initial answers are, it isn’t. Like I said previously, neither IT nor human resources will probably immediately take advantage of the integration. In fact, they probably won’t ever take advantage. However, it would make any application development inside of the system infinitely easier on the authentication side. You wouldn’t even need to necessarily change current authentication methods if the systems were synchronized. People could keep using old thing the way they’re used to, but now the data available is more useful and complete.

Here’s the second “Ah ha!” moment. I am not the first person to realize this. Hell, I’m not even in a statistically significant cross-section of the number of people that have already had this thought. But again, it didn’t occur to me prior to now because I wasn’t forced to think about it. Context is everything.

So the next question becomes, “How do I change my context without actually changing my context?” This is clearly an incredibly useful ability to cultivate. Past experience indicates that it’s not possible. I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not actually changed my context. However, I am not naive enough to think it’s not possible. I’m just hoping it’s not another 10 years down the line that I look back and think, “Wow, you didn’t know a damn thing then, did you?”

1 Comment »

  1. I think the whole looking-back-and-marveling-over-one’s-ignorance is kind of the human condition 🙂

    Comment by Vanessa — January 26, 2011 @ 8:20 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress