Archive for SharePoint

San Francisco conference schedule and program

We’ll be posting the speakers over the next few days, but you can now see the program schedule as well as the conference session descriptions, and the pre-conference workshops. Also, registration is open.

Conference topics for Gilbane San Francisco – Updated

Though we are still catching our breath from the Boston conference and the holidays, it is time to get moving on our annual San Francisco conference, which the 3rd week of May this year. The conference site is http://gilbanesf.com, is still mostly populated with 2009 information, but will be updated this week with a new site design and current information. Content from the 2009 event is at http://gilbanesf.com/09/ will be moved to a subdirectory and continue to be available.

In the meantime, The description below is taken from the draft site and will give you a good idea of the topics we’ll be covering. If you are interested in submitting a speaking proposal, remember that the deadline for submissions is January 18. See https://gilbane.com/speaker_guidelines.html.

Oh, and the Twitter handle is http://twitter.com/gilbanesf and the hashtag we’ll be using is #gilbanesf.

Gilbane San Francisco 2010

Web, content, and collaboration technology have reached a new level of maturity. This is true in terms of technology, but more importantly, it is true in terms of what businesses expect to be able to do with these tools. Web and enterprise content management permeate every aspect of an organization. Public facing internet sites are the front door to an organizations’ products and services, and where customers, partners and investors engage with the corporate brand and develop perceptions. Internal websites, whether in the form of intranets, blogs, wikis, or portals, provide knowledge workers increasingly efficient ways to collaborate and share knowledge. Customer and internal-facing applications share requirements that call for a number of enterprise content, publishing and infrastructure technologies, such as multi-lingual, social media, search, and integration software.

Gilbane San Francisco is organized into four tracks so that whether you are responsible for marketing, IT, a business unit, or an internal function, you will be able to easily navigate among the conference sessions. If you are responsible for customer-facing business activities start with the Customers & Engagement track, and then add appropriate sessions from the Content Technology & Content Publishing tracks. If your role is focused on internal collaboration, knowledge sharing or support activities, start with the Colleagues & Collaboration track, and supplement it with sessions from the technology & publishing tracks.

Track 1: Customers & Engagement
Corporate websites are now the most important public face of an organization, and the best way to grow, and communicate with, a broader customer base. Successful sales and marketing now requires Web sites that can reach a global audience, a mobile audience, and an audience familiar with social media and used to richer media. Websites also need to be findable, accessible, engaging, real-time & responsive, and have accurate and timely information that is synchronized with other channels. This is a tall order, but it is what your customers expect, and what companies are building.

Attendees:
For anyone responsible for marketing, business, or technical aspects of public facing websites, including, sales & marketing, digital marketing, brand managers, business units with P&L, Web strategists, IT, Web managers, business managers, digital media, e-commerce managers, content managers and strategists.

Topics:
Web content management, analytics, web design and UI, social media, rich media, global reach, multilingual practices, personalization, information architecture, designing for mobile, e-commerce, search engine optimization.

Track 2: Colleagues & Collaboration
Well-designed internal websites for collaboration on projects or operational activities, whether in the form of intranets, portals, blogs, or wikis are critical for supporting modern corporate missions. Social software has reignited interest in enhancing employee collaboration and knowledge sharing, and the right use of social software, alone or combined with an intranet or portal, is a competitive requirement. Employees already use it, and expect it, and can be much more productive with it. While some business use-cases are obvious, companies are a long way from having enough experience to know how best to integrate and deploy different types of social software to best support business requirements.

Attendees:
For anyone responsible for internal websites, portals, collaboration & knowledge sharing activities, including, knowledge managers, product managers, project managers, IT, and content managers.

Topics:
Collaborative authoring, intranets, knowledge management, search, wikis, micro-blogging and blogging, managing social and user-generated content, integrating social software into enterprise applications, SharePoint, portals, social software platforms, enterprise 2.0 strategies.

Track 3: Content Technology
There are many different technologies involved in building web and enterprise content applications. Some of them are simple and some complex, some are open source and some are commercial, some are available via license, some as a service, some are ready for prime time, some aren’t, and some might be ready, but are controversial.

Attendees:
For those who are either responsible for technology decisions, or those who need to keep up-to-speed with the latest technology for enterprise content applications of all types, including, central IT, departmental IT, strategists, and managers who need to know what’s possible and what’s coming.

Topics:
Multi-lingual technologies and applications, XML, standards, integration, content migration, mobile, search, open source, SaaS, semantic technologies, social software, SharePoint, XBRL, and relevant consumer technologies.

Track 4: Content Publishing
Multi-channel publishing has been a goal of many organizations for years, but it is now more important than ever – and not that much easier. In addition to more traditional print and web channels, smartphones, e-book readers, other mobile devices, and even “in-product” displays need to be considered. In addition to more channels, there are more media types to manage. Dynamic publishing is a key business requirement for both single and multi-channel delivery.

Attendees:
For those responsible for content creation, management, and multi-channel/multi-lingual publishing, IT and others that need to learn about publishing technology because of new multi-channel demands, including corporate or commercial publishers, content managers, digital asset managers, documentation managers, and information architects.

Topics:
Multi-channel publishing, multi-lingual publishing, e-books, tablets, mobile, digital rights, digital asset management, documentation, structured content, XML, dynamic publishing, and publishing business models.

Observations from Gilbane Boston 2009

The 2009 version of the Gilbane Boston conference was held last week. It was the second one I have attended and my first as a track coordinator (I designed the Collaboration and Social Software track and made it happen.) The event was well attended (c. 1100 people) and the number of sponsors and exhibitors was up significantly from last year’s Boston conference. Many of the sessions I attended offered valuable insights from speakers and audience members. All in all, I would label the conference a success.

The Collaboration and Social Software track sessions were designed to minimize formal presentation time and encourage open discussion between panelists and audience members instead. Each session focused on either a common collaboration challenge (collaborative content authoring, content sharing, fostering discussions, managing innovation) or on a specific technology offering (Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Google Wave.) The sessions that dealt with specific technologies produced more active discussion than those that probed general collaboration issues. I am not sure why that was the case, but the SharePoint and Wave sessions spawned the level of interactivity that I had hoped for in all the panels. The audience seemed a bit reticent to join in the others. Perhaps it took them a while to warm up (the SharePoint and Wave sessions were at the end of the track.)

Here are some other, high level observations from the entire Gilbane Boston 2009 conference:

Twitter: Last year (and at Gilbane San Francisco in June 2009) attendees were buzzing about Twitter, wondering what it was and how it could be used in a corporate setting. This year the word “Twitter” was hardly uttered at all, by presenters or attendees. Most audience members seemed to be fixated on their laptop or smartphone during the conference sessions, but the related tweet stream flow was light compared to other events I’ve attended this quarter. The online participation level of folks interested in content management seems to mirror their carbon form patterns. Most are content to listen and watch, while only a few ask questions or make comments. That is true across all audiences, of course, but it seemed especially pronounced at Gilbane Boston.

SharePoint 2010: This topic replaced Twitter as the ubiquitous term at Gilbane Boston. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “SharePoint” at the conference, I would be able to buy a significant stake in Microsoft! Every company I consulted with during the event was seeking to make SharePoint either their primary content management and collaboration platform, or a more important element in their technology mix. Expectations for what will be possible with SharePoint 2010 are very high. If Microsoft can deliver on their vision, they will gain tremendous share in the market; if not, SharePoint may well have seen its zenith. Everything that I have heard and seen suggests the former will occur.

Google Wave: This fledgling technology also generated substantial buzz at Gilbane Boston. The session on Wave was very well attended, especially considering that it was the next-to-last breakout of the conference. An informal poll of the session audience indicated that nearly half have established a Wave account. However, when asked if they used Wave regularly, only about 20% of the registered users responded affirmatively;. Actual participation in the Wave that I created for attendees to take notes and discuss the Collaboration track online underscored the poll results. Most session attendees said they see the potential to collaborate differently, and more effectively and efficiently, in Wave, but cited many obstacles that were preventing them from doing so at this time. Audience members agree that the Wave user experience has a long way to go; functionality is missing and the user interface and features that are there are not easy to use. Most attendees thought Wave’s current shortcomings would be improved or eliminated entirely as they product matures. However, many also noted that collaboration norms within their organization would have to change before Wave is heavily adopted.

Open Source: This was the hot topic of the conference. Everyone was discussing open source content management and collaboration software. An informal poll of the audience at the opening keynote panel suggested that about 40% were using open source content management software. Many of the other attendees wanted to learn more about open source alternatives to the proprietary software they have been using. Clients that I met with asked questions about feature availability, ease of use, cost benefits, and financial viability of providers of open source content management and collaboration software. It was clear that open source is now considered a viable, and perhaps desirable, option by most organizations purchasing enterprise software.

My big take-away from Gilbane Boston 2009 is that we are experiencing an inflection point in the markets for enterprise content management and collaboration software. Monolithic, rigid, proprietary solutions are falling out of favor and interest in more lightweight, flexible, social, open source offerings is rapidly growing. I expect that this trend will continue to manifest itself at Gilbane San Francisco in June 2010, and beyond.

SharePoint 2010 – The Big Story

I spent a couple of days at the SharePoint conference two weeks ago with about 8000 others. Many attendees were customers, but the majority seemed to be Microsoft partners. It would be difficult to overstate the enthusiasm of the attendees. The partners especially, since they make their living off SharePoint. There has been a lot of useful reporting and commentary on the conference and what was announced as part of SharePoint 2010, which you can find on the web, #spc09 is also still active on Twitter, and videos of the keynotes are still available at: http://www.mssharepointconference.com.

As the conference program and commentary illustrate, SharePoint 2010 is a major release in terms of functionality. But the messaging surrounding the release provides some important insights into Microsoft’s strategy. Those of you who were at Gilbane San Francisco last June got an early taste of Microsoft’s plans to push beyond the firewall with SharePoint – and that is the big story. It is big because it is a way for Microsoft to accelerate an already rapidly growing SharePoint business. It is big for a large number of enterprises (as well as the SharePoint developer/partner ecosystem) because it is a way for them to leverage some of their existing investment in SharePoint for building competitively critical internet applications – leverage in expertise, financial investment, and data.

The numbers are telling. According to an IDC report Microsoft Office and SharePoint Traction: An Updated Look at Customer Adoption and Future Plans, IDC # 220237, October 2009, of "262 American corporate IT users, just 8% of respondents said they were using SharePoint for their Web sites, compared to 36% using it for internal portals and 51% using it for collaborative team sites." (the report isn’t free, but ComputerWorld published some of the numbers).

Can Microsoft increase the use of SharePoint for Web sites from 8% to 36% or 51% or more? Whether they can or not, it is too big an opportunity for them to ignore, and you can expect the market for web applications like content management to look a little different as a result. Of course SharePoint won’t be the right solution for every web application, but Microsoft needs scale, not feature or market niche dominance.

There are more pieces to this, especially integration with Office 2010, which will have a major impact on the scale of penetration. We’ll look at that issue in another post.

You can see why SharePoint is a major topic at Gilbane Boston this year. Join us next month to continue the discussion and learn more.

SharePoint 2010 – Get the Full Story

With the upcoming release of SharePoint 2010 "The business collaboration platform for the Enterprise and the Web", Microsoft is hoping to accelerate the already dramatic growth of SharePoint. The SharePoint partner ecosystem is clearly excited, and even sceptics agree it is a major release. But how do you decide whether SharePoint is right for you, or which parts of SharePoint could meet your needs, either on their own or in conjunction with other enterprise applications? Should you use it for collaboration? for search? and what about web content management – a major focus of SharePoint 2010?

With SharePoint 2010 just entering public beta and scheduled for release in the first half of the year, it is time to make sure you know what its capabilities are so you can make informed near term or strategic decisions. And, you need to get the full story, and the way to do this is to see it for yourself, and talk to sceptics, evangelists, and people already using it for applications similar to yours.

Whether you are attending the full conference or just visiting the technology demonstrations at Gilbane Boston, you will be able to learn what you need to know. Get the full story on SharePoint 2010 for content management at Gilbane Boston:

SharePoint – Migrating the Office Franchise to the Web

Microsoft has a lot to lose if they are unable to coax customers to continue to use and invest in Office.  Google is trying to woo people away by providing a complete online experience with Google Docs, Email, and Wave.  Microsoft is taking a different tact.  They are easing Office users into a Web 2.0-like experience by creating a hybrid environment, in which people can continue to use the rich Office tools they know and love, and mix this with a browser experience.  I use the term Web 2.0 here to mean that users can contribute important content to the site. 

SharePoint leverages Office to allow users to create, modify, and display "deep[1]" content, while leveraging the browser to navigate, view, discover, and modify "shallow[1]" content.  SharePoint is not limited to this narrow hybrid feature set, but in this post I  examine and illustrate how Microsoft is focusing its attention on the Office users.  The feature set that I concentrate on in this post is referred to as the "Collaboration" portion of SharePoint.  This is depicted in Microsoft’s canonical six segmented wheel shown in Figure 1.  This is the most mature part of SharePoint and works quite well, as long as the client machine requirements outlined below are met.

 

 Figure 1: The canonical SharePoint Marketing Tool – Today’s post focuses on the Collaboration Segment

Preliminaries:   Client Machine Requirements

SharePoint out-of-the-box works well if all client machines adhere to the following constraints:

  1. The client machines must be running Windows OS (XP, Vista, or WIndows 7)
    NOTE: The experience for users who are using MAC OS, Linux, iPhones, and Google phones is poor. [2]
  2. The only truly supported browser is Internet Explorer (7 and 8.) [2]
    NOTE: Firefox, Safari, and Opera can be used, but the experience is poor.
  3. The client machines need to have Office installed, and  as implied by bullet 1 above, the MAC version of Office doesn’t work well with SharePoint 2007.
  4. All the clients should have the same version of Office.  Office 2007 is optimal, but Office 2003 can be used.  A mixed version of Office can cause issues.
  5. A number of tweaks need to be made to the security settings of the browser so that the client machine works seamlessly with SharePoint. 

I refer to this as a "Microsoft Friendly Client Environment."

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[1] The terms "deep" and "shallow" are my creation, and not a standard.  By "deep" content I am referring to the complex content such as a Word documents (contracts, manuscripts) or Excel documents (complex mathematical models, actuarial models, etc…)

[2] Microsoft has addressed this by stating that SharePoint 2010 would support some of these environments.  I am somewhat skeptical. 

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Integration of Social Software and Content Management Systems: The Big Picture

Jive Software’s announcement last week of the Jive SharePoint Connector was met with a "so what" reaction by many people. They criticized Jive for not waiting to make the announcement until the SharePoint Connector is actually available later this quarter (even though pre-announcing product is now a fairly common practice in the industry.) Many also viewed this as a late effort by Jive to match existing SharePoint content connectivity found in competitor’s offerings, most notably those of NewsGator, Telligent, Tomoye, Atlassian, Socialtext, and Connectbeam.

Those critics missed the historical context of Jive’s announcement and, therefore, failed to understand its ramifications. Jive’s SharePoint integration announcement is very important because it:

  • underscores the dominance of SharePoint in the marketplace, in terms of deployments as a central content store, forcing all competitors to acknowledge that fact and play nice (provide integration)
  • reinforces the commonly-held opinion that SharePoint’s current social and collaboration tools are too difficult and expensive to deploy, causing organizations to layer third-party solution on top of existing SharePoint deployments
  • is the first of several planned connections from Jive Social Business Software (SBS) to third-party content management systems, meaning that SBS users will eventually be able to find and interact with enterprise content without regard for where it is stored
  • signals Jive’s desire to become the de facto user interface for all knowledge workers in organizations using SBS

The last point is the most important. Jive’s ambition is bigger than just out-selling other social software vendors. The company intends to compete with other enterprise software vendors, particularly with platform players (e.g. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP), to be the primary productivity system choice of large organizations. Jive wants to position SBS as the knowledge workers’ desktop, and their ability to integrate bi-directionally with third-party enterprise applications will be key to attaining that goal.

Jive’s corporate strategy was revealed in March, when they decreed a new category of enterprise software — Social Business Software. Last week’s announcement of an ECM connector strategy reaffirms that Jive will not be satisfied by merely increasing its Social Media or Enterprise 2.0 software market share. Instead, Jive will seek to dominate its own category that bleeds customers from other enterprise software market spaces.

The SharePoint Backend- What are the Headaches – What are the benefits

As I pointed out in my first post (SharePoint: Without the Headaches – A Discussion of What is Available in the Cloud,) you don’t necessarily need to host SharePoint in your own organization.  Although I believe that most businesses should focus on leveraging the front end of SharePoint to its full extent, it is important for non-technical users to have an understanding of what it takes to host SharePoint and why one might want to do so.  Therefore, this post provides a discussion of what it takes to host SharePoint and the driving factors for hosting SharePoint.

 

Microsoft’s original intent was to build a tool that was easy to leverage by non-technical users.  Microsoft thought of this as the natural extension of Office to the web[1].  That being said, the complexities got away from Microsoft, and in order to leverage a number of features one needs access to the back end.

Before delving into the SharePoint back end, let me point out that many businesses hire SharePoint development staff, both permanent and on a consulting basis. I think that developing custom SharePoint code should be done only after thoroughly justifying the expense.  It is often a mistake.  Instead, organizations should clearly define their requirements and then leverage a high quality third party add-on.  I will mention some of these at the end of the post.

SharePoint is a fragile product and therefore custom code for SharePoint is very expensive to develop, test, and deploy. Furthermore, custom code often needs to be rewritten when migrating to the next release of SharePoint.  Finally, SharePoint is a rapidly growing product, and chances are good that custom code may soon become obsolete by new features in the next generation.

In my first post, I pointed out that inexpensive SharePoint hosting options are available in the cloud. These options tend to be limited.  For example, the inexpensive rentals do not provide much security, only provide WSS (not MOSS), and do not allow one to add third party add-ins.  It is possible to lease custom environments that don’t surrender to any of these limitations, but they come at a cost.  (Typically starting at $500 per month[2].)  I believe that robust MOSS offerings with third party add-ons will be available at competitive prices within two years. 

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[1] SharePoint is developed by the Office division.

[2] For example, FPWeb offers a SharePoint hosted environment with the CorasWorks Workplace Suite included starting at $495 per month.

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