Slacking & a story

I know I’ve been slacking on this whole blog challenge thing. CRM has been taking up more and more of my time along with SharePoint going gang busters. Not to mention it takes real effort to put blog posts (even 300 word posts) together. I have several fellow tech bloggers that I’m amazed at who can put together several stellar posts a week when I have trouble just getting one together.

Rob Collie – – is one of those bloggers in particular. He puts out 2-3 blogs A WEEK and they each are all excellent as far as I’m concerned. I had the opportunity to meet Rob at #SPC13 and he is as engaging and smart in person as he is on his blog. I even got the opportunity to have drinks with him and a whole host of Microsoft Program Managers. So the story goes like this . . .

On Monday morning of the SharePoint conference I get an e-mail from Steve: “Go have dinner with this guy,” along with a link to a blog post (LINK). I’d heard Rob’s name mentioned but never really followed his blog much or considered myself a PowerPivot expert by any stretch. I had spoken on PowerPivot in SharePoint and how to set it up, but as far as using it I felt I was still a relative n00b. But Steve is a smart guy and has never steered me wrong when it came to tech or drinking so I figured what the hey. Shot Rob an e-mail and heard back within an hour or two. Instructions for Wednesday night was to stroll on down to the Experts Exchange and then go with a group of Microsoft BI folks to dinner. Sounded pretty cool.

Monday and Tuesday flew by. On Wednesday I was starting to get pretty excited and anxious all at the same time. I may work on a BI team, but I was far from a BI expert. My advice to myself was “stick to what you know lest you sound like an idiot in front of people smarter than you.”

After the conference wrapped for the day I headed down to the Experts Exchange. This is a pretty cool event at the conference where Microsoft Program Managers, MVPs, and MCMs meet with conference attendees and answer their biggest questions. It was pretty sad that Microsoft BI only had 2 tables while other Products/Topics had far more. At the BI table was Rob and several other program managers: Diego and Kay (rhymes with Hi).

We started talking about PowerPivot and SharePoint and service architecture. It was immediately apparent to me that all 3 of the guys were beyond experts at this material: THEY DESIGNED IT. Diego was a Program Manager for the Excel team and Kai was a Program Manager for the SSAS team. Very smart, very cool dudes. They broke down the architecture of PowerPivot and SharePoint to its most basic level and even took time to answer my pitiful questions.

After Experts Exchange it was time for dinner. I figured the place would be PACKED. Went over to Red Square in Mandalay Bay and sat down with a small group of about 10 or so. Not what I was expecting. I figured the place would be full of people clamoring over each other to talk with Microsoft’s BI brain trust, but sadly it looked like I was the only Microsoft customer that took Rob up on his offer. I felt like Wayne and Garth at the Aerosmith concert. Rob sat next to me, across from me was Jen Underwood, and to my right was a Senior Program Manager on the Excel team. Holy sh^t! I was a simpleton among geniuses. I – sadly – did not catch everyone’s names and nor could I keep up with all the genius talk. It was just nice to sit there and be a fly on the wall while BI experts solved the world problems. Only here these folks did have the ability to solve the world’s problems. Pretty surreal if you ask me.

After a few hours the party’s attendees started to trickle out one by one. I was determined to be the last guy there. The folks at the other end of the table meandered down to me. Come to find out they figured it was only Microsoft employees and Rob at this thing. Astonishing how they didn’t think anyone would be interested in attending. Boy were they dead wrong.

Week of January 21 update (late)

Due to a publishing glitch this post didn’t make it out last week. So pretend it’s last week and we won’t have any problems. Winking smile

On Wednesday (January 23rd) I presented my SharePoint/Yammer Case Study presentation to the UW E-Business Consortium. I got some really interesting questions and folks seemed genuinely interested in what I was talking about.

One thing that struck me from the start was that many of the decision makers in the room – the folks that are responsible for setting the collaboration and social strategies at their organizations – don’t have Facebook or LinkedIn profiles. This is akin to your dentist not having gone to dental school. I can’t stress this enough: If you’re responsible for setting policy or direction on something at your organization you need to know something about the tool. The best way to learn these tools is to actually use them. There is no Easy button here.

That Dilbert comic pretty much sums it up…

Some other points that struck me:

  • Governance and Compliance is a big point for most – everyone is paralyzed by making a decision because they’re concerned things will get out of hand, or worse, no one will use the tools. Understandable but I’d say the concerns are generally overthought.
  • Cisco vs. Lync runs RAMPANT! A lot of organizations – mine included – are using Lync for IM but Cisco for all the other communication tools (tele-presence, phone, etc.). I think most people overlook Lync as a true Unified Comm tool.
  • Collaboration tools are being used by almost everyone, every where – at least it’s good to know we’re not stuck in the 1990’s anymore with Outlook and File Shares.
  • Confidential vs. Secure vs. “I-don’t want-you-to-know-what-I-know” is a pretty common theme – I even heard one organization utter the comment “We don’t want our internal competitors choosing a tool before we choose it.” Aren’t you all on the same team?!

At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat dealing with the same problems so you can at least take solace in the fact you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to take some calculated chances on these tools. Start small and work your way out. Never underestimate the power of the Proof-of-Concept.

#SPSSTL recap and other things

#SPSSTL (SharePoint Saturday St. Louis) was this past weekend. Very much a success. The more I go to these free events I realize just how important they are to the IT community. Both SharePoint and SQL offer these and they are absolutely worth their weight in gold. I hear the Windows Server folks are trying to start them too.

The benefits? Where do I start? First of all, they’re free. Doesn’t cost you more than your time and attention. Secondly, they feed you breakfast AND lunch. I guess there really is a free lunch in this life after all. Thirdly, you get to meet not only local talent, but you also get free access to many Microsoft MVP’s and taste-makers. Often times we look at some of these folks as absolute rock stars and we get to talk to them . . . for free! When was the last time you got to talk to Justin Bieber . . . for free?  Wait, what?

My session was entitled: Case Study: How SharePoint and Yammer shine together at Trek Bikes. I recapped all the things we’re doing at Trek to make SharePoint and Yammer work for folks. Really got down to some specific use cases and described the steps involved to go from point A to point B with each department. You can find my slides HERE. Overall, I had great attendance and the audience seemed to get in to what I was talking about. Got some awesome feedback and kudos so thank you all for that.

Several folks brought up an interesting point throughout Saturday. They don’t use Yammer at their workplace because it creates another place to save documents. Folks, odds are better than good that your workplace employs e-mail, public folders, shared drives, SharePoint, and individual workstations. That means people already have a number of places to save content. Adding Yammer will not add an exponential amount of complexity for information workers when it comes to saving things. Odds are they’re already complaining about the amount of places to save things. You can easily replace public folders with Yammer, and you may even be lucky enough to replace shared drives with SharePoint (I’m not that lucky…yet). Choosing not to deploy Yammer because it creates too many places to save documents is near-sighted and ignorant. Definitely a “throwing the baby out with the bath water” scenario. You’re dismissing all the social benefits that the tool provides just so you can make document management easier. IMHO, social takes precedence over document management. And since Yammer integrates so well with SharePoint’s search I highly recommend you rethink your approach on Yammer if you’ve avoided it up until now.

Some of the other sessions I attended were JWillie’s Rich vs. Reach presentation. Very interesting approach and very interesting topic. Felt much more conversation-ary and collegial. Would like to try that approach in the future. Jeff talked about how mobile is becoming more and more common and he shared some of the things Rightpoint is doing. Always cool to see how other companies are approaching this impending tidal wave.

Caught Bill Feldker and Benjamin Niaulin’s presentations on SharePoint 2013’s Search capabilities. You’ll need to completely change your way of thinking about SharePoint Search in 2013. An entirely new subset of SharePoint careers will be developed around Search in 2013. Just way too many good things to mention when it comes to Search. Both gentlemen did an outstanding job on their presentations. I seriously thought Tamara Bredemus’ head was going to explode during Benjamin’s talk. 

And finally, I caught Andy Milsark’s 2013 upgrade talk. Pretty amazing how far we’ve come in such a short time. The upgrade path from WSS 3.0 to MOSS was long, daunting, and scary, and that was just 5 years ago when people started doing that upgrade en masse. The SP2010 to SP2013 upgrade can be covered in an hour and realistically be accomplished in one day on small farms. Unbelievable.

I know I promised you the “greatest test environment since sliced bread,” but I’ve been busy with other things. I’ll try to get the first installment written this weekend.

#TechOnTap review

So that whole promise I made earlier in the week to write everyday? Yeah, didn’t work out so well. Sorry…

Yesterday I gave my PowerPivot presentation at #TechOnTap up in Appleton, WI. This is a very cool IT speaker series that takes place at the Stone Cellar Brewpub. I highly recommend both #TechOnTap and the Stone Cellar Brewpub. Together they’re an out-of-this-world experience.

Chuck Heinzelman started things off with a nice overview of Kerberos in SharePoint. The use case scenario was around SharePoint 2010 & SQL 2012 SSRS…something I’ve been testing off-and-on for the last 4-months or so. I’ve got it 90% of the way and (I’m hoping) Chuck filled in the remaining 10%. When I get a free minute in the next week or two (yeah right) I’ll see if I can finally fill in the remaining gaps and get Kerberos going all the way (blog post to follow that).

Rob Bogue was up next with an overview of Forms based authentication. I’ve been busy at work putting together an Internet site on SharePoint and I’ve had to blaze this trail before. Let’s just say it’s a somewhat confusing prospect. Rob is always an entertaining presenter.

Rick Fischer rounded things out with a talk on InfoPath. Nicely done overview of InfoPath’s functionality. There’s a lot of good stuff in the product and it can open up a lot of possibilities for an organization. In my mind, InfoPath is to SharePoint like Outlook is to Exchange.

I was the day’s headliner (i.e. I went last). Had some awesome questions from the audience. The demo always seems to blow minds. It’s that type of reaction that makes me enjoy speaking about PowerPivot.

Lunch was plentiful (sandwich bar) and the beer was even better. Did I forget to mention it was all you could drink? The next event will be in October and you can bet I’ll be attending. I hope to bring some of my Trek cohorts up there with me too.

Thanks to the 3 “brewmasters” for throwing #TechOnTap and inviting me to speak: Derek Schauland, Jes Borland, and Mark Cyrulik. Very cool people indeed. Went to dinner afterwards with Derek, Mark, and Tim Florek. Had a good time and learned even more that the Appleton area has an extremely tight-knit group of IT practitioners/users. It’s so refreshing to see a group root for each other so much. Madison has similar groups, but nothing consolidated and cohesive like they do up in Appleton. Awesome sauce.