#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.

#SPSSTL recap

I made a promise to myself to start writing a little everyday. Just 20 minutes every day to get something down on “paper.” I’m long out of writing practice and doing this will help a lot of things. But enough about that, let’s talk about SharePoint Saturday St. Louis!

My wife and I had originally planned to drive down Friday, but we came up with this wild idea to drive down Thursday night instead. So with the car packed and 2 little kids in tow, we left at 5:30 PM. Word to the wise… I don’t recommend starting a 7-hour car ride with two children under 2 that late. Everything went fine until hour 5, then all hell broke loose. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say my 11-month old had had enough of riding in the car. Family drama aside we made it fine to my father-in-laws just fine.

Friday night was the speaker’s dinner at the Moonrise Hotel. VERY nice. The food was fantastic, lots of new faces for me, and they even had an open bar. The more I go to these things the more I begin to notice that SharePoint Saturdays are very much a local thing. You’ll have the occasional speaker come from far away, but for the most part, the folks speaking and attending are local. Most of the folks I spoke to on both days thought it was crazy that I would come all the way from Wisconsin to attend #SPSSTL, but when I tell them my wife’s father-in-law lives close by they didn’t think I was so crazy.

On Saturday morning I noticed that my CloudShare environment PowerPivot wasn’t refreshing correctly. I spent 95% of Danny Jessee’s presentation on Facebook, Cloud, and SharePoint in the back of the room trying to fix things. By the 1-hour mark I decided to go with my backup environment. Wasn’t difficult to get up and running, but the whole ordeal was a HUGE pain. From what I did see of Danny’s presentation it was pretty slick.

Next presentation was Virgil Carroll’s on Information Architecture in SharePoint. Honestly, this guy could enthrall me just by reading the phone book. I saw him last year at the Twin Cities SharePoint Saturday and he was awesome. If you get a chance to see him I highly recommend it if for nothing else to see his presentation style.

Lunch. I was too busy talking to vendors that the catering vendor (St. Louis Bread Company; Panera to those folks who live outside the area) ran out of box lunches. So I was stuck with a bagel for lunch. Oh well.

Next up was Enrique Lima’s presentation on SQL best practices. SQL is still very much black magic to me in some ways and Enrique removed some of that mysticism for me. You can check out his presentation HERE.

The last session I saw before mine was Todd Kitta’s BI presentation. Now I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t nervous that he would cover every point in my presentation. Thankfully he did not (whew!). Probably the best part of the weekend for me was when he covered Power View from a 100K ft level. I haven’t had a chance to test it yet in my own dev environments so it was nice to get a view of it. I didn’t know that Power View and PowerPivot work pretty closely with one another (i.e. you can take a working PowerPivot and turn it in to a Power View report). I was also curious to find out how you build Power View reports. I was somewhat disappointed to learn that there is yet another app needed to build Power Views; however, it’s all browser based and it’s pretty simple to use. So I’d call that a wash. Good job Todd!

Finally it was time for my presentation. I learned a valuable lesson right from the start of my presentation. When presenting to SQL Saturday’s, the title “Demystifying PowerPivot from the SharePoint Admin’s perspective” means something entirely different than it does to a SharePoint Saturday audience. Had about 12 or so people come. Not bad, but definitely not standing room only like it was at SQL Saturday back in April. My presentation caters to just about anyone, but the folks who did come appeared to get a fair amount of information out of it. At the #SharePint afterwards I talked to a couple of folks who – once I gave them the background on my presentation – were bummed they missed it. Definitely violated the first rule of anticipating your audience. I guarantee I won’t make that mistake again. Any ideas on a new title?

Overall, I had a good time in St. Louis. #SharePint was held at Moonrise again up on their rooftop bar. Certainly a hidden gem in St. Louis that I would recommend to anyone visiting STL this summer. You can find my slides to my presentation at the following: PowerPivotSPSSTL.pptx. Thanks!