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.