It seems kind of silly that I’m opening two blog entries in a row with the comment that I haven’t blogged much about my recent job change… but that is the way it is.
I consider myself very fortunate to have been hired back with Microsoft as a Technology Specialist (Sales Engineer) in the Pacific Northwest. I am assigned to about 50 of Microsoft’s strategic customers in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and charged with helping them understand and apply Microsoft technologies to their business operations. This means working closely with their IT Departments to plan for the adoption of new technologies as well as working with business units to understand how new technology capabilities can be applied to new and emerging market opportunities.
With the increased rate of feature development and release with Office 365, this means frequent and regular conversations and strategy meetings with our customers. And lots of training. So, I’ve been busy.
I will be maintaining two blogs – this one (owen-allen.com) will be my personal thoughts and observations, and a new blog (O365talk.com) will include my curated list of interviews, product updates, and thoughts about technologies found within and related to Office 365. I expect that O365Talk.com will have multiple authors. – If you would like to participate, please let me know!
I’ve been back at Microsoft since September 2014, and have now reached 9 years of employment with Microsoft. In between these two stints, I spent 4 years working with a great set of customers and clients, as an advisor, a consultant, a contract employee, and as a full-time employee. Each one has been a good memory and has enriched my experience. Thank you to all who I have crossed paths with.
WPC 2015 is kicking off this weekend, and this is the first year I am not attending after having attended the past six years. Microsoft Partners are a tremendous group, and I will admit there is a twinge of loss at not attending WPC this year. However, with my focus being on helping my (I consider them to be mine ) customers leverage the technologies that Microsoft is placing into the cloud, partners still have an important and significant role. It is a pleasure to work with Software companies, Consulting companies, and bright individuals of all skillsets and experience, as we work together to help Microsoft customers deploy amazing applications and employee and customer services of their own.
See you online!
I haven’t made too much noise on my blog about the fact that I joined bluLink Solutions at the 1st of March this year, and that’s been an oversight. I’m really enjoying my time with bluLink Solutions (blulinksolutions.com, @bluLinkTweets).
This is an opportunity for me to help drive business productivity improvements within business groups and departments within one of the most advanced IT infrastructures in the world. It can be very challenging, but the people I work with and our clients (mostly internal Microsoft groups) are very smart and have great project requirements.
This week is the Microsoft Preferred Supplier Summit 2014, and it is being held at the MSFT Conference Center on Redmond Campus. This is a great opportunity for Microsoft’s Preferred Suppliers to connect with top leadership in the Finance, Accounting, Procurement, and IT departments. We heard from some of the Top Brass today, including Mike Simms, Chief Procurement Officer (LinkedIn), and Jim DuBois, MSFT Chief Information Officer (@MSIT). I can report that the innovation is going to continue and is accelerating. This is an exciting time to work as a vendor with Microsoft.
At the summit today they also announced and awarded the Microsoft Annual Supplier Awards. I’m thrilled that bluLink Solutions was a Finalist in the Innovative Supplier of the Year category. The folks here at bluLink have been doing an amazing job through the past year, and one of our projects, built to support critical business functionality in the Microsoft Consulting Services group, led to the nomination.
Congratulations to the winners! Assembly/Edelman won the top award, Supplier of the Year, and arvato AG won the Innovative Supplier of the Year award, beating out bluLink Solutions. Following the award, the CEO of arvato AG spoke, and it was pretty clear that their solution, powered by some of their 67,000 employees, was much larger in scope than the bluLink Solutions project (13 employees). Was it more innovative? The judges apparently thought so. Congratulations to arvato AG and Assembly!
The full of supplier award winners is here (http://www.thestreet.com/story/12716058/1/microsoft-recognizes-outstanding-contributions-by-suppliers.html)
Through the remainder of today and tomorrow, we will attend sessions covering changes and advancements in the relationship between Microsoft Procurement and Microsoft Suppliers. I’m looking forward to it and at bluLink Solutions, we hope to be back as a Finalist next year, as well!
My thoughts on the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2014. The event was a great success, held Mar 3-6, 2014, at The Venetian, in Las Vegas. Compared to previous SharePoint Conferences, SPC14 was held at a bigger venue, it was easier to get around in, the exhibition hall was more wide open, the keynote speaker was about as big a deal as could have been had (Would Hillary have been a bigger coup?) and The.WIFI.Worked. A tremendously successful conference. The SharePoint and Office 365 teams at Microsoft deserve to take the next 36 hours off, perhaps attend the Las Vegas NASCAR race, and then bask in the success of their conference.
The new product announcements show some good new direction. I’m particularly excited about
- the New Office 365 APIs that bring Office 365 closer to parity with SharePoint Server 2013 as a platform for business applications (http://bit.ly/PkMEO2),
- the new content enablement that is provided for PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook applications (http://bit.ly/PkMEO2)
- Improvements to Power BI across the board and the release of Power Map. (Even though this was announced a month ago, I’m adding it here (http://bit.ly/PkOvmd)
- The concept of Working Like a Network (http://bit.ly/PkO23e). It will take a while for this to roll out, but the application ideas are already starting to roll around this one.
- And the biggest one, for me and my new company, BluLink Solutions, will be the patterns for migrating Trusted Code solutions to the App Model (http://bit.ly/PkOXkj).
SPC14 was the 5 year reunion for those attendees of the tremendous and inimitable SPC09 conference, and it was the 10 year anniversary of the launch of SharePoint 2003, which started the enterprise-wide push and where “SharePoint” started to find its legs, as it grew into MOSS 2007 and SharePoint Server 2010.
One of the things that makes for a great reunion is a strong community. I consider myself lucky to have been able to observe the growth of the community and the depth and breadth that it contains now is fantastic. No longer can anyone single group, or collection of groups, control, manage or “provide direction” to the community. There are many groups within the community, and the overall group is large enough to support new groups as needed. I attended the meetings of the MSFT Technical Communities and the SharePoint Saturday leaders and the SharePoint User Group leaders and some very useful coalitions are building helpful tools to support different locales and groups of different sizes. I heard that the Women in Technology (secondhand, as I wasn’t on the list) group overflowed its planned meeting space and that is tremendous. Impromptu activities such as the funeral procession for InfoPath, small groups such as SP FitBitters and SPRunners, or around evening events or side trips to local attractions, and countless others, are great examples of where the community is diverse enough to take care of its own. This is so encouraging.
On the other hand, it does mark the maturation of the SharePoint community and marks the time when messages will be more and more difficult to ensure are delivered and received accurately. The good old days of one person being able to understand all of SharePoint is gone. One person can now understand most of SharePoint, and can track most of what is goingon through diligent following of multiple blogs, RSS, and twitter feeds, but that can be difficult to maintain when we also have to work…
The early three social kings of SharePoint have changed, as well. Mark Miller (@EUSP), it seems, has moved to greener pastures, Joel Oleson (@Joeloleson) will always continue to drive a large group of followers as illustrated by his leading a procession in a Monk’s robe through the conference, and Jeremy Thake (@jthake) has now moved to join Microsoft in leading developers to new depths. No longer are the three of them driving the community audiences (Devs, IT Pros, End Users) in a coordinated broad direction. True, the trio has been divided for a little while now, but I think SPC14 marks the official passing of the torch back to the community as an entity. Even at SPC12, the community booth efforts were spearheaded by a group with these three providing much of the guidance.
Moving forward, though, I think that SharePoint as a whole is too large for a single group of friends and workers and associates to be considered the leaders. Each of us has our own path to carve out of the world of business solutions. The relay baton has been passed. SharePoint has grown up.
Where will you, as an attendee of SPC14, shine your light? Whatever you are working on, share it. When you come up with a best practice, or a new approach to using OOB features combined in a unique manner to provide new functionality, let others know. As you see your companies using SharePoint as a platform for new vertical applications and to support solid business processes that have been rebuilt to mash up data in a new way and expose it to new business groups who couldn’t access it before, share what you see! Talk about the impacts, and help other groups realize the potential locked within their SP OOB mentality.
SharePoint Friends Don’t Let SharePoint Friends Work Only with OOB Functionality.
I had a great time at SPC14 and I hope that all of you did, as well. If you didn’t, let MSFT know. If you did, let the community know! I can’t wait to see everyone again next time.
Disclaimer: I don’t have access to Jeff’s original words, only his words as reported by the Memeburn article, so there might be some differences in the interpretation.
The article mixes contexts like flammable fuels.
“Hardly anybody likes it” (yet, still 70% of companies see that at lest 50% of their employees use SharePoint at least once a week)
“The problem is that SharePoint is a victim of its own success” (I’ve never understood how this comment can be applied generally to anything. Don’t we want success?)
“It’s too big and complex” (the implication here is that IT Pros are scared of managing SharePoint, and once it is installed it is unusable…)
These points lead to the summary datapoint that drives the fear: “As a result, many people are using versions of SharePoint that are at least four years old.”
ACK! The Horror! The platform is dead because not everyone updated within the first six months! AUGH! Can you hear the anguished cries of IT Pros who don’t understand it when SharePoint upgrades don’t roll onto server boxes as smoothly as the most recent version of Microsoft Office? Or that, given the fact that the release cycle was 3 1/2 years in between SP2010 and SP2013, having a version that is 4+ years old at this point is actually the normal state of things?
A second line of reasoning in the article is that SharePoint “is too big and complex” and that IT shops would be better off using an entire range of point solutions to provide specific features instead of one large platform, such as SharePoint.
Really? What happens when you want to upgrade all 32 of the point applications that you had to install in order to match what SharePoint provided you? Certainly, all of them will upgrade at the same time so you’ll never have to worry about mismatched versions, right?
I’ll be the first to stand up and tell a business group that if you only want to do 4 things, then you should use stand alone tools, and SharePoint is not for you. However, for most medium-to-large enterprise that I’ve worked with, the amount of integration and services that are needed to meet business requirements just simply cannot be managed more efficiently with point solutions. If the organization does not work with SharePoint, they are probably working with another relatively large collaboration platform, from a large vendor. Point solutions are best for small companies, but not for medium-large.
The third point in the Memeburn article is that Microsoft should kill the on-premise version of SharePoint because Microsoft wants to move everyone to the cloud. And Microsoft will be the first to tell you that they believe that every employee can work just fine in the cloud. We have to remember, though, that enterprises are called large organizations because they have a lot of moving parts. It will take time. No need to rush.
And then the icing on the cake that just caused me to shake my head. “The installed base is so large that Microsoft will of course keep supporting it, but upgrades will be slower coming, and users shouldn’t expect the latest or greatest functionality.”
This statement is the most important of all of Jeffrey Mann’s quotes in the Memeburn article, and it is being treated as a consolation point. Users need to have this last quote etched in their minds, and instead of getting all sensational about “Should Microsoft Kill SharePoint???”, the article should focus on the meat of the news – that is, that your investment in SharePoint on-premise is going to be supported going forward, so don’t do anything crazy, but you should be moving to the cloud as your systems and enterprise software packages and tools allow. Moving to the cloud needs to be important.
But, please don’t shoot the horse while it is still attached to the plow.
While scanning a few blogs today – something that I haven’t taken the time to do frequently enough, it seems, I ran across Veronique Palmer’s blog entry which was a recap of her visit to SPC12 last week. (http://veroniquepalmer.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/thoughts-on-sharepoint-2013-after-the-conference)
I had the good fortune to run into Veronique at lunch one of the days and it was good to see her again. She has a huge source of energy running through her, and anyone who strays too close to her can’t help but feel the energy that she brings to SharePoint and, I can only imagine, the passion that she brings to her clients.
First, there was a lot of confusion and frustration about how Microsoft and SharePoint decided to release information about SharePoint 2013 (SP13) during this release cycle. Veronique was not the only one who complained about the seemingly targeted approach to the release of product information.
It seemed that the SharePoint team was following the lead from the Windows 8 team and keeping things as quiet as possible to avoid competitive product offerings as well as to maximize the “Wow” effect on the day of launch.
It might also have been the opinion of the SharePoint marketing team that with SharePoint 2010 doing so well in the marketplace, that the need for pre-launch buzz generated from conversations in the ecosystem about the product was minimal.
The potential downside of this is a reduction in the number of end-to-end product reviews that SharePoint could have received from partners and developers about the product, when each different type of developer or user was shown only the pieces of the product that were most necessary for them.
Another potential problem, which Veronique pointed out, was that time was “lost” in allowing consultants to be up to speed with the product at the time of launch. This had an impact on partners, as well, as many partners and consultants had a difficult time predicting the launch date, and many products had their timing set for post-January 2013, instead of being able to be ready for a November 2012 release date.
I can only imagine that Microsoft decided that it was, in fact, getting a good amount of feedback, and that these negatives were manageable.
The next set of points that Veronique makes in her blog entry apply to all users of SharePoint who are considering a SharePoint deployment.
It’s important to consider the following when considering/planning a SharePoint deployment:
- Do the research and go into your project with your eyes open about the possible alternatives.
- Make sure that you are listening to multiple sources for your information. Microsoft, consultants, partners, blogs, analysts, and other community sources for SharePoint are useful in rounding out your strategy.
- Understand that different SharePoint versions have different user interfaces and have different user expectations. Your training and procedures may have to regularly go through modifications as you move from version to version, so plan accordingly.
- Don’t cause yourself to feel too much pressure to move to a specific SharePoint version just because it is newer. By understanding the features of each SharePoint version, combined with the capabilities and experience of your teams, your developers/consultants, and partner solutions, combined with the lifetime of your expected deployment and when you might be ready for an upgrade, you will be able to select the right version for your current deployment and plan ahead for future releases.
- It should be understood that your users are going to resist change. Build this into your operations and training plans.
Thanks, Veronique, for getting the conversation started, and for giving me the impetus to write a blog entry again… (I really need to do this more often.)
One of my favorite weeks of the year is coming up – the Microsoft WorldWide Partner Conference. One of the best meet-ups of the week has always been the SharePint event. This year should be no exception.
This year, the Microsoft SharePoint Marketing Group has worked with Pingar and 3 other software companies, Axceler, Rackspace, and Idera, to host a meet-up for partners that work within the SharePoint ecosystem during the week of WPC12.
You know what they say… SharePoint by Day, SharePINT by Night!
This year SharePint will be on Tuesday, July 10, from 6-8PM at the Madison Avenue Pub, in Toronto.
WPC is a huge event, and while there are some important sessions for SharePoint partners, the real significant effort at WPC should be about meeting with other partners and working to grow your company’s network and connections. I think this is why the WPC Connect portion of WPC has grown to be (at certain times of the week) the busiest part of the conference. While it can be hard to find open time to meet with specific partners, at least SharePoint partners understand where they can meet their SharePoint peers and enjoy some good conversation.
If you haven’t already registered for WPC12, please do so at http://digitalwpc.com.
I’ll be meeting with partners at WPC Connect, attending a couple of the sessions, and hoping to meet everyone at SharePint! If I haven’t already reached out to meet you, please reach out to me and let’s meet at WPC12!
I’m certainly looking forward to an amazing week in Toronto.