New Zealand SharePoint Conference 2011

The third annual SharePoint Conference  held in Wellington New Zealand ( #NZSPC ) was a tremendously good conference. Although SharePoint was in the title, this conference offered much more than the usual technical discussion about development techniques, infrastructure configuration and metadata. I normally head straight for the IT Pro oriented infrastructure discussion but this time, despite the impressive speaker list, decided to see what was going on in the business and end user sessions. What an eye opener! Here’s why…

Technical conference sessions that are oriented towards IT Pro’s are usually broad and without detail, or very narrow focuses with a lot of detail. When it comes to doing this things post conference I always end up on Technet or Google for tips. The presentation value is really about telling you what you should look for, reality is most of this is on the net if you look for yourself.

Donald Harman (blue) and I are keen!

What isn’t on the net, is real world stories of how solutions are implemented guts and all (you can find plenty of good stories, but these are usually written by marketing people). By attending the customer sessions I quickly picked up a few good tips that are useful for any project, not just SharePoint. The reason is these people are talking about how they solved a business problem, the effort required and the level of success. Thankfully no one claimed to be 100% successful, they talked instead about small improvements occuring incrementally over time.

This got me thinking, how do you measure the success of SharePoint. The answer is you don’t. SharePoint is the platform that enables you to build business solutions. You should really be measuring the business process (yes SharePoint makes this easier). If you can measure it, you can set a KPI and that means someone can be held accountable for the process, no more process failure due to “lost paper work”. SharePoint is great for improving the visibility of business processes which in-turn helps the business combat inconsistency, identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement.

Another clear message is that the last person you should get to manage your SharePoint deployment is IT. SharePoint is a platform for business, not an infrastructure project for the guys and gals with static straps. Don’t get me wrong, infrastructure is very important but what’s more important is buy-in from the business. Best find a person high up the pyramid, who has authority and the desire to take ownership of the project. Make this person the sponsor and get them engaged!

Thinking of baby steps once more, the best success comes when people deploy SharePoint incrementally. Start with Out of the Box functionality, if that doesn’t fit look for third party solutions and as a last resort develop custom code. Code-free means easier upgrades, less cost, lower risk and faster implementation. Don’t try and do it all at once, pick a few small business problems and take small steps first. Once you get confidence from the business, tackle more complex items.

Project Management and Training are not events, they are part of the journey. The project must be managed from start to finish and involve people from all stakeholder groups. Training is important too, continue to train well past the delivery of the solution. The best user uptake occurs when regular face-to-face training occurs, don’t rely on email messages and documents.

The most important thing I picked up at the conference was enthusiasm. All people talking about the solutions they had built were excited about what they had achieved and wanted to deliver more. Even the guys on the expert panel at the end of the conference spoke about learning things in Wellington. This is fantastic and the reason I got into IT in the first place.

If you are in anyway interested or exposed to SharePoint, join the community via your local user group or look for people on Twitter, #SharePoint is a good starting point. Thank you to the NZSPC organisers, you did a fabulous job.

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