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SharePoint Saturday: The Conference

With the Congress in recess (more-or-less) for most of August, and the mad scramble over the debt ceiling debate behind us, all was quiet at CBO this week. CBO’s web team took advantage of the quiet time to get some additional SharePoint training at SharePoint Saturday: The Conference. Simone focused on train-the-trainer and power-user sessions, while Annette leaned more toward developer and architect courses. That left me to focus on project management, administration, and governance.

  1. Governance, governance, governance. The total amount of data produced is growing faster than storage costs are dropping. So even with storage costs/GB dropping to pennies, total storage costs are increasing. Moreover, in most enterprises, about 50% of the data stored is junk <hyphen> duplicate files, outdated information, irrelevant items. Unstructured data storage (read: SharePoint) exacerbates the problem. Unless you have some sort of information management policies in place, SharePoint will end up a sprawling mess, eating up infrastructure, and actually making it harder to find things.
  2.  “The Cloud” is more than just a buzzword. Microsoft’s push into the cloud with Office 365 isn’t just about competing with Google Apps on price. Pushing collaboration outside of the firewall eases telecommuting, which at CBO is one of the biggest roadblocks to wider SharePoint adoption. Microsoft’s various hybrid environments—collaboration pushed to Office 365, with proprietary data staying inside the firewall, and all of it accessed through a SharePoint portal—is well-suited for allowing people to work where they want to work while letting IT protect what needs protecting.
  3. Social business is just good business. Yes, I know that sounds like a line from a here-today-gone-tomorrow business book. But there’s some real truth to it. Facebook didn’t amass 500+ million users by being a fad. It got there by allowing people to connect in ways that they want to connect with the people to whom they want to be connected, and it did so via a user interface that is simple and easy to use. The days of the top-down Intranet are numbered. The future is the individualized portal that allows users to connect to the agency in the way that makes sense to them.
  4. Business requirements are not functional requirements. Perhaps this is a well, duh point for experienced project managers. But it really struck home for me. I see this all the time at my agency. Business users say, “I want X.” Too often we then proceed to give them X without ever trying to elicit what the business user really wants to accomplish. The result: A system that will do exactly X but won’t do other any of a pile of other things that are X-like but not exactly X. We then end up with a method for X another one for X1 and a third for X2 and so on. The takeaway is that developers need a project manager to take business requirements, translate those into functional requirements, and then document—that means write down—those requirements.
  5. If you’re committed to a project, you have to keep funding it. An Intranet built on SharePoint is not a build it and forget it for the next decade kind of deal. It requires refining, updating, expanding, etc. That means it needs a dedicated stream of funding. Period.
  6. I’m not a big fan of shilling for products. But is the perfect product to drive adoption at my agency. CBOers love, love, love them some email. Bringing SharePoint to them is a way easier sell than bringing them to SharePoint. I’ve been using the free version for months. The newest enterprise version is fantastic, and the mobile app (still in alpha, but scheduled for late 2011) is really slick.

There was more—so very much more—but those are my big takeaways. I’m looking forward to getting back to the office on Monday and setting some of these in motion.

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