Conferences

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)

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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!

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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:
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  • Overview of taxonomy benefits & best practices:
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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!

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Atlassian Summit 2011 Recap

Last week I attended the Atlassian Summit 2011 conference, held in San Francisco at the Intercontinental hotel. I was a newbie (first time attending this particular conference), but had a fantastic experience.

My path to attend this conference was unusual. Normally you hear about great conferences and are sad to have missed out on the experience. Not so with Atlassian! After last year’s summit, Atlassian posted videos from all the sessions. Anyone could view the videos and get some free training. What a great move! It showed off the quality of sessions and (in my case) built my business case for attending the next event. 

Here’s my list of faves from this event:

  1. The keynote sessions provided real value and real humor. We expected Atlassian to announce product changes/upgrades. But announcing the right updates with the right level of detail couched in Star Wars speak is a winning combination. These aren’t just techie nerds–they’re techie nerds with a sense of humor that the broader public can understand and appreciate!
  2. Confluence version 4.0’s new rich media interface. Gone are the days of Rich Text vs. Wiki Markup. Atlassian has rebuilt their Confluence interface to store data in XHTML format. As you type, the new editor will auto-format and invoke your rich text features. Want a level 1 heading? Just type “h1” at the beginning of your heading and Confluence will automatically apply the correct formatting and remove your “h1” text. Beautiful!
  3. The LaunchPad event. Atlassian gave a bevy of sponsors the opportunity to get in front of the entire conference for a 5-minute sales pitch. There’s a catch, though…attendees got the chance to vote on each vendor, rating them as “the next great thing” or “the next great disaster.” Votes are tallied and displayed immediately, putting the pressure on sponsors to be entertaining, informative and cool under pressure. This was a fantastic way for newbies like me to see the spectrum of third-party players while keeping things fun and interesting. Great job!
  4. Martin Seibert’s presentation “Wiki adoption: How sweat and gimmicks make a great wiki.” Martin Seibert rocks. This presentation alone made the trip to San Francisco worthwhile. I loved his view of heaven as a wiki…and his parallel realization that being alone in the wiki was hell. I also loved his quote “Strong organizational support is the biggest task for all enterprise wikis. No matter what.” After all, sometimes IT systems are the only things that are broken. Sometimes users (and their patterns for sharing/collecting information) are broken too. To see the slides from Martin’s session, you can go to http://prezi.com/aa06zpy_68a5/wiki-adoption-how-sweat-and-gimmicks-make-a-great-wiki/ 
  5. The AtlasBar. Let’s face it, I came here with questions. And I needed answers. Fortunately, Atlassian had a bevy of support techs on hand to handle walk-up questions. I was able to get in, get my questions answered AND talk features and application use quickly and easily. All without missing any sessions. Love it!

From where I stand, Atlassian only had one big miss with this event. While Atlassian has done a good job building connectors and plugins to work with Microsoft products, they undersold this work too much. And a couple of Atlassian folks spent too much time Microsoft bashing. I understand zealous feelings for (and against) certain software providers, but I manage to rise above and enjoy using the best features of my iPhone and SharePoint all in the same day.

Many of the attendees I talked to are trying to figure out how to use a variety of tools (including SharePoint, Microsoft Office and Confluence) on a daily basis. Atlassian needs to remain focused on making their customers’ lives easier–not criticizing or ridiculing them for using products they have a personal aversion to.

All in all, though, Atlassian did a fantastic job. This is a conference I’ll definitely recommend to others. And I’ll be a repeat customer.

Best Practices 2011 – La Jolla is FABULOUS!

Only a few days back home from Best Practices 2011 conference in La Jolla. What a fabulous trip! The setting was perfect–even for a someone who doesn’t appreciate golf. The grounds were beautiful and the weather was gorgeous.

It’s hard to narrow down the conference into a highlights reel, but here are some of the important bits:

* Meeting some great new people, including Kevin Dorn, Eric from Ebsco Publishing and a couple of other corporate librarians!

* Getting to share SharePoint Saturday planning ideas with Joel Baglien, Virgil Carroll and Veronique Palmer.

* Having some girl time with the Minnesota contingent–including Angela Spores, Tamara Bredemus and the lovely ladies from Capella University!

* Catching up with a wide variety of folks, including Bill English, Ben Curry, Lori Gowin, Kay McClure, Veronique Palmer, Brett Lonsdale, Sara Windhorst, Mark Rackley, Jennifer Mason, Wes Preston, Cathy Dew, Richard Harbridge, Ruven Gotz and Joy Earles. Sorry if I forgot anyone!

* Getting to record a SharePoint Pod Show epidsode with Brett Lonsdale. Our focus was on SharePoint lists–how to use them, how to convince business users to give them a try and how they can help you be a SharePoint success story. Watch for this episode to be released sometime in the next few weeks.

* Attending some fabulous sessions!

I also had the opportunity to present 2 different sessions at the conference. Both went very well, with folks heavily engaged in talking about how to calculate and claim ROI from successful SharePoint implementations. I came away from these sessions with a ton of energy and new ideas!