Is this another one of those ‘Why Haven’t I Posted Lately’ entries?

Nah, keeping with our Contender motif, it’s a training camp/fight schedule update. I have some good challenges coming up and I wanted to share them with you.

On the community front, SharePoint Saturday Tampa is on the books for June 26th. We want to defend our title as Florida’s Best SharePoint Event so we are notching up our training. What we want to do is capitalize on any forward or offensive for SharePoint 2010 and while staying grounded with MOSS and 2007 footwork and defense. Can’t win a fight without a little of both and if I can permit another boxing axiom “Speed Kills”. In our case, speed is efficiency, form, strategy and strength all addressing our Business needs whether that is with 2010 or 2007. So our speakers are going to be asked to show us the way forward with both 2010 and 2007. Looking forward to those sessions.

Before that I have some other warm up bouts. I am pleased and honored to take part as a contributing author to Colin Spence and Michael Noel’s SharePoint 2010 Unleashed book for SAM’s.

I’ll presenting SharePoint Identity Crisis at SharePoint Saturday Arabia on 3/27. I am working on hitting the road to present as well to the Orlando User group. I also have a few speaking engagements that need to be confirmed.

Apart from my EndUserSharePoint.com articles, I have also been asked to write newsletter copy, do some training and instructional design for rapid eLearning tutorials.

The SharePoint Identity Crisis concept is also working its way into a White Paper and a curriculum for multi-session training package that I will be designing and incubating here in Florida for the spring and early summer to be ready for release and mid-summer and Fall.

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SharePoint Identity Crisis Part 3

To recap: We took the initial step to actually admit there is a crisis. Then we asked of ourselves and our organizations and realized that in concept and in SharePoint terms we can call this person the Business Super User or Super End User for the moment. There are four things this person does that pins them to this role and they are as follows.

* Think like the business
* Talk like IT
* Understand SharePoint
* Act on the improvements

While these four points may seem easy and straight forward enough but at a closer inspection they take a mix of time, passion and relationship building for one to reach mastery of all four. Depending on the size of your organization this quick list may be rather hard to map out and even harder to zero in on a person.

In large organizations thinking like the business may necessitate asking which line of business? For large enterprises that have many subcategories and departments you would need someone who understands the specifics of their particular world. And let’s face it in some industries it takes years to build up that foundation knowledge. IT, in of itself, may be divided to support each area or it may cover all of them. Small organizations are not excluded from such complexities. There IT may comprise of few people to support many and already the span of execution is challenged.

As we all know IT has its own language and that usually gets further diluted in context due to organizational dialects that prevail once you take a sub step within the business culture. There may be very well quite a few individuals who bridge the linguistic and culture divide. Perhaps a few tenured employees who were around to get roped into Y2K measures and any system upgrades and implementations may come to mind. But what do they know of SharePoint? Remember our CMS Watch Quote from the last article.

SharePoint, as we saw in our definition exercise, has a culture, language, methodology and tweeps all to its own. So there is an investment of time and R & D to be made for a person to understand this platform. This would include some if not all of the following:

* Non production time experimenting on SharePoint
* Training sessions on not only “Intro to SharePoint” materials but also any viable solution information from consultants to 3rd Party providers
* Constant researching on many valid blogs
* Following the SharePoint community via Twitter and events such as SharePoint Saturdays
* Attending Conferences and User Groups

This may seem like a lot of time to dedicate to one platform. After all many people don’t spend that much time in say MS Office to increase their knowledge, but the key here is that Office is more a line of Grab and Go products while SharePoint is a platform. This is something we will discuss in further detail later, but this brief example will serve for the moment.

Lastly, you need to have a person who is willing to act upon the knowledge, has the desire to improve as well as the drive to do this within an organization. This aspect has more to do with the character of a person. One who is willing to take on something that may not be part of their responsibility? SharePoint never gets dumped on people, right?

Either on the business itself by IT, as mentioned before, or simply onto a person who is not aware of the scope of the platform or the “silver bullet” expectations that may accompany it.

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SharePoint Identity Crisis Part 2

When we last left off we were contemplating where and who is this magic middle person: a project manager, the trainer, maybe a unit manager, perhaps a business analyst, or could it be a consultant?

I firmly believe that this role does not really have a firm title in most organizations yet. That has to do in large part with the lack of understanding of the functions it would perform or it has so many functions that the job req resembles more a department’s description. But as “SharePoint as a Platform” resonates more and more into the business and IT consciousness this role’s name will grow along with all other projections of SharePoint growth.

But for now it leaves us with an Impressionist view point, a little fuzzy but intriguing the same. But that is not entirety a bad thing. This will provide an opportunity for this person to define what it is they do, help set the goals and stimulate growth both for the individual and the organization.

So having said all that let’s get back to the real issue at hand, figuring out who you are.

To start off with you need to get your head around SharePoint. So what have you done? Read Microsoft marketing materials, perhaps sat thru some overview demos, maybe scanned a few blogs. You may have even read about how much people hate SharePoint. All these opinions and stabs at qualifying it are useful.

Now it’s your turn. A great exercise is to try the elevator speech approach. You know the one commonly referred to as describing yourself to someone in the time it takes to ride up a few floors.

Go ahead, try to define what SharePoint is in 20 words or less. For you Twitter addicts try it in 140 characters. I’ll even spot you the hash marks. Remember to be conversational about it, no need to over analyze or construct your answer.

A bit difficult isn’t it. Perhaps it may work better if you try to define what you want it to do for you right off the bat. Once you have that now try and do the same exercise but this time choose your words and concepts as an End User with no knowledge would. Then try it as IT and finally what would the key business driver say about SharePoint?

Position those separate definitions somewhere either on a screen, spreadsheet or just on paper to make sure you a have a perspective view of each. These silo’ed definitions will serve as launching pads and reference points once these paths begin to play together.

While doing my own similar research I came across the following quote. This quote in particular falls into the category, Practices Best to Avoid, that is hugely underserved in favor of his more streamlined and adjective/noun formatted brother.

SharePoint is not a product that can or should be “turned over to business” in a tactic conspiracy between IT and business units so they don’t bother each other.
CMS Watch’s 2009 SharePoint Report

If you have truly been honest when writing your four definitions you may be able to see the similarity to the quote above. It is here that you can see the walls of silos that in of itself can be used to address and define any number of technology based solutions that have nothing to do with SharePoint.

Back to my point earlier, the role really doesn’t exist on a hierarchy chart. Therefore let’s investigate what this person does as apposed to who in the organization’s directory it is. Instead let’s try asking different questions. Who is the one best fitted to address this definition gap? Who would be able to cross these thresholds to help communicate to each respective group the others view not to mention its goals and hopes?

In concept and in SharePoint terms we can call this person the Business Super User for the moment. There are four things this person does that pins them to this role and they do the following.

  • Think like the business
  • Talk like IT
  • Understand SharePoint
  • Act on the improvements

    In my next article I promise I’ll cut it with the questions and drill into these four points.

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    SharePoint Identity Crisis

    At a previous job my task was to manage Anti-terrorism training products. During the course of researching I stumbled upon an article that looked at a terrorist cell and posed an interesting question of “which one in the cell would be the best person to take out?” In other words stopping which person would cause the group to disintegrate. Is it the ideologue? Is it the actual person who carries out the fatal end? Is it the accountant who funds the operation?

    Oddly enough it wasn’t any of these roles. It was a sort of middle man who carried money, means and instructions from the buffers to upper end of leadership to the support people in the field cells. Ever since reading this I always keep this concept in mind.

    It wasn’t until I began using and propagating SharePoint usage that I saw the true model of this theory. As it has been mentioned in many blogs and white papers, SharePoint gets pushed from the top level decision makers, through IT and onto the end user without much guidance, thought or direction. The foremost flaw is the “not understanding” how SharePoint needs to be used for the Business at hand. Usually this knowledge does not lay with executive leadership, not with IT units who deploy it, and certainly not in the end user who is too busy performing to have to worry about how to translate it to their daily routine.

    Who then shuttles in between these groups? Who has the familiarly with all, yet remains objective of each. This is a person who can step all ways to gather the message of the ideal, the limits of IT operations and the environment of the executer. But what role or title do they hold?

    The middle man concept somewhat works but that refers more to the settling up both parties involved and exiting once the deal has been made. Our person guides, advises, evangelizes SharePoint and business.

    Where and who is this person? A project manager, the trainer, maybe a unit manager, perhaps a business analyst, or could it be a consultant?

    In the next installment of this series I will go further into this SharePoint Identity Crisis.

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    Grab and Go SharePoint Options

    The other day I was hungry and needed to eat. I didn’t have time nor desire to sit down and enjoy a full blown meal, yet I knew I didn’t want anything fast food. I needed to refill but didn’t want a poorer quality substitute. In a local market I found the grab and go case full of salads, soup, sushi, meats and vegetables. Not the one off quantity of a 4 course meal yet I had the options of one.

    Why can’t SharePoint the do the same?

    The scope of all things that SharePoint can offer an organization can be overwhelming. No wonder if not implemented correctly things can go from confusing to bad. Any implementation needs to be planned, discussed, phased and have governance. This is something we all know and have heard; yet still see not done. And that’s just the on the IT and business need level.

    Let’s not forget the human end user side of things. SharePoint may compete against resistance to change and other systems. Even though efficacy of effort and costs should be the decider, many times other factors come into play. You have to throw in the organization’s culture and political climate. Bad PR kills any initiative, SharePoint or not. So perhaps an inroad for SharePoint is to get its functionality out there a container at a time and not on a full blown implementation.

    Maybe instead of a winner take all mentality you need to think of partnerships. How can SharePoint help if accompanying a system, not replacing it?

    Case in point, a ton of money was spent last year for a client case and workflow tracking system where I work. Could SharePoint do the same with development? Possibly, but as a Super Business End User I am not at a position to suggest that especially in the face of the millions spent. But what I can do is look for what the system lacks and try to have SharePoint fill that need.

    What was missing was a clear and perspective view and access to support files such as procedures, FAQs or any other satellite support documentation. What the system did the support is url links.

    So why not grab and go so the user can grab and go? The solution was simple; provide a SharePoint library. Just like large implementations take forethought so should small ones. Instead of creating a library within an exiting site, why not create a new site and make that home page a web part library with few links outward. Users would reference when needed to satisfy that need. The grab and go case/site is still full and waiting for its next grab and go functionality option.

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    SharePoint Training Solution Pulse Check

    Ever since organizing SharePoint Saturday in Tampa. I have been really getting hit up with training requests and inquires about what else we can do in Florida… A bunch of what, how, and even why to train.

    Well time to let technology take it’s part. Please feel free to

    to help me organize.

    Posted in Learning, SharePoint | 1 Comment

    Confessions of the SharePoint Saturday Tampa Organizer…..

    I suppose people step up and take on things like this for various motives: community altruism, profit or in my case a challenge from my wonderful wife. I work in an industry that has been hit very hard by the last few years’ circumstances. In fact people say my industry caused it all.

    Anyways, as many of you have encountered, there are scant few dollars in the coffers to dedicate to training. Even though SharePoint is a major investment by my firm there were few options available to truly push the knowledge envelope. So complaining to my wife about this one night she told me to do something about it.

    As a daily visitor to EUSP and sometime contributor I had seen the SharePoint Saturday events in all the usual larger market cities. So I did what any one in a bad mood would do, I waited till someone else put one together. Surely someone will want to hold one in spring time in Florida. Well when spring came and went, I contacted the organizers of other cities in to find out when the Florida one was going to happen.

    They were quick and courteous in their responses, “Whenever you are ready to coordinate one.” It was here that the “why not” moment hit and I soon found myself having to cross the first major task, setting a date.

    In my case it would have to be either before or after SPC. Naivety did strike as I first chose the week just before and the right week after SPC. Once I realized this I soon began think in the terms of how to get the best lineup possible.

    Here comes the first bit of advice…Use your city’s draw to help the Out of Towner’s want to come not only to SharePoint Saturday, but to your neck of the woods. In my case, I knew I wanted to do one in early to late fall 2009, before the holidays. Florida in mid-November is perfect for anyone wanting to get one last shot of clear skies, a sunset or maybe a day at the beach in before fall and winter set in. I figured there would still be enough post SPC enthusiasm allowing all those speakers who were bound to silence to be free to speak about 2010. So 11.14.09 was set.

    While deciding the date I contacted the local Microsoft Office and soon found a great person on the other line in Shara Szott, her first name alone was already a welcoming sign. So within days the location and date were secured.

    I was then supplied with the keys to the SharePoint Saturday Site and my next big contact, John Ross at SharePoint 911. John and I soon began to divide and conquer. John and Michael Lotter provided me with the contact information for sponsors and speakers alike and I happily began corresponding and coordinating.

    So while filling the site with content, I began, via Twitter and LinkedIn, announcing the calls for speaker and sponsor alike. I have to admit it was really surprised to get so much input right off the bat. Within a three week span I had great SharePoint names like RepliWeb, Quest Software, Sogeti, Knowledge Lake, and Critical Path. They would soon be followed by AvePoint, Mimosa Systems, Metalogix, Catapult Systems, Kforce, Microsoft, O’Reilly, Pearson Education, Innovative-e, Inc., Software FX and Kiiro. Full list here.

    And that is just the sponsors, on the heels of the sponsors I had accumulated a great list of SharePoint speakers, only to be followed and supported by others. Here is a complete list. This was a really great time, the buzz of something happening. Support was coming in steadily and it validated the point of doing it in the first place.

    In mid September I began to firm up all the catering and other deliverables that I needed to set up. I must admit it was a great deal of emails, checking proofs, updating documents/site and phone calls, but it was the part I liked best; meeting people via contacts, tweeting with them, all the while looking forward to seeing them in person.

    No man is an island, so even though I logistically had it all together I soon brought the one person who caused all this, my wife, into the picture. Sure planning is all well and good but execution needs to be done in tandem. And when the boxes of materials and the prepping of rooms and bags came, I soon found myself side by side with the one person I love spending time with.

    The weekend of the event came and was a hit. The great thing was I had a feeling it would be at the Speaker dinner and it only took a few hours later at registration to get full confirmation. The rest of the day was merely icing on the cake.

    I’d like to thank all the speakers who made the event a great experience as well as the sponsors and Microsoft. All the effort was well worth it. SharePoint Saturdays are really special events. They provide an outlet for information and networking without the hustle and bustle of busier conferences. It’s now two weeks out and I still miss seeing emails coming in and people being so excited to participate. I for sure will do one again and I would recommend organizing an event to anyone that wants to receive nothing but a positive experience.

    Instead of wind bagging on I have included a bit of pointers to anyone wanting to step forward.

    • Get your date early
    • Get a online event registration space, i.e. http://www.clicktoattend.com/
    • Take the Friday before off from work
    • Hit Twitter and LinkedIn (SharePointers love to tweet!)
    • Realize that a no-show rate is going to affect the catering and deliverables numbers, so over extend the true number you can handle. We had about 20% fall off.
    • Keep content tracks open and try to space them so people can attend as much of one as they can
    • Make sure to have a on-deck speaker list
    • Visit the site early on to make sure things such as chairs, tables, projectors and overall lay out work.

      MAKE SURE the A/C or HEAT will be on. Some venues such as offices will have those off on the weekends
      o Make sure you coordinate with security if necessary
      o Get access to an extra pack or two of bathroom supplies, again some venues are not equipped to have 100s of people there during the week much less the weekends
      • You’ll need to make sure sponsors have tables and resources, plugs and extension cords.
      • Keep a speakers lounge aside when planning space
      • Make sure there is internet access to all the speakers/sponsors
      • Get to the location early day of
      • Remember name tags, in fact print two sets, the second set is a great way to take attendance
      • Realize that all the running and organizing may cut into your session time
      • Have plenty of extra water bottles on hand.
      • Make sure to add a vegetarian option at lunch
      • Double check each and every shirt (speaker & attendee), bag, printed materials. Not just the proofs. Try to get them at least 2 weeks in advance
      • Have a drop off date for sponsor to send you materials, I’d use the Thursday before the event. The Friday before will be tough for you to make special trips
      • Try to get SharePint for afterwards, tons of fun!!
      • Try and meet as many sponsors in person if they have local reps
      • Get to know all the speakers possible at the Speaker dinner
      • Mix it up with the attendees day of, you’ll know if it is a success by their reaction at lunch time

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