06 November, 2012

See you at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas

Next week it's time for the biggest SharePoint event of the year, Microsoft's own SharePoint show in Las Vegas. I'm looking forward to catching up with many friends in the community from around the world. I'll be anchored in the Winshuttle booth talking about ERP integration and business critical processes with anyone who is interested. Swing by or reach out to me on Twitter (@kalsing).

I have a scheduled partner theater session at 7.20 pm on the Sunday night about how SharePoint can be a platform for delivering on Gartner's Pace-Layered Application Strategy. I'll barely be back from a visit to Winshuttle Labs in India, so my colleague Jeff Shuey is going to cover for me. Jeff's an awesome presenter so don't miss it!

A pace-layered application strategy around your ERP
For ERP-centric business processes, there is an increasing gap between business users’ need for optimization and innovation and IT professionals’ goals of reducing costs, maximizing security and standardizing technologies. Learn how SharePoint can bridge this gap and become your platform of innovation in business critical applications, enabling you to quickly respond to ever-changing business conditions.

10 October, 2012

Wrap-up from the ASUG Data Governance SIG in Houston

I've spent the last three days in Houston at the ASUG Special Interest Group (SIG) for Data Governance. It's an area that has been steadily growing and in its eighth annual incarnation there was 220 attendees and three full days of sessions, all focused on data governance. Certainly, a stark contrast to the Oracle conference I attended last week in San Fransisco which had 50,000 attendees with a very broad range of interests. Kudos to the organizers for putting on an excellent event with an intimate atmosphere where we all had the opportunity to connect with everyone else.

The content included lots of invaluable insights from various SAP customers and industry thought leaders, all about how to tackle data governance. One of many things I wanted to validate at this event was the case for using Microsoft tools as an important part of the tool bag for data teams. It was evident that master data management and governance are areas where using tools such as Excel, Access and SharePoint is very common. Data governance is often championed by technically savvy business people who want to be empowered to solve problems without lengthy and costly projects on the tool implementation side of the equation. Hence, it makes sense that these business user oriented tools are heavily utilised. However, it was also clear that the use of these tools needs to be managed properly to keep everything aligned with the long term objectives.

There was a lot of talk about best practices for executively sponsored governance programs with a well-defined long term roadmap. However, it was also acknowledged that a top-down approach does not, by itself, yield the short term results required to keep the movement going. As it was nicely put by Maria Villar from SAP when talking about SAP's internal data governance program: "Information governance is a team sport and everybody has to play" and "ownership should be pushed to the lines of business." Most speakers reasserted that process owners in the business should be accountable for their own master data. In one session, when the audience was asked whether they had a roadmap outlining their master data program, the majority responded that data management capabilities have been introduced on a reactive basis.

All in all, I sensed a consensus around the need for both top-down and bottom-up data governance initiatives. There needs to be a long term roadmap outlining the strategic goals which will ensure the continuous support from top management and alignment with the company's business goals. But there also needs to be more tactical initiatives where lightweight and cost-effective solutions will yield immediate results and measurable business improvements. It's the latter, I'm currently focused on at Winshuttle.

25 April, 2012

Wrap-up from Share 2012 in Atlanta

I’m about to shoot back to the Pacific Northwest after some great days amongst SharePoint peeps in Atlanta. For me, the Share 2012 show started on the Monday night, being a booth bandit for Winshuttle in the exhibition hall. We had some interesting conversations with people wanting to understand how to get their SharePoint environment better integrated with their SAP backend.

Tuesday kicked off with a triple keynote with back-to-back sessions by Dux Raymond Sy, Microsoft's Gideon Bibliowicz and finally Jody Billiard and Shawn Olsen from Coca-Cola. Dux was interesting and enthusiastic as always. One of his key messages was that in order to succeed with your SharePoint initiative, it needs to be intentional, business-driven and have the necessary sponsorship. It sounds obvious, but in too many organisations SharePoint is still being driven by IT as a secondary initiative without clear business goals.

Following Dux, Gideon provided an overview of Microsoft’s vision for the SharePoint platform. Microsoft’s fastest growing server product ever is still all about the platform-based approach coupled with an extensive and vibrant eco-system. Having been involved in the SharePoint community as well as other technology communities at various stages throughout my career, I can only agree that the SharePoint eco-system and community are second to none in the enterprise world when it comes to breadth, depth and most importantly, enthusiasm.

Jody and Shawn from Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated were next sharing their experiences with rolling out ‘RedCentral’ for the 2,000 users in their division. After a rather energetic introduction, even showing ads for Coke brands on the big screen, they focused on an interesting use case around using SharePoint to deliver tools to their sales force consistently. They have done a great job getting the most out of the standard capabilities. A piece of advice for everyone was that building a dashboard on SharePoint will get you a promotion!

I also attended the late afternoon panel discussion on governance which was moderated by Jeremy Thake. It was a lively discussion, but I couldn’t help thinking that it would have been even better if there had been more specific advice on how to implement governance. Governance conversations have a tendency to stay on an abstract level. There was some mention of best practices around site templates and other bits, but much more of this would have been great.

The closing keynote on Wednesday afternoon by Sarah Haase from Best Buy was a highpoint. Sarah went through various approaches to driving successful user adoption, providing lots of practical advice on how to get users engaged and excited. A key takeaway was that this is entirely possible and there are proven ways of tackling it. She also showed this hilarious video illustrating how a movement takes form.

From my perspective, it was interesting to spend the majority of my time speaking to customers on the exhibition floor. There was clear evidence of a growing interest in taking SharePoint beyond basic collaboration and document management. More and more customers are looking for ways to leverage SharePoint as a platform for solving more business process-centric problems, involving workflows and business data from various backend systems.

Kudus to The Eventful Group for putting on another terrific event. I’ve been involved in many of their events for the last five years and it’s always a pleasure. One of the really cool things they do is line up an off-topic motivational talk at the end of the first day. I was particularly excited about listening to Braam Malherbe’s story since I only just read his book, The Great Run. Check it out. This guy completed a 4,200 km run along the entire length of the Great Wall of China. It certainly makes any challenge with SharePoint look rather insignificant.

15 March, 2012

Speaking at SAPPHIRE NOW and the ASUG Annual Conference 2012 in Orlando

Time flies and we’re rapidly approaching May and the annual SAP bonanza in Orlando. Like last year, I’ll be delivering a presentation on how to empower business units to solve SAP challenges with SharePoint. I will have a particular focus on where to find the “low hanging fruit” and the characteristics of those use cases. This is the session abstract:

Leveraging SharePoint to Empower the "Business Developer"
Increasingly, business people empower themselves to create solutions that support their business functions. These business developers are here to stay and harnessing their enthusiasm and integral domain knowledge can provide the business with a vital competitive advantage.
Considering SharePoint's popularity amongst business users and its wide range of core capabilities aimed at business developers, it provides an immense opportunity for supporting business processes across the enterprise. Without writing code, it is possible to extend the use of SharePoint to include solutions that are fully integrated with SAP.
This session will outline what it takes to surface SAP transactions in SharePoint following an approach that is entirely driven by the business. In particular, there will be specific examples of how a business developer can utilize SharePoint to create forms and workflow solutions which evolve around SAP.

During the conference, I will also be conducting research interviews with subject matter experts in functional areas that can benefit from SAP/SharePoint integrated solutions. If you are going to the conference and want to share knowledge and experiences around surfacing SAP through SharePoint, I’d be keen to hear from you. You can reach out to me on Twitter (@kalsing) or send me an email.

16 February, 2012

Export SAP data to SharePoint with Winshuttle Query

When business users are automating processes by essentially building applications in SharePoint, there are often use cases where a solution needs to include data from SAP. It could be mash-up scenarios between SharePoint content and SAP data or it could be simple use cases where having SAP data in SharePoint for easy access makes sense.

There are many ways of achieving this through custom programming. However, what I wanted to bring to your attention here is a new feature of Winshuttle Query which effectively empowers a business user to create an SAP data query and export the extract to a SharePoint list without writing any code.

I have recorded a five-minute video that demonstrates how this works. The video shows the desktop approach which is handy for quick prototypes and ad-hoc requirements. There is also an enterprise version of this functionality where the data queries can be scheduled to run regularly on a server, automatically keeping the SharePoint lists in sync with the SAP tables. Apologies if my voice sounds a bit muffled on the video. I blame Camtasia’s voice optimisation.