If your Organisation uses SharePoint, or is thinking of doing so, the May NetIKX seminar was just what the doctor ordered!
The first speaker was Nathanial Suda and his talk followed a tight format: first he discussed MicroSoft’s Sharepoint road map, then he looked at probable future trends and finally gave some examples of SharePoint in action. All of this was accompanied by a rather fine set of slides, which can be seen on the members part of the NetIKX website. He explained that he himself not only works as an implementer for SharePoint, but is also a senior technology partner with MicroSoft, and so has a role providing feedback so that they can learn from user experience.
He asked the audience to identify which of us are currently using Sharepoint and what they were using. There was a variety of users of different versions, and also many people who were not in organisations that use SharePoint and just wanted to learn more about it. He certainly helped us understand the different versions available and how they interrelate. The trend has been towards Cloud rather than on-line versions, but he explained that the hybrid model which gave users a choice would still be available for a while. Although Cloud was gaining ground with users, there were no plans to shut down other versions yet. He believed that integrating the different options within the various versions was currently the appropriate strategy.
He identified what new offerings were currently available. One of his examples was ‘Delve’, a system that identified who each user worked with regularly so it could customise views to match this. No longer would a worker be hobbled by the organisational organogram. Collaboration would be supported on a much more practical basis, through the growth of ‘machine learning’ potential. MicroSoft’s vision was that the most recent version of Sharepoint would form a foundation, on which many more functions could be built. The exciting prospect of more integrated systems and innovative new applications was the hope for the future.
Nathanial then drew on his wide experience to discuss individual cases that he had worked with, so we could see the different ways that this one software could be used. We could see that different organisations could use this one software in many very different way for different purposes. It was a valuable talk that gave us a clear idea of the vision and road map that the powerful minds at MicroSoft are working towards.
In contrast the second speaker, Cerys Hearsey had her feet firmly on the ground, looking directly at the practical problems of implementing and managing the potential of a SharePoint system. She told us she had helped with the implementation of Sharepoint in over 70 organisations, and as she was a delightfully lively speaker, her expansive knowledge meant she could give us a glimpse into the difficulties as well as the successes of organising and setting up organisational wide collaboration systems. Hearing her gave comfort to those of us who have struggled with SharePoint. It is not necessarily simple!
Nevertheless, she had a clear and optimistic message. The system can provide amazing potential to users. Scenarios, personas and other methods can be used to answer fundamental questions such as: What is the user trying to achieve? What organisational capacity has to be developed? What will make the business different, so that real benefits can be established and measured. The software in use would only be as good as the care and skill with which it is introduced.
She provided interesting analysis on collaboration, talking in particular about the tie up of Yammer and SharePoint. Do you need real time collaboration, asynchronous sharing, or anytime collaboration as learning is stored and made accessible? It is essential to be clear about the precise benefits required, how the system can deliver them and the user behaviour required to harvest these benefits. She asked the audience for their own example, so that we could think about the relevance of human intervention is sharing learning or whether automation could be appropriate. We also looked at security issues and the impact on implementations.
One interesting message was that ‘failed’ SharePoint implementations were likely to be based on failures in the way the organisation worked, with weaknesses in structures, culture and behaviour stymying the wishful thinking of the planners. SharePoint is not the superhero to make organisational weaknesses vanish. But with the right questions asked, it can be a highly effective system for the organisation that is clear what it wants to achieve and the organisational changes that are required to support that.
Our Seminar sessions picked up on some of the issues raised. This is the highlight of the meeting for some of our members as it is wonderful to share with others doing similar work to you. or to learn from people pressing forward ahead of you. And make new contacts and friends. At the end of the meeting everyone gave feedback and the response was enthusiastic. There was one request to NetIKX for the future. Can we provide reading suggestions to complement the sessions? We will certainly try – watch this space…
If you work with SharePoint or your organisation is thinking of moving this way, don’t plough ahead all alone. There is so much useful experience out there. A tape of these talks, and the set of slides are available on our website for NetIKX members. (Unfortunately, we cannot make this available to all as there are copyright issues). But as a member, for only £60 you can access this material and a large store of information from other past events. Oh, and as a bonus, members can attend all the other meetings we hold for the coming year. Hope to see you at a NetIKX meeting soon!