SPC11 – The progressive blog post

In about 48 hours I’ll be boarding a plane to head to Anaheim, CA for Microsoft’s SharePoint Conference 2011. Next week won’t feature much sleep, but it will include some great presentations and the chance to reconnect with old (and new) SharePoint folks. What I’m looking forward to most, however, is the energy of the event–the excitement and the enthusiasm of people who are willing to look at technology in new ways.

Rather than doing a conference recap after I return home from the event, I’m going to do a progressive blog post during the course of the week. Here’s the opening entry:

Friday, 9/30 (conference countdown)

Fred Baer, Matt Ruderman and I locked down the last changes for our SPC presentation this week. We’re presenting on Thursday, 10/6/2011 from 10:30 – 11:45 am. The title of our session is “True Business and IT Partnership: Best Buy Governance and SharePoint 2010.” Our session tells the story of SharePoint at Best Buy–where we came from, the challenges we’ve faced and how we’re succeeding. We’re passionate about what we do, and hope you all enjoy the session!

I’m also trying to square away some of the evening events for next week. I’ll likely be attending events hosted by RBA Consulting, Metalogix, K2, etc. as well as going to the Disneyland event on Tuesday night. Don’t tell my kids!

Sunday, 10/2 (travel to Anaheim)

Yep, we may have been cursed. Everything looked good when we got to the airport and onto the plane, but a missing “radio 2” (whatever that is) prevented us from leaving on time. After sitting on the plane for nearly 3 hours, we were asked to deplane. The initial word was bad–no open seats on any other flights to Los Angeles until Monday. Fortunately, we were able to get on a Sun Country flight to San Diego. Unfortunately, my checked bag was still on the plane headed for Denver–which was now rolling back from the gate!

Thanks to a quick yell from me (and a quick-thinking Frontier agent), they were able to stop the plane long enough to find my bag. We retrieved my bag from baggage claim and jumped on the light rail over to the other airport terminal to catch our backup flight. We’re feeling optimistic at this point…..we’re going to make it! And then we get to the Sun Country ticket counter and find out that our newly-bought tickets haven’t cleared the security hurdles yet.

We get that squared away and we’re off to go through security again. By the time we got to our second gate we’re tired and hungry. And then they announce that our plane hasn’t arrived yet so we’ll be facing a small delay. Ugh!

Finally, we take off at about 3:45 pm. This is only 5 hours after our first flight was scheduled to depart. The flight to San Diego was uneventful, though. We got our bags and our rental car, and we were on our way to Anaheim! Three hours (and miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic later), we pull up to the Anaheim Hilton just in time to register before the 9 pm cutoff. All in all, we made a 8 hour trip in just over 14 hours.

The biggest disappoint was missing the SharePoint Salon dinner tonight with Ruven Gotz, Sue Hanley, et. al. Sigh.

Monday, 10/3 (conference opener)

After a short few hours of sleep, we’re up and ready to kick things off today. They did a great job kicking off the keynote. They talked about SharePoint’s growth as a platform, pointing out that if SharePoint were Microsoft’s only product they’d still rank in the top 50 software providers in the world. (Cool stat.) Jared Spataro also shared some love with the broader SharePoint community, calling out the grassroots SharePoint user groups and SharePoint Saturday events being held worldwide. It’s great to see the support Microsoft is giving these events. The remainder of the keynote included some cameo comedic appearances by Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Carmen Electra and Luke Perry as well as customer vignettes highlighting how Spacex and eBay are using SharePoint.

The rest of the day went well. I attended 2 sessions:

  • Karuana Gatimu’s “Oranges, Rocket Ships and Six Pack Abs – What your SharePoint Corporate Portal is lacking”
  • Tricia Mercaldo’s “How Turner Broadcasting System Turned On Employee Engagement with SharePoint 2010.”

I particularly like the Turner session. They did a good job showing how they’ve built temlate solutions for a diverse set of business groups. They’ve also built a well-rounded SharePoint team from scratch. And rather than going out and hiring SharePoint experts they’ve taken internal candidates and taught them SharePoint. Interesting approach, and it is clearly working for them.

Tonight featured a Microsoft event at Tortilla Joe’s in Downtown Disney. I got to spend time with folks from Hallmark, Thrivent Financial, 3M, Medtronic, Ameriprise, etc. and discuss SharePoint, wikis, ROI calculations and SharePoint Saturday. Great learning opportunity!

Tuesday, 10/4 (conference day 2)

I was up early again today, gearing up to attend several sessions. Of particular interest was Susan Hanley’s session on “Measuring the Value of Your SharePoint 2010 Investments.” All too often, we fail to loop back to our launched SharePoint projects and evaluate their worth. Susan presented a compelling case for doing the leg work and building your SharePoint valuation model while also providing a set of guidelines for getting started. I also love Susan’s “Don’t take it away” metric. She recommends sending your end-users a survey that (among other things) asks users whether the new SharePoint solution should be kept in place. If more than 66% of the user base answers “yes” to the “don’t take it away” question, you have a solution that WORKS and should be measured.

Want to know more? Check out Susan’s web site (http://www.susanhanley.com/) and download a copy of her new white paper “A Practical Framework for SharePoint Metrics.” It provides a deep dive on all the elements discussed in today’s session, from collecting user stories to recording serious anecdotes with dollar-value punchlines.

I attended several other sessions today as well. Here are some of my favorite sound bites:

  • “Is your SharePoint balloon out of control?” (Dave Martin, SPC109)
  • “Your organization doesn’t have a test farm? No. You don’t have a production farm” (Dan Holme, SPC224)
  • “User adoption is not always equal to measured success” (Susan Hanley, SPC248)
  • “You don’t want to be working on a sideshow project. You want to be part of the main event” (Susan Hanley, SPC248)
  • “What have you done for me lately” (Susan Hanley, SPC248)


After a full day of attending sessions and learning in the hands-on lab and exhibit hall, it was off to dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse and on to the evening event at Disneyland. My only mistake was going on Splash Mountain too early in the evening. Even folks from Minnesota get cold walking around Disneyland soaking wet in 55-degree weather!




Wednesday, 10/5 (conference day 3)

I was thrilled to be able to catch up with Don Zielke from AEP over breakfast this morning. Don and I met at the 2009 Best Practices Conference in Reston, VA. He is an incredibly smart SharePoint-er and someone I’m privileged to know!

After breakfast, we headed to Nikos Anagnostou and Lesly Goh’s session on “Best Practices from the field: Managing corporate metadata and taxonomies with SharePoint 2010.” Being a librarian and taxonomy fanatic, this session was right up my alley. While I can’t begin to share all the great information covered in this session, here are some of my favorite bits:

  • Use of card sorting and taxonomy arrangement exercises to aid in the building of initial taxonomies
  • Taxonomy design best-practices (including the need to start shallow with 2-3 layers):20111007-224914.jpg
  • Breakdown of managed metadata components in SharePoint 2010:
  • Overview of taxonomy benefits & best practices:

I attended a couple of other sessions Wednesday afternoon, including SPC230, where Sindie Henson-Pugsley gave an overview of Hallmark’s new Retail Connect site. They were able to complete a site redesign in an abbreviated window, complete with information architecture, site design, distributed security trimming, etc. I was most impressed with Hallmark’s attention to content ownership, however. According to Sindie, every piece of content on Hallmark’s Retail Connect site has an owner, a content lifecycle, a primary home and a set of standards.

Wednesday night I attended RBA Consulting’s event at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. They had a great mix of attendees, including folks from Cargill, 3M, Best Buy, Polaris, etc. I was able to do some networking and talk with Jared Spataro about our upcoming ScarePoint Saturday on 10/29. Sweet!

I capped off the evening with a stop at the ESPN Zone for SharePint, catching up with Jennifer Mason, Don Zielke, Raymond Mitchell, Mark Miller and Sean McDonough. Sean is one of my favorite SharePoint folks (and a speaker we want to have back for SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities), so it was great to catch up.

Thursday, 10/6 (conference day 4)

Today was the BIG day–our Best Buy session (SPC297) was up at 10:30 am. We had a packed room and some excellent questions from the audience. Here’s a quick overview of the details covered in our session:

  • Best Buy culture (including our key passions, what drives us, and how that impacts our approach to SharePoint)
  • The good, the bad and the ugly of our experience with MOSS 2007
  • Future state: the vision, the strategy and the decimation of file repositories with SharePoint 2010

There was a plethora of tweets during our session (hashtag #spc297). Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • “SharePoint 2010 is a big carrot and stick that drives governance” (@avisuj)
  • “We learn more from what made you say “Duh! Can’t believe we did that” in your case study. Thanks, Best Buy” (@mikegil)
  • “There are 3 ways to implement SharePoint: Invasion, Infiltration or Both”
  • “Sometimes you don’t need Stonehenge. Styrofoamhenge will do”
  • “Just like you can’t tell someone their kids are ugly, you can’t tell them their file repositories are going away”

I believe Fred Baer wins the award for the most-quoted speaker at SPC11. He is the master of legos, styrofoamhenge and not telling people their kids are ugly. I so enjoy working with you, my friend! Another huge callout to Matt Ruderman, Howard Friedman, Avi Sujeeth and our Best Buy Canada folks for their company on this journey. It was a fantastic experience!

Once the conference was over, it was time for some much-needed downtime. I had a fantastic dinner on the patio at Tortilla Jo’s with Tamara Bredemus, Sarah Oakland, Angela Spores, Don Zielke and Melanie Zakariasen from Medtronic. After some shopping, dancing and drinks at the House of Blues, it was time to pack and get ready to come back home.

Friday, 10/7 (the “we don’t want a 14-hour trip home” day)

So Wes Preston likes to arrive at the airport early. And he likes to make sure the suitcases are packed into the shuttle “correctly.” These are only a couple of new things I got to learn on this trip 🙂 Fortunately, our trip home was anticlimatic. Everything went as expected and we touched down in Minneapolis at 6 pm on Friday night.

I can’t begin to call out everyone that I was excited to see at SPC11, but let’s start with Veronique Palmer, Ruven Gotz, Sean McDonough, Lori Gowin, Mark Miller, Susan Hanley, Don Zielke, Jennifer Mason, Laura Rogers, Joel Baglien, Chris Geier, Bill English, April Wyland, Tamara Bredemus, Sarah Oakland, Richard Harbridge and Jay O’Hara. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon!
















  1. Thanks for recaping the conference! It’d be FANTASTIC if you’d share your PPT on this blog for those of us (like me 🙂 ) who had to miss the event this year. Las Vegas, see you in 2012!

  2. Wonderful recap, Sarah! Sounds like your conference experience was chock-full of cool events. I’m really glad we got to connect on Wednesday evening — especially since I can’t make it to Minneapolis for the SPS event this year 😦 I’m looking forward to next year, though!

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