22 October, 2009

Day 3 of the SharePoint Conference 2009

Yet another day of non-stop SharePoint activities has passed at the SharePoint Conference. And it has been non-stop SharePoint indeed. There is even a SharePoint channel on the TV in the hotel room, so when you sneak away for a little quiet time away from the other 8,000 SharePoint enthusiasts you can still get fed with SharePoint content.

My first session of the day was a bit different, yet very valuable. It was about the art of SharePoint storytelling and how selling and implementing SharePoint should focus more on the business concepts rather than the product features. Over the last couple of years, there has been an increased focus on the importance of building a shared understanding amongst all the stakeholders when rolling out SharePoint. This session explained how telling good and relevant stories can help to build this crucial shared understanding. Downloading the slide deck from this session will not carry much value since the message was delivered by telling good stories, effectively proving the point.

Being mostly interested in how we can eventually bring SAP data into SharePoint, I went to another presentation about the BCS, a deep dive into the runtime and the associated object model. The BCS has been significantly improved across all of its capabilities, but what really has enormous potential is that the architecture is now symmetrical on the client side. There is a BCS client runtime that will allow client applications (such as OBAs) to connect directly to the back-end LOB system. A client cache holds all the BCS meta data, external business data and manages queuing and synchronisation.

After catching up with various SAP/Microsoft contacts over lunch, I sat in on Steve Fox’ session on how to create OBAs utilising the BCS. Following on from the previous session I went to, this was specifically about building OBAs. When building Office add-ins in an environment with SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 deployed, a lot more of the basic plumping will already be in place in terms of managing connectivity with the back-end systems and offline caches of external data. This will lower the total cost of ownership and be crucial for the uptake of the OBA architecture.

In the last two breakout slots of the day I let go of the BCS and went to some customer presentations talking about their experiences with implementing SharePoint. In particular, I really enjoyed Coca-Cola’s case study on how they are now utilising SharePoint Online for their entire SharePoint environment including public website, intranet and collaboration team sites. Their success was based on a strong focus on governance right from the beginning and having the entire program being led by the business with IT taking on a service providing attitude. They had some impressive usage statistics showing how successful their collaboration team sites have been within the organisation. Coca-Cola has also built a self-service area for HR transactions where SAP HCM is surfaced through SharePoint. They use custom Web Dynpro screens rendered within iFrames (note, not the IView Web Part).

In the evening there was another reception in the exhibition hall with roundtables setup for engaging with the experts in the various product and technology areas. A few of us self-proclaimed SAP/SharePoint evangelists quickly found each other to share frustrations with the past and excitement for the future. The reception was accompanied by a ‘SharePoint Idol’ competition where a large stage allowed participants to show off their ‘Guitar Hero’ skills. Again, all up a fantastic SharePoint day.

Read about Day 4.

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