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Knowledge is Power but…

I was discussing the SDN community the other day with a like-minded individual and wanted to summarise my thoughts within a blog with the hope that I can shift even one individual’s approach to knowledge sharing.  The gist of the conversation was around how there are still many consultants in the world who are extremely capable, doing amazing things, but consider their knowledge to be the differentiator that gives them the edge over other consultants.  Hence, they will advertise what they do face-to-face with others, but only provide a black (or grey) box view of the implementation.  My hypothesis is that these types of consultants are setting themselves up for being just average in the future and this blog is a light-hearted view on why I think that and the benefits of sharing knowledge.

…the World is Changing

The following highlights some of the big changes over the last few years:

  • NetWeaver is big and complex (in a good way now that dual stacks are no longer preferred ;-).   Throw in methodologies and best practices like ITIL, Agile Methodologies, BPM, TDD, etc; and suddenly it’s hard to decide on the best way of doing anything!
  • The SAP community is an amazing development within SAP.  It’s taken quite a few twists and turns over the last few years in terms of shaping itself (forums, points, blogs, wikis, hatred of points including point mongers, demo jams, Mentors, EnterpriseGeeks, JonERP, etc), but seems to be in quite a groove right now.
  • Governance is a big thing in mature organisations meaning cowboys’ days are numbered.
  • With Twitter, SDN, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc; it’s becoming unusual to not have an online personality.
  • People are hiring based on online personalities.  For example, I tend to get concerned when you don’t have one and would run more extensive reference checks with people you’ve worked with via the people who do have an online presence (trusted relationships predominantly). 

So what?

Well there is probably a couple of ways I could try convince you to start sharing:

  • Scare tactics, or;
  • Show me the money! 

Scare Tactics 

  • Didn’t you read above that people won’t hire you if you’re not asking intelligent questions, or sharing your learnings with others through blogs, wikis; or even just comments on blogs/wikis.  (This is not completely true, but if you want international roles,this could very well be an issue)
  • NetWeaver is hard and now with added agility (i.e. Refer to co-CEO announcment)– we all need help to keep up.  Unless you get online and active – you’re going to be very alone and do you really want to be pioneering with full accountability.
  • A lot of people like to share, but if you never give back, the river will run dry over time.
  • Building solutions that aren’t well documented is becoming a thing of the past in mature organisations.  Architects playing a governance role will need to review what you’re intending to do prior to you doing it.
  • You may become one of the above Architects and suddenly you find that no one knows what you know and you spend twice as much time getting everyone to do it the way you know is best when you should be just pointing them at a wiki or video you once compiled.
  • Similarly, if you are not involved on SDN, others may have compiled these blogs for you already, and you could have simply pointed these inexperienced consultants at their blogs.
  • Etc…

 

Show me the Money!

  • Using blogs is an extremely powerful way of sharing a design/solution with the community to get feedback and improvements.  Just make sure you don’t sell a client’s differentiating solution online as that may get you in trouble.
  • Even if you’re only just in the first few years of picking up new skills but you need feedback on something you’ve designed or doing, create a wiki of your solution and post a forum request to get feedback.  The approach will win you brownie points from an online personality perspective; and you could end up with a better solution.  Note –Just make sure you don’t rush the wording as this does form part of your online Resume.
  • Having the ability to build real connections via Twitter and LinkedIn gives you access to a wealth of undocumented information if used correctly (not abused).
  • If you are extremely capable and combine with continued knowledge sharing, you will no doubt be nominated as a SAP mentor and be given rugby tops, free TechEd tickets, insights into all things SAP, and even having the chance to jam with Mark Finnern via video conferencing (I hear). This is currently the ultimate reward for sharing knowledge for passionate SAP’ers; but can also be taken away so to get here it needs to be a habit, not a target.
  • And finally to show you the money, I believe the most positive aspect you can demonstrate for a new position is demonstrated pro-active learning combined with taking their lessons learned and sharing it with their community. These people know they are worth more than the average Joe and hence can ask for and expect more.

What’s the catch?

One really important aspect about knowledge sharing is that for the most part, businesses are still not ready for you to spend a few hours every month during a key project writing blogs (unless you have a very forward thinking company).  Hence knowledge sharing when it comes to extended communications like blogs and new wikis does need to take place out of hours. Hopefully this doesn’t put you off, as you don’t have to be a blogger to make a difference and every bit of useful communications helps to make our community better.  Hopefully this such article is a small example of this.

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12 Comments

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  1. John Patterson
    Great article: to paraphrase HP – “If only SDN knew what SDN knows, it would be 3 times richer” – “Knowledge is Power” Henry Indiana Jones
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  2. Bala Prabahar
    Matt,

    Great blog! Yes, I always thought sharing knowledge is power (and fun too!)! However I had issues with writing.

    Recently I was reading Jim Spath’s blog on writing in sdn and he gave a few tips on writing blogs. One of them was a book “Effective Writing for Engineers, Managers, and Scientists” by H.J. Tichy. This was nothing technical. Immediately I placed an order for this (old) book for US$12, received it in a week, read it and started writing. Great book! I wish I had known about this book years ago. Very simple tips written in a simple language!

    Thanks for this blog.

    Bala

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    1. Ivan Milkovic
      Matt,

      I absolutely agree with you.
      The knowledge hiding times are over!

      I believe it is important for companies hiring you the technical knowledge you might have but it is not the outmost important one; as you said they would really appreciate if you are sharing knowledge and experiences with them and have a supportive and open attitude towards them.

      Many consultants think that if they don’t share the client will have to call them again to fix something, well, that is absurd!, for sure they will call another consultant, pay more for the hard work and completely erase you from the business map forever.

      Sharing knowledge benefits us all!!!

      Thanks for this blog entry, I’m sure you helped many to wake up form their nap!

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  3. Lee Chisholm
    I completely agree with this article.  The more you share the more you benefit.  A lot of people will half-heartily share as you mentioned with vague details, but the ones who truly open themselves up will be the ones to benefit.  People remember these things, and help you out in return when you need it.

    I think SAP should take a look at http://www.malaho.com and try and implement this type of system in SDN.  It’s essentially the same thing, rewards to submitting content or answering questions.  The difference is that the UI on Malaho is clearer and easier to use.  I think ease of use and clarity on rewards goes a long way as well in encouraging people to share, and SAP could certainly simplify the SDN a lot in order to get more people using it and sharing their knowledge on it.

    L

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    1. Matt Harding Post author
      Thanks Lee.  I assume you meant http://www.mahalo.com/ which I hadn’t heard of before your comment.  Looks interesting though I need to play around further to understand the concept better.
      It also triggered the thought that I probably should have also mentioned the $’s that Points raise for charity on SDN too.  It’s something which doesn’t necessarily show “me” the money, but gives those in need some money (another worthwhile reason to contribute on SDN at least).

      Cheers,
      Matt

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  4. Muthuraman Govindasamy
    I have learned many stuffs SDN .It is indeed knowledge repository. I believe i am polishing my skills everday by reading others problem and answering them.

    SAP should encourage top contributors too. atleast free TECHED ticket and etc..

    Muthu

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  5. Ranjan Baghel
    This is a very apt article, Matt. If nothing more than just being more respected among your colleagues/peers in your field for sharing knowledge, then it’s worth the effort. But as you mentioned, there are just so many other benefits.

    You make a good point about how effective it is to build an ‘online resume’ by being more of a contributor in places like SCN & being publicly accessible (on a professional level, that is).

    The more knowledge we share, the more we get back as part of the whole process.

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  6. Clinton Jones
    Some great comments on the state of things and some sound reasons as to why people should share.

    I think the respected SME’s in their field do share, I think though that the sharing is done based on personal relationships and the exchanges in those personal relationships not necessarily through public forums.

    I think public forums like blogs etc are great opportunities to share tips and tricks and to ask questions too.(questions to which you believe you may already know the answer, as well as things you may be frustrated or sometimes unsure of).

    As far as protecting your ‘space’ which is what you alluded to, sure, there are those individuals who aren’t sharers but as experience tells us, those who aren’t team players often land up being left on the bench and I think this holds true with consulting too. They may have some really good runs but ultimately if they don’t share eventually they will tap out and opportunities will dry up.

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    1. Matt Harding Post author
      You are correct Clinton.  I know a few great NetWeaver SME’s that share willingly, but take a lot of encouragement to share online for many reasons.  My secret focus was to get those who don’t share or alternatively, those who don’t believe others should share to see the opportunity.
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  7. Andy Klee
    I’ve always believed that sharing one’s knowledge, even as a paid contributor to a magazine, means that you’ll gain visibility and also be forced to learn even more to keep ahead of the crowd. 

    ERPtips Journal (and other SAP publications) would not succeed without the many authors that are willing to share their knowledge.

    Andy

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