So With my new role of SharePoint Administrator, I hope to do the following… inspire and empower my end users with SharePoint best practices and useful real-world tips that will help them harness their digital content, organize it in an easy to find and easy to use way. What better way to gather ideas for this journey than to go to a conference filled with subject matter experts conducting informative sessions and vendors with ground shaking apps? SharePoint Fest here I come!
The annual series SharePoint Fest is now in its 8th year running. There are three locations this year, Washington DC, Chicago and Seattle. I live in the beautiful Pacific NorthWest so Seattle will be the location that I attend. With hotel prices (even with conference pricing) starting at $289/night and a family at home, I decided to commute to it every day. Ugh. Yay! Ugh. Heh.
There are several different passes available. There are two days of just workshops followed by the three days of keynotes, sessions and vendor fair. You can choose to attend several combinations of days. I choose all five fun-filled days of SharePoint. Immersing my entire week in SharePoint goodness sounded like the best option being that it’s my first year as a full-time SharePoint Admin.
It’s now Tuesday afternoon. I’ve completed my workshops. We’re they great? YES! Would I recommend them? If you have a primary role with SharePoint in your organization (Site collection admin, executive, IT manager, SharePoint Admin, Information architect, communications, project manager) then yes, absolutely, these workshops are for you! Especially if you haven’t attended SharePoint Fest before or if it’s been a few years. Workshops are either partial day or full day. I happen to choose full day for both Monday and Tuesday.
Day 1: Accelerate SharePoint Success: How to Best Plan, Manage and Control Migration Projects”. Speaker: Dux Raymond Sy. He says that technical white papers, blogs, tutorials, videos regarding the technical “how-to” do this and that in SharePoint are readily available so he wanted to provide us with something we can’t easily look up. So his approach? Provide you with useful tips, meaningful concepts and thought provoking ideas that will feed your SharePoint migration strategy.
Day 2: Information Architecture 101: How to Structure and Organize an Awesome Intranet with Amazing User Experiences. Speaker: Susan Hanley. If there were a SharePoint list with a column titled Talent, I would value Susan as Wizard of Information Architecture. She is Beyond Best Practice. She effortlessly performs her ALL DAY workshop with barely a break, sharing all of her secrets (at least as much as she can within a limited amount of time). Unfortunately I had to leave about 30 min early to catch a ferry but she was still going strong when I left so I wouldn’t doubt it if she went on past 5 o’clock.
I left both of these workshops with so much great content. I’m really looking forward to applying my newfound knowledge.
Side topic: Wildfires. I have to mention how the wildfires are affecting Washington right now. There are wildfires in various areas of the US right now. This is typical in the summertime lately. The smoke from British Columbia is traveling down the Puget Sound and taking over our airspace. Elderly and children are urged to stay inside and many people are walking around with masks. This makes the walking from the ferry to the WA State Convention Center a slightly smoky experience. Check out this image from my ferry ride. And this wasn’t even the worst day.
And a few days later when the smoke finally lifted!
So today was day one of the main conference. I must confess I’m a little shocked at the low turnout. But then again I’m a tad spoiled. The last conference I attended was Cisco Live…. 30,000 attendees. I’m not sure what the attendee base is here today but I’m going to guess about a thousand. I counted roughly 800 seats in the Keynote this morning and there were many vacant seats. But not everyone goes to the Keynote so that’s why I guess a thousand. Update… looking back at this, I’m realizing why this isn’t a huge conference. It’s SharePoint, one product out of many that Microsoft produces. If I wanted a big conference like Cisco Live, then I would need to go to Microsoft Ignite which encompasses all Microsoft products. Now that I’ve reflected on this, the turnout is not that bad.
The food was pretty good I think. This morning I had Beecher’s cheese frittata, sausage and fruit. Accompanied by the darkest, richest, Starbucks suitable for a day filled with training sessions.
Ok, now that that’s aside. How was today? Good. Not as impeccable as the workshop days. But such great content. The keynote was good. I expected some music, I guess because several conferences I’ve been to have motivating music pumping into the room as people fill the seats. But not SharePoint Fest. Do they think don’t care about music? Can they not afford the music? Or maybe there are statistics that show music throws people off track and makes them less productive. Or maybe it’s too tough to come up with a compromising genre. Anywho, doesn’t matter.
Dan Holme was great. He happened to lose all of the demo’s that he had been recording for the last several weeks but if he hadn’t told us this, we wouldn’t have known. His on the fly demo’s went without a hitch. He showed us how Teams is tightly integrated with SharePoint and that there are endless innovative ways you can collaborate with the two tools together. He also gave us a short demo of Microsoft Stream, which I hadn’t heard of until today. Stream is a video streaming platform that allows you to search within your video via it’s facial recognition and transcript features. Imagine you are watching an hour long video of a keynote and you want to find the spot in the video where Dan mentions Stream. Simply, search for the keyword Stream and it will give you a list of all the points in the video where he mentions Stream. Click on one to jump to that spot in the video. Sweet huh? Throughout his demo he explained how important employee engagement is and how it drives performance. Did you know that globally, employee engagement is 15%, but at the best performing companies 70% of employees are engaged and profits are 21% higher?
Enabling even your first line workers is really important. When he was describing this, it reminded me of a book I recently read called The Ice Cream Maker. It’s an inspiring story about “making quality the key ingredient in everything you do”. This book goes on and on about employee engagement. Great short read. I highly recommend it if you need some encouragement and inspiring ideas to get things moving in your workplace.
Globally, employee engagement is 15%, but at the best performing companies 70% of employees are engaged and profits are 21% higher.
My focus today was Content Management. Columns, content types, managed metadata and a partridge in a pear tree. The following days were a mixture of data protection, search, user adoption, and data management. I’m not going to go into the details of my sessions because that would not be very helpful to you. But I would like to share some of the resources that I got out of this conference. Following are some links to blogs, white papers and tools that I collected from the sessions and vendors.
- Card Sorting: A Definitive Guide
- Optimal Workshop – online card sorting software
- Web Pages That Suck
- Best practices for a planning and building a modern digital intranet
- SharePoint Swoop – the intranet makeover show
- Should I Use A Carousel?
- Avoiding Ginormous Transaction Logs with SharePoint Databases
- No You’re Wrong, SharePoint Doesn’t Suck
- Origami Connect
Oh wait, I forgot to mention the vendors! So as with any conference, there are vendors trying to sell you products. All SharePoint products are software-based. At first I was a little surprised that hardware vendors weren’t there trying to sell us servers and storage infrastructure to house our SharePoint servers but then I remembered… Microsoft is driving us towards an Online environment. Why would they invite hardware vendors? That would defeat their goal. Well thank you to the innovative software vendors that sponsored the event and made us realize that some of our dreams are achievable. In addition to all of the swag handed out during the Expo, after lunch on the last day the host drew names and handed out a bunch of prizes. Ranging from a 32-inch TV to fancy headphones to $100 gift cards and even a giant blow-up pretzel. I didn’t win anything but I got some flashlights and beach balls for my kids and a super soft (thank you Microsoft cloud) t-shirt for my husband. Oh and I got a super-soft SharePoint Fest t-shirt for myself for Tweeting about the event. Bonus! And props to the SPFest marketing team for getting the t-shirts right. As opposed to many of the giveaway t-shirts I’ve collected over the years that are stiff and tight necked.
Will I go next year? Most likely. I learned a lot. And I’m sure I’ll learn even more over the next several months as I migrate our company from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2016 which will in turn provoke more questions that SPFest 2019 can answer for me.