SharePoint and the emergence of the Data Scientist

SharePoint and the emergence of the Data Scientist

As the use of content management systems evolve with users adding more, ahem, “content”, the organizations accountable for those content systems will need to ensure that they build in people resources who can manage that content, and particularly people who can find insights in that content for the benefit of the organization.

Business intelligence requirements and implementations are growing faster than ever before, particularly due to the rise of cloud computing and more cloud services. There is now much more pressure on ensuring that customer interactions are tracked as a key aspect of business intelligence data gathering. This is one of the most critically important ways of working out the value that cloud services provide.

The blog article has been written for TechNet and is available on this link.

Don’t miss MVP led TechDays Online!

Don’t miss MVP led TechDays Online!

On the 20th, 21st and 22nd February for the first Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) led TechDays Online of 2017. On day one, MVPs and community leaders will delve into the World of Mobile Development, BOTs and Data Science followed by day two, where MVPs from around the Globe will share their knowledge of cross platform development on Microsoft Azure. Day three will end this online event with a look to the future with Blockchain, Quantum Computing and Deep Learning. As always, each session will be led by MVPs from the UK and across the World, along with Microsoft Technical Evangelists.  It is a three day online event ‘not to be missed’.  The full agenda will be published in early January 2017, and each day will begin at 10.00am and end at 4.00pm. All MVP led sessions will appear live on Channel 9 and please register your interest here. Below is a snippet and schedule of the event.

7 ways of identifying a Super-Duper SharePoint Support Person

Look through the job advertisements for any online job site or computer journal for an indicator of what most organizations seems to regard as a key attribute of SharePoint support staff. The need, desire, and hunt for technical knowledge seems to jump out at you from the pages. I have seen advertisements for SharePoint members that reads like a list of SharePoint third party products and affiliated integrated Microsoft products. The closest match of the candidate to that list is the first step towards being interviewed.

Indeed, even Microsoft seems to lay great store by this. Microsoft provides a range of qualifications which can be pursued. These qualifications become a marketable commodity; a SharePoint support person whose technical competence is measured by a Microsoft endorsed certificate commands a higher salary and is in greater demand than one whose ability is not so endorsed. In fact, an entire market is already in operational to provide Microsoft recognised training courses, with a range of quality, pace and price to suit most pockets.

This makes me suspicious about the training courses just mentioned. Of course, they create some kind of measure of a support person’s technical knowledge, and that is a useful aid for an organisation seeking to employ a proven SharePoint support individual. However, a Microsoft certificate is rarely a true indicator of real knowledge. It is an indicator of the individual to get through the relevant training programme. Additionally, the knowledge learnt is transient. In six months, Microsoft will probably have another version of the relevant product. In two years, the product may well look and operate very differently to when the original course was taken. Nevertheless, the certificate will still be valid even if what it is being measured against is no longer valid.

With certification programmes, SharePoint software producing companies have nothing to lose, and so very much to gain. They can sell training courses, appoint recognised trainers. They can ride on the back of the hype the qualification brings in its wake. They can reduce their support burden by encouraging customers to pay to be able to do their own support.

Even so, organizations generally face issues in finding the right level of technical support for their products. SharePoint could be considered to be different in the mix of Microsoft products because SharePoint is a platform. That means more interaction from support level to the business, not just solving technical issues. The support the business is after from a SharePoint perspective goes beyond into the land of solving business challenges. Questions like the following are normal directed to SharePoint support:

  • I need to provide a method of people to collaborate in a single location
  • I need to store and manage my content
  • I have trouble understanding how to do something
  • Can you fix the issue I have

But what exactly makes up a great SharePoint support person. Is it simply technical? Definitely not. This article attempts to answer the fundamental questions concerning how to determine what constitutes a ‘super-duper’ SharePoint support person. To do that, I am going to break the article into seven points. Each point relates to an attribute that a SharePoint support member should have. I have also tried to keep this article version agnostic. I will not be going into any particular version of SharePoint, or product.

So, let’s kick off with a basic statement. SharePoint Service Delivery is about capability. The solution being provided to users must be capable of fulfilling their requirements. At the same time, the relevant solution needs to be supported by individuals who will be able to provide help and aid to those using the relevant solution. Therefore, it goes without saying that the skills of those who need to support users’ needs to go beyond just technical aspects of the solution being provided.

A 2013 Gartner report called “ITs Aspirations Require Addressing Current Realities” described a disturbing trend:

“CIOs have consistently reported a lack of skills as the single biggest factor limiting IT’s successes”.

The report goes on to say:

“One in four CIOs believe that the IT labor market is ‘working’.”

That can mean at least two things. First, that those being recruited to provide support are not skilled enough. Secondly, that the recruitment process in identifying the right person to provide support is not working. And, the key to organisations having the right people is based on their capability to provide support services.

In addition, the constantly changing face of technology as it expands and morphs will lead people to become continuously productive as explained in this article:

http://www.businessinsider.com/next-generation-of-tools-make-us-constantly-productive-2013-9

This will therefore impact on how support is provided, particularly for those products which are in the centre of collaborative tools. In order for SharePoint to be capable of providing a support service to the user base, the user base needs to be adequately supported. The environment in which SharePoint can be employed, for example, on-premise in an organization, off-premise through Office 365, and on any mobile device, being smartphone, tablet, etc. means that the environments in which SharePoint support could be employed is also varied:

  • Telephone Call Centres. SharePoint support is provided in an environment where the call is likely to be solved over the telephone, or escalated to another tier in the support organization.
  • SharePoint Support provided by the parent organization. Typically for on-premise, though for a hybrid support is provided by the same SharePoint Support provision.
  • It Support provided by third party. An third party SharePoint support provision is on-contract to an organization to provide a level of support.
  • Through an Internet Service Provider. The Internet Service Provider provides the platform and also the support required for users to collaborate within the platform provided. Generally, those users then provide, or are automatically ‘set’, to have administrators who provide a first level of support.

Irrespective of the environment (which may in fact be a combination of the above), SharePoint support persons require particular attributes to ensure that a SharePoint service can be effectively provided.

1: They can do multiple roles

As a member of SharePoint Support, part of the job is to support end users and troubleshoot various types of tasks. However, their tasks involve much more than simply resolving a problem. They must be able to listen to a user, gather information from that user, diagnose and resolve the problem (or escalate the problem to a senior technician or system administrator), and properly document the resolution of the problem in the manner dictated by company policy.

A SharePoint Support team member is expected to fulfil a number of roles in the support environment. A good SharePoint Support team member must possess both technical skills and non-technical skills, such as interpersonal skills that are necessary for building rapport with the user to better troubleshoot and resolve the user issues. Some of the primary roles of the SharePoint Support team member include:

  • A public face for the company – in most cases, the only human point of contact
  • A knowledgeable resource who is familiar with the product and able to perform hardware and software installation tasks and system monitoring and maintenance
  • A source of information, because even if you do not know the answer, you know where to get the answer or to redirect the end user
  • An effective communicator, because customers are not calling to be sociable – many of them are distressed or upset, and you will need to manage the interaction effectively
  • A good trouble-shooter who is able to quickly diagnose the issue by performing specific tasks

 

2: They get back to basics

As stated in the section “1: Carry multiple roles”, a SharePoint support persons job is to provide end user support in a At a high level, the SharePoint support person should be prepared to perform the following tasks:

  • Perform general troubleshooting of SharePoint and integrated applications and solutions that will be used with SharePoint
  • Provide customer service, including listening to the customer, defining and solving the problem, and educating the user on how to avoid the problem in the future.
  • Install, configure, and upgrade packages and solutions.
  • Monitor and maintain the SharePoint platform
  • Document calls and close them or escalate them as required by company policy and time limits set by Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Note that whilst the above appear to be technical, the key is to support the customer. The mission statement simply means ‘Quickly Resolve the Problem’:

  • If a SharePoint solution is unavailable, service restoration is the first priority
  • Incidents, problems and known errors must be clearly distinguishable from one another
  • Service levels are governed by an SLA
  • Customer interact with the SharePoint support for the resolution of problems
  • Electronic self-help does not make human representatives obsolete

 

Within IT Support, there would generally be a support model. This covers, problem, service management and IT helpdesk support. Without going into any detail concerning how the IT Support model operates, the key is to understand that it is the duty of any member of SharePoint support is to provide a service understood by their customer. Therefore, for every issue to be resolved SharePoint support persons must get back to basics with every customer (and non-customer).

Here is a scenario:

Fabrikam is a coffee research company with offices in London and New York. They have a SharePoint installation which is supported by a SharePoint dedicated team. Fabrikam, at the start of setting up the SharePoint support model was aware of the time difference, and elected to have SharePoint support provisions in both time zones, but managed by IT Support. All calls would be logged centrally so that all IT Support teams and SharePoint support teams could see the work being carried out in New York and London.

The above scenario is a simple reminder that in order to have adequate support you need to understand the working time zones of the users. There is little point of proving that all your users are supported if your SharePoint support team is asleep when customers using your SharePoint provision need support on the other side of the planet. However, the above example is general. Let’s take the example back to specifically why it is important that each member of your SharePoint support team takes things back to basics. I have a large lawn to mow at my house. I use a lawnmower provided by a company in my nearest town. That lawnmower always breaks down, and generally, it’s my fault. Either I hit a stone, try to cut grass that’s far too long that plugs up the grass scoop, and more besides. I am getting better at working with that lawnmower, and that’s because the guys who supplied the lawnmower, who seem to fix things faster than you can say ‘Jack Robertson’, will always pass on a good bit of information when it is fixed, will always ask ‘what was you doing before the problem started’, and will always give demonstrations of using parts of the lawnmower which I didn’t think existed.

So, why is that important? Well, imagine that you are new to SharePoint. You need to upload a document, but cannot remember how to do that. You call your SharePoint support member. The SharePoint support member responds with something like this:

‘You dolt. It is easy to upload that file. Just click the New Document link. Why bother me with that’ – mutter… mutter…

In terms of even a relationship with SharePoint support that response guarantees service delivery ‘epic fail’.

Good SharePoint support persons get back to basics. They ask what the user was trying to do. They give step by step information on how to upload documents. They inform the user that there are places where the user can go to get more information. They state alternatives to using the New Document link in a document library. They empathise with the user (more on that later).

This does not mean that when the user calls SharePoint support that they have to wait while SharePoint support scrolls through a list of possible solutions or navigates around a decision tree, especially if the payoff does not appear to come quickly.

The reason why it is so important to go back to basics, is simply not because you want to teach SharePoint 101 basic stuff to SharePoint people. It is because the comfort factor of those calling SharePoint support increases. If that increases, they become more confident. If they become more confident, they learn, and want to learn. If this is not done, you will start seeing users ‘switch off’ from using SharePoint support. Or even worse, they will inform other users not to contact SharePoint support and will use other methods of finding out how to do things. Or even worse than that, they will stop using SharePoint all together!

3: They turn customers into enthusiastic customers

Imagine you set up a SharePoint support service. You may find that many customer simply will not call that support service. Some will not call because they do not know about SharePoint support. Some may even complain about SharePoint when it does not do what they expect it to do, but they will not call because of their experiences with any other customer service, whether it is a airline, telephone company, car park fining, cinema ticket purchasing, etc.

A successful SharePoint support service has enthusiastic customers. There are so many ways in which SharePoint support team members can make customers enthusiastic customers. First, let me describe what it is that defines an enthusiastic customer.

Humans are forever needing to find easier ways to get things done. They love shortcuts. This is because at work humans are doing multiple things and making multiple decisions. And because they are doing multiple things, when they are shown how to increase the speed (and productivity) of certain things in their daily tasks, they will become more enthusiastic. This goes with any software application, or any business process they work in. The key however, is to not get technical, don’t use jargon. Speak in their language. Here is a scenario.

Scenario: Telling something to a customer that helps them associated to the problem at hand. User tries Search for the first time in SharePoint and whilst they understand how to use the interface, you ask how they carry out searches without using SharePoint. Customer states that they have used the Explorer to search for files using Windows 7. You state that by using the search option “Search in Windows Explorer” in Enterprise Search that the user is able to ‘connect’ Windows Explorer Search to SharePoint search.

The result is a customer who has learned something new, and passes this onto other customers.

4: They are prepared to take the blame

Scenario: Customer calls into SharePoint support stating that they were working on a document which they had ‘checked-out’ from SharePoint, then something happened on their computer forcing the application to crash, and now they could not re-open the document because it was already checked out. The customer tried various ways of attempting to open the document, but had given up and called SharePoint support. By the time they did, they were angry, frustrated, and even more frustrated when they found that they had to wait for over an hour before anyone called back.

The point here is that first SharePoint support takes the blame. Irrespective of the problem, whether the user is at fault, whether SharePoint is at fault, the key is not to identify who or what is at fault in the first instance. The key is to get the customer to calm down, and to understand that you are the face of SharePoint and that you will resolve the issue one way or another.

To relate to this, another scenario is where a customer, in a restaurant, states that the service provided has not been to their approval. The restaurant manager, instead of apologising and stating they will seek to address the issue, says the customer is wrong to state the service is at fault, and instead states that the customer should not have come to their restaurant in the first place. Clearly this is the wrong move, because the customer can then easily state to others that the service was bad and no one took any attention to sort out the problem.

5: They are prepared to say the things they don’t want to say

When someone complains, its easy to get caught up emotionally in the situation. This is particularly when the very thing you are supporting is the thing that the customer is complaining about.

Scenario. A customer calls stating that their document library displays an error every time they attempt to upload a document. The customer is quite frustrated and says that SharePoint is “rubbish”.

As a SharePoint support individual does not immediately become furious and state ‘How dare you say that?! I have never had a complaint from anyone else!’. Instead, they say ‘That’s terrible, please tell me what happened so I can make sure it never happens again’.

6: They create a career path

SharePoint support individuals will require technical abilities; however, that does not mean they come from a technical background. Organisations choosing SharePoint support individuals would be looking for the appropriate personal skills to deal with the users. That is because the users come first.

Training is another area to consider. Check out this article here: https://sharepointgeoff.azurewebsites.net/articles-2/training/

There is something that I think all SharePoint support persons should be aware of. And it is a certification called MCDST. MCDST stands for Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician. I did this when I was running a IT Support department, and needed to ensure that all my technicians did that course and the exam. I also did the same course and exam.

For more information on MCDST, check out this link:

http://www.microsoft.com/es-es/learning/certification/mcdst.aspx#tab3

The reason why I did the course was twofold. Firstly, to understand the issues concerned with providing support for the current operating system. Secondly, to understand the implications of providing a service to end-users. And do not be deterred by the fact that the course covers operating systems. A key element of the course is understanding customer service and what it means to be in support.

7: They put themselves in the customers shoes

SharePoint support people understand their user expectation. This ‘expectation’ is rational, reviewable and realistic. Rational because support can understand how the user uses SharePoint, and therefore, is able to estimate the needs of their users with a degree of accuracy. For example, if the usage patterns of SharePoint appear to be heavy on a Thursday, but Friday is quiet – but Monday is difficult because that’s is when all the queries come in regarding any issues on Thursday, then SharePoint support can glean that carrying out maintenance on a Thursday, and testing on a Friday is best.

Conclusion

Relentless pursuit of technical acclaim distracts so much from the attributes we really want in our SharePoint support staff. If SharePoint support individuals only ever dealt with SharePoint technical issues and the servers SharePoint runs on, then technical ability is all we could ever reasonably ask of them. But they do not – they deal with people. This is particularly in the wake of support being provided through Office 365, where there is far less emphasis on technical ability on working with the SharePoint server side, but an increased awareness required on integrated products like Office, Exchange, Lync. Irrespective of the knowledge required to provide support, SharePoint support must be dedicated to maintaining continued, hour by hour productivity through user support. Therefore, what is needed is people and methods that increase or maintain user productivity. User productivity is not just an “I’ve got a bug in this SharePoint site” issue. It is a “Help me to know how I go about producing the output I need using SharePoint” issue. The first query requires technical ability. The second query requires technical knowledge coupled with an ability to convey that knowledge in terms the user can understand and believe in.

Therefore, to back up the 7 ways of identifying a super-duper SharePoint support person, there are the 7 attributes as follows:

  • Patience – to be able to listen to a user describe a situation
  • Thoroughness – to give the user confidence in their ability to solve the problem and to ensure that the job is done
  • Enthusiasm – to enjoy the job and stay motivated
  • Responsibility and Empathy – to be able to take on the burden of a task, and to be able to put oneself in the users position
  • Technical knowledge – to have acquired the sort of knowledge the job requires
  • Communicative ability – to be able to use language well enough to convey confidence
  • Works well under pressure – to be able to remain positive

Creating a Repeatable SharePoint Solution Delivery Process

This is the second part of the article concerning the delivery of SharePoint solutions. I will start by recapping on why I have produced these set of free articles, which will combine into an e-Book soon, check out this article. In essence, a successful solution delivery process encapsulates a design, creation, provision and support framework – that’s what makes up a SharePoint solution.

As stated in the first article, I am not designing a new process, rather, giving ideas surrounding theory, and actions for the reader to use.

The first article in the series, first looked into the understanding of creating a Usable SharePoint solution. A usable SharePoint solution takes into consideration the service standards applicable like design, development, commonality, consistency, tools and cross platform standards that can be applied when working with SharePoint. In learning the standards relating to usability, repeatability, supportability and extensibility you will be able to continually provision solutions easily, slicker and also help the client learn how to manage the solution once handed over.

A danger in writing these kind of articles is that the reader may be fooled into assuming that this is a business article, and somehow, not related to anything technical in SharePoint. In fact, service delivery is combination of the two – known as Systems Analysis which has been around as long as software has!

This is the second article in the series, concentrating on the key aspect of providing a sustainable solution – repeatability. In essence, this is the use of common processes, components, and products to build SharePoint solutions; continually – meaning using a repeatable method. Before thinking ‘this isn’t for me’ – wrong. As a SharePoint worker, you will be using a ‘repeatable’ process when even the simplest of SharePoint site solutions. For example, a document template re-use is defined as using a repeatable process. A web service that provides solutions such as say copying files from one place to another can be set to carry out the same process on another source and destination with minor customisation. Even a SharePoint site carrying a common structure can be easily created using a template, such as a Team Site Template. Apps are ‘repeatable’. Other examples could include workflows which are re-purposed, like Approval workflows.

The challenge is that most people, faced with constructing a SharePoint solution using components do not understand the principle of re-use which is a key aspect of a repeatable SharePoint solution delivery process. They may understand that something such as a template can be used again and again of course; however, they do not understand why a process ensuring why and when that a re-use management process can be applied; from the lowest component, to sites, site collections, web applications or farms. Even the provision of an Office365 tenant to a client is defined as a repeatable process. If there is no understanding, even a laissez faire approach, no standard or structure applied. And, as time marches on, as components morph, change and multiply, the potential for chaos ensues, where people simply have no idea what component should be used for what solution – instead, a patchwork of ‘guessing’ takes place!

Time I think to put a spin on helping you understand the principles of a ‘repeatable’ SharePoint solution. Again, this is a really challenging article to write, but an enjoyable one as well (like all my articles!).

First, time to get back to basics. Am going to start this section with a strange analogy – IKEA tables.

I went to IKEA Edinburgh last week looking for tables. My partner wanted some new tables to brighten up the conservatory, the kitchen and the cinema room. Now, browsing around IKEA for tables (well in fact anything in IKEA as I am not a great shopper) can be a bit of an experience, and sometimes, an annoyance. Trying the find the right colour, size took a huge wedge of the day to find what would look right.

So, in the end after hunting for tables in IKEA, we decided on three tables, put them into the horsebox and drove back home with them. Once home, I spent the following day putting the tables together. The first attempt at building a table was a nightmare. Yes, the instructions are easy to follow, but unfortunately I am not that great in following IKEA instructions; I dove in blindly with the screwdriver – then once I started getting things wrong, I went to the manual. It took me over 3 hours to build the table. Finally, I managed to put the first table together. Then, onto the second table. This was easier to put together, simply because I remembered all the wrong things I did about the first, and because I followed the manual :). The third was such a blur of activity – I simply didn’t need the manual, and I placed all the components in the order of building – the time taken to build was a fraction of the time to build the first.

Of course, stating that building tables is not a great and wonderful idea of delivering SharePoint solutions using repeatable exercises. But it is a great analogy because of two key reasons:

  1. All components fit together because the form an object
  2. A manual is there to guide you through the process

That means this two simple reasons can easily be applied to SharePoint to ensure a repeatable process. Surely it is easier to put a SharePoint site solution together if there are common components that can be reused at will? Surely, if there is a documented process that aids the creation of the SharePoint solution which utilises those common components, then that defines a repeatable method of creating those solutions. However, the concepts I have mentioned are unfortunately not carried out, or is a challenge to understand how to put them in place – and this is because the capabilities that describe how a SharePoint solution can be made ‘efficient’, through its delivery process is not at hand. I am going to attempt to address that, by describing the key capabilities that make the SharePoint solution efficient in terms of its development, deployment and maintenance.

The capabilities that you should consider, which in my view help you create a SharePoint solution (requiring the roles of Systems Analysis, Development, Architecture and Administration) and by definition can help build a ‘repeatable’ framework are:

  • Create Service Blocks. Service blocks are a common set of high level components that can be reused. Examples of these are pre-configured Apps (site, repository, third party products and integrated services, workflow templates) which can be combined build SharePoint solutions. A great example of this are workflow templates that can be constructed by the fabric ‘or snippets’ from other workflow templates (Nintex provides a great way of doing this).
  • Set a Common Schema. Creating a common format that can be applied to multiple solutions. Examples include branded custom pages, format of the quick launch bar, top line bar, enterprise taxonomy, navigation, etc. House the combined solution designs in a central location armed with keywords and categories to identify them.
  • Discover and build the skills necessary. Creating a common set of training and guidance material for the solution that allows the user-base to learn the product, explore and use the relevant possibilities that are available.
  • Ensure products can be Self-Provisioned. Users are empowered if the solutions they have constructed can be re-used to solve likewise problems for themselves and others. This aids the productivity of the individual, their peers and enhances the ability of support.
  • Build Enterprise Policies. The creation, re-use and management of policies which will aid in the adoption, design, structure, implementation and deployment of the solution.
  • Factor in Deployment Management. Drives the configuration management process whereby a SharePoint solution can get from idea to Test to UAT (User Acceptance Test) to Production. Aids the version control management of the solution in terms of how the solution can be updated and upgraded. Aids the document and data control process so that the solution can be adequately documented.

Service Delivery

Service delivery of the relevant solution needs to be efficient. This means being understood and managed by the stakeholders, since they are responsible for managing / devolving the management of the solution going forward.

For Service Delivery to be efficient, the solution delivery mechanism needs to be carried out in a sequenced and logical approach that the customer will understand and be part of. For example, if SharePoint is going to be employed in an organisation, the client needs to understand the part that SharePoint is going to play. This means understanding the information framework, and applying that, including controls for managing and locating that information. The fact that SharePoint is going to be used is irrelevant at that stage, since through the evaluation of the information flow in the organisation, the tools being used, the culture of the organization, amongst other key issues like control, security will influence the platform being employed.

So, a service delivery mechanism which encapsulates vision, decision, design, build, support, sustain, control needs to be defined first. A key outcome of creating a service delivery mechanism provides the stakeholder with the knowledge and comfort that an understood process (which they will manage) is clear and can be adhered to.

This means providing a number of service blocks that can be provided whenever releasing a SharePoint service. Examples of this are:

  1. Maintaining and managing a list of owners that also concerns who the owners are, the key stakeholders and users.
  2.  Maintaining and managing a list of the key resources used both SharePoint oriented and people who will be using the solution

Efficient Service Deployment

There is confusion on the terminology surrounding the term ‘Service Deployment’. It seems that it is a technological term, and therefore, something related to getting some software from somewhere and installing it. I have witnessed situations where someone says ‘We are going to deploy the software service by following the installation process given in the manual’. In other words, download the product from somewhere and follow the automated installation process by clicking ‘Setup.exe’….

No.

Service Deployment is the process under which the SharePoint solution is deployed from a full implementation perspective and involves all resources necessary for that to take place. That means including people. That is the first simple rule. Keep the users involved.

Example. An app has been sanctioned to be deployed to a SharePoint online team site. The procedure that was followed to get the product sanctioned is a tried and tested method of user requirements, testing, user acceptance.

Efficient Service Deployment is part of a Software Delivery Process. A process by which the deployment of the solution is simply part of its lifecycle. That lifecycle includes the design, build, maintenance, support and any other aspect that defines the solution.

Henceforth, knowing what makes up the SharePoint solution is vital since that naturally produces the information required to ensure that the solution can be deployed. There are a number of documents which should be created:

  1. Hardware Components
  2. Software
  3. Installation Guide
  4. Related Productions
  5. UAT Provisioning
  6. Release Notes

Capability

Because the people must be capable in using the delivered SharePoint solution. Therefore, the solution must be capable in enabling and enhancing business productivity, knowledge, and solving information and management collaboration challenges.

So, in order to repeat the process of creating successful SharePoint solutions, the capability (structure, roles) of the support service team responsible for designing, crafting and, deploying and most likely supporting the solution must be repeatable from solution to solution.

This means that:

  • SharePoint support services must be capable of supporting the delivered solution in line with customer expectations
  • SharePoint delivery teams must be capable on delivering on the promises that were made about time and quality
  • Any relevant SharePoint support services must be capable of standing over any key performance indicators or service level agreements.

Scalability

Scenario: You are going to deliver a SharePoint platform to a client. You gather their information requirements and process. You provision a ‘Proof of Concept’ SharePoint platform open to key stakeholders to showcase, demo, and gather further requirements. The client wants SharePoint. From there, you provision a UAT (User Acceptance Test) environment which maps to their requirements in terms of infrastructure, availability, scalability, extensibility, support. You then open that up to key stakeholders. Workshops ensue. The client still wants SharePoint, the UAT environment provided appears to meet functional and system requirements. You then provision a Production environment which matches the infrastructure provided at UAT level, and then deploy SharePoint services to the client as prescribed in UAT.

The above is a simplistic approach concerning the delivery of SharePoint to a client, following a design, build, deploy process. A repeatable SharePoint Service Delivery mechanism focusing on implementation.

However, the point being made about the scenario given about is a word which encompasses the delivery – future-proofing. ‘Future-proofing’, means that the solution being provided will not only meet the client requirements at the point of inception, but can also in the future because it can be scaled, and therefore will continue to meet changing requirements.

Scaling a SharePoint platform and any relevant solutions is not a single event exercise. Any alteration, addition or deletion to the solutions provided within the SharePoint platform requires a review to determine the impact on the scalability of SharePoint. For example, take the addition of a third party app to SharePoint, which becomes important, an app which the users cannot do without. The impact to the scalability of SharePoint comes into question if, for example, that app cannot itself scale to the next ‘hotfix’ of SharePoint, let alone the next version of SharePoint!

Actions

A lifecycle of delivering SharePoint solution needs to be based on being repeatable. Reasons for doing this have been stressed in this section, but to summarise:

  • Stakeholder map per solution. Carrying analysis on the gathered maps will show connections between the common components being used across multiple solutions and also the key individuals helping to create a focal / champion group.
  • Efficient Service Deployment. Due to re-use, there will be reduced requirements to bring in key resources build likewise solutions and components leading to reduced cost and management issues.
  • Efficient Maintenance. Updates to repeated solutions can be applied generically, change management is easier to define, business policies and rules related to the solutions are easier to enforce and get buy-in.
  • Capability. Users and Support gain knowledge and maintain that knowledge more readily than disparate solutions non repeated solutions.
  • Scalability. Easier to plan, coordinate and carry out configuration management processes on repeated solutions.

In the Scalability section above, I gave a simple scenario based on deployment of SharePoint and boiled this into a repeatable solution exercise. That’s not the only scenario that uses Repeatable as a method to service deliver SharePoint solutions. SharePoint provides virtually all the components and tools that allows components to be configured, connected and scaled. SharePoint provides the ability for modules of functionality, developed internally or externally to the organization and contained in Apps. Apps that can be re-deployed, and further enhanced based on changing needs of the client, and can be deployed centrally from a bank of other Apps. For example, a simple document library App may alter need the ability to be connected to a third party tool, or may require further enhancement concerning views and sort, or may be required to lookup information from another repository. When completed, the entire configuration of the document library can be transformed into an ‘App’ which can then be redeployed elsewhere without having to re-develop from scratch. Other Apps include Site Apps, and Third Party Apps.

Third Party Apps throw a different kind of repeatable solution scenario because of the added dimension in providing automation, which then leads to the ‘Supportable’ element of the SharePoint Service Framework. This is simply due to the fact that Third Party Apps cannot be successful unless there is a support group. The sheer number of Apps available from the Office Store for SharePoint compounds scenarios concerning re-use, consumption, implementation and administration.

As per all things when implementing a solution in SharePoint, the answer to solving business and information challenges requires you to continually and critically review the requirements to find nuggets of functionality that has already been created. Analyse thoroughly the various elements of the SharePoint solution, so you can identify common areas that can be defined generically and as repeatable components. Harvest them into deliverable chunks and rework to see if they can be repeated. Remember the DEV to UAT to Production model – this applies to any kind of solution (design, develop, test, make it live).

If this sounds a little convoluted, remember the client perspective. Generally, they will not care what the resolution is made up from, is as long as it works – however, they will care, if the solution is usable, whether the solution once implementation can be repeated to meet a likewise requirement elsewhere without having to pay extra, whether the solution can be supported and whether the solution can be extended as the SharePoint platform scales.

Before going onto the relevant actions concerning what you need to implement, how the customers can consume, and how you can administer a SharePoint solution that can be repeated, check out these articles which all have a bearing on this section.

In conclusion to this article, which I will continually come back to update, you should also consider the three actions that you should consider in building a ‘repeatable’ SharePoint solution framework – Implementation, Consumption and Administration.

· Implementation

  • List the common attributes of ALL solutions and group them into the four key aspects of SharePoint service provisioning – Support, Automation, Management, Reporting
  • When designing solutions, record aspects of those solutions (if not in their entirety) that could be included in other solutions into a knowledge base.
  • Record the aspects that allow third party products to export configurations that could be re-used. For example, you could develop a simple SharePoint site that houses developed and them exported Nintex workflow templates, thus making them accessible for re-use to others. In other cases, you could even export workflow templates and have them available for download in other sites.

· Consumption

  • Build a process whereby users can provision solutions which are available in a library.
  • Communicate available solutions and review all solutions in that library so that you can be sure they are being used effectively
  • Record usage of the solutions in terms of where, how and popularity of the solution

· Administration

  • Create enterprise policies that ensure users follow rules in terms of re-using ready-made solutions and link them to support
  • In relationship to consumption, associate business rules and policies concerning the solutions that are in your library of solution

This article is part of Delivering SharePoint Solutions – Areas of Importance.

 

Understanding Training Options around SharePoint…

Welcome to an article which goes into the land of SharePoint Training. This attempts to examine various levels of training and how they can and are being mapped to SharePoint information workers, irrespective of whether they are SharePoint on-premise, or SharePoint through Office365. Please note, that whilst I go into some detail on training delivery that I am not a SharePoint Trainer; however, I think I’ve got enough experience through the implementation of SharePoint Training strategies for many organizations, so I suppose I’ve got some points that may be useful either to you as a trainer, or SharePoint user, or even a programme manager seeking to identify the key areas of SharePoint training delivery.

Let us begin with a typical picture facing a SharePoint support perspective, featuring the SharePoint Administrator on-premise…. Put yourself in the shoes of such SharePoint Administrator, monitoring a SharePoint environment, and through the wonderful event viewer on SharePoint servers see a whole bunch of reds (Errors) in an Application Event log. After trawling through the sea of ULS logs, Web.Configs and IIS logs on the screen for several hours, trying this and that, crashing out on numerous occasions; you’ve may have just about had enough. Your pride may already hurting from the fact that the SharePoint reference manuals are piled high all over the desk, and still the flashes of understanding and inspiration simply won’t come…

And if you are thinking “Hey that’s easier in SharePoint Online, there’s no event logs to worry about” – think again. Here is an example. User calls in stating that they have problems viewing their site on their phone. So you need to find out the kind of phone they are using, what the mobile settings are, whether the site settings for mobility have been applied and to ensure that all the services they use whilst in the SharePoint site are also accessible. The issue about the SharePoint Administrator simply looking at ‘SharePoint’ is gone. Therefore, looking for the inspirational flashes would become more difficult.

Another example, starring the SharePoint Information Worker:

You have joined an organization who has adopted SharePoint. You have been told to use a SharePoint site so you can store your work content in. After accessing your site for the first time you are daunted by the options there. Site Actions? What’s that? What’s the Breadcrumb Trail? Someone said to get to the ‘Projects Document Library’ by looking in the Quick Launch Bar – What’s that and where is that? In fact, what’s a Document Library? Faced with these bewildering features and options, and faced with having to just read a book to try to understand what they all mean, you decide to use e-mail.

One more example, this time to the ‘experienced’ SharePoint Worker – typically called a Poweruser:

Yes, you may be one of them. You are a person who is comfortable with SharePoint, because SharePoint does what you want it to. You are aware of the relevant functions in SharePoint that makes you productive, but want to learn more.

So where do you go to get the answers you need?

We are already in the world where we have our ‘intelligent agents’ (known to previous tech generations as a genie or guardian angel) can be summoned using good ole’ Google, to hunt down that famous and grail-like Blog, TechNet article, Google Answers, Yahoo Answers – ad-infinitum’. However, as we all know life as a SharePoint Admin, Developer or Architect doesn’t necessarily mean you find the information you want first time! Sometime, hunting down the right answer is like looking for a needle in a stack of needles! For example, in the above example concerning Office365 and setting a mobile to view a site eventually took me to this article:

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Set-up-a-mobile-device-using-Office-365-for-business-7dabb6cb-0046-40b6-81fe-767e0b1f014f

In truth, there is not yet that silver bullet in training where, at a click of a button, or using some kind of ‘Star Trek like’ speaking into your computer response to answer your SharePoint queries. The ‘Hey; computer – tell me how to setup Kerberos on SharePoint’, or ‘show me what the version history is on my documents” is just not there – yet…

So, perhaps some good old fashioned training is better than nothing. To a lot of people, especially developers in SharePoint I’ve seen, training is ‘the T word’, and almost an admission of defeat.

However, as I’ll describe in this article, there are many ways SharePoint training can be delivered – through the written and spoken word, on the desktop as well as the classroom. Most which are inexpensive and above all, interesting and fun.

Also, lots of SharePoint tools are available that go some way towards realising the equivalent of the genie in the bottle 🙂

Contents:

1 A potted theory of learning    2

2 Self Paced Training    3

3 Computer Based Training    4

4 Support Resources    5

5 Learning Centres    6

6 The Human Touch    6

7 A Model Student    7

  1. A potted theory of learning

    Just in case you’ve never considered how or why you’ve ever learned anything – from being able to read this article to driving a car, let’s go back to basics.

    The Competency Ladder.

    If you view learning primarily as a ‘damage limitation’ process whilst trying to acquire competency in SharePoint, the following series of stages can be applied to most situations:

    Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence – Making large amounts of mistakes.

    Stage 2: Conscious incompetence – I see and admit to myself and others I’m making mistakes.

    Stage 3: Conscious competence – I am learning new concepts and skills, my error rate is decreasing (normally in a non-linear fashion :)).

    Stage 4: Unconscious competence – or ‘what was all the fuss about?’

    Now, this four stage cycle is sometimes referred to as the Competency Model for (hopefully) obvious reasons. Where do you think you are on this model? If you are implementing SharePoint, where do you think those about to use SharePoint would be?

    Additionally, the competency model really does come into its own when considering your role in SharePoint. Let’s take the SharePoint Administrator situation again. If the SharePoint Administrator is at Stage 1, then making ‘mission critical’ mistakes could result in damage to the relevant SharePoint environment. For SharePoint Information workers, making many mistakes could result in a loss of productivity and confidence in using SharePoint. Both of course could also result in the company loosing money.

    In order to move up the competency ladder, we tend to accept that Stages 1 and 2 shouldn’t last for too long at all, and that Stage 3 is worth investing time and money in training. However, learning is never a Stage 1 to 4 kind of deal. It’s a loop as we consider new areas of SharePoint to learn; and; we ensure there are tools available to mitigate Stage 1 and 2 (for example, getting a SharePoint test site to play in).

    Training = competency = Training.

    So, it is very important to consider that training surrounds the level of competency one has relevant to the tasks they have to perform. Consider the common activity of learning to drive a car. Think of all the would-be Michael Schumachers in cars displaying ‘L’ plates, their terrified parents, and the huge number of driving schools that make a multi-billion pound business from the accepted norm of the need for formal training.

    The other accepted of ‘mission critical’ competency is that we need to prove Stage 4 has been reached (hence the driving test) and achieve recognition and certification (the driving license). This certification then allows us to perform various other job roles and for some people it acts as a pre-requisite qualification to apply for a further specialist training, such as the Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) License.

    The final point to note is the model of cyclical, that is, the tendency is for skills needing to be renewed or modified over time. This is not just because ‘familiarity breeds contempt’, but for the environment in which the original skill set was valid has probably changed. Consider the continued debates about including motorway driving as part of the standard test?

    The amount of training you think you need is based on the amount of knowledge to cover your ‘mission critical’ needs. What I mean by ‘mission critical’ needs are the basic skills needed to ensure that what you do is carried out to the satisfaction of ‘your peers, makes you productive and meets / enhances the profile of yourself and the organisation you work for.

    So, do you identify your ‘mission critical’ training needs? If you don’t, consider that if crashing your car is obviously a bad thing, then as a SharePoint Administrator isn’t regularly crashing your SharePoint environment equally unacceptable?

    If the answer is ‘yes’ then doesn’t that mean from the outset, without admitting defeat, that some investment in training is justified?

    Even if you answer ‘no’, implying your using SharePoint as a hobby, not as a means to make a living, would not investing in training help you achieve more satisfaction and avoid some sleepless nights in the process?

    Specialist Learning and Exams.

    There are some specialist areas of SharePoint where training is very important. SharePoint web development, administration or architecture involves diverse skill sets and key underpinning knowledge of SharePoint. To ensure competency for those roles can be measured there are recognised Microsoft Certification sets (for example; MCTS for 2007, MCITP for 2010, MCSA for Office365, and MCSE for SharePoint 2013). These cover the technical side of SharePoint, namely in application development and configuration in SharePoint.

    This is seen as effectively a version of the driving test for those engaged in the technical side of SharePoint.

    However, SharePoint is not simply seen as a technical toy! The SharePoint Information Worker is definitely included in terms of competency measurement. When Office 2010 was released, SharePoint became more tightly integrated with Office, and that provided MOS for SharePoint. MOS stands for MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist). The reach of this certification is even greater since it extends to the user of Office of which SharePoint is a partner. Microsoft certification exams are now also aimed at those using SharePoint from an end-users perspective.

    People take it as faith that when somebody goes for SharePoint training, they will return wiser and better for the experience. In most cases, they may see a gain in productivity, but whether they failed to learn to their full potential because the course was too easy or too advanced is normally impossible to judge unless some kind of pre-requisite test is available.

  2. Self Paced Training

    Given the intangible nature of traditional training benefits, there is a natural appeal to invest in tangible training products, as well as the additional benefits that self-paced training brings – savings in travel and accommodation costs, consistency of delivery, reusability and so on.

    Generally, self-paced training always begins with the humble book, yes, in the beginning was the word. The book is the original self-paced training package, and still provides the low-cost learning option, and may be sufficient if your learning requirements are modest or you have no time pressures.

    Dividing this into three camps, end user, administration and development, development is more a practical skill. In this respect, books that include the opportunity for hands-on are a more useful choice. In the early days, this included the good ole ‘CDrom’ at the back of the book (and in some amazing examples, USB sticks!), and snippets of information that could be entered. Whilst this also occurs for SharePoint Administrators, the format is different.

    For instance, programming related books would contain many worked through examples of code ready used. Administrator books would include scripts and maybe code blocks to apply to SharePoint site collections and servers. End user books would include practice files to apply as you followed guides in the book.

    Nowadays though, virtually all SharePoint books now come as e-Books making that kind of information easier to get to. So has the eBook fully replaced the book? An interesting argument. In chatting to a SharePoint Architect the other day, they indicated that having an e-book cluttered the desktop, as opposed to having the book opened so they could work through a problem and fully understand how to do something without having to swop between screens. In other cases, people have found the eBook easier because of its portability, and additionally because it’s easier to copy a script from an eBook than having to rekey all of it or having to access a CDrom, or USB Stick, or Network Share, or OneDrive to get to the information.

    The key here though is to understand that self-paced training is based on the resources that you use. E-Books and Books are not the only resources available. There are online resources as well from sites providing blocks of information related to a particular aspect of SharePoint, to those other which cover entire courses and include ‘check’ exams at the end.

  3. Computer Based Training

    CBT (Computer Based Training) is one of those touchstones (like AI) that promises much but often disappoints – corporates in millions invest in CBT projects – unfortunately, this often results in delivering too little, too late.

    Part of the problem was the need for high cost specialist software and/or lack of mainstream, high level authoring tools and the special skills required to create the relevant packages.

    Another problem is the amount of overhead administration given that the CBT would most likely record results of the ‘student’ and these would need to be audited and managed to gauge user productivity and usability of the product.

    That said, there is a mass of computer based training for SharePoint; the only thing that needs to be done is to define the scope of training that needs to be provided at either end user, developer, administrator and then to provide that. To do that takes time simply because of the need to factor SharePoint training with desktop software training e.g. Microsoft Office Suite.

    For example, there is VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) type training available or even build you own like the SharePoint Learning Kit (this was firstly provided in SharePoint 2007, then arrived on Codeplex for SharePoint 2010 and has been released for SharePoint 2013). There’s Open Learning courses on all things SharePoint at the Microsoft Learning Centre. There’s video clips relevant to carrying out popular tasks and also explaining SharePoint concepts on Youtube, You can also get FAQ and Question and Answer support at Technet (SharePoint Forums).

    Additionally, you can also use SharePoint itself to host your very own training centre, because SharePoint has the ability to store and playback images, Flash Hypermedia, so hours of audio-visual tuition could be created by you (a simple web cam and some video editing software will do). This has been done to great effect by SharePoint uber admins out there, some making these learning centres called ‘How Do I(‘ as part of a home for SharePoint in their organisation (like a One Stop Shop ).

    However, the sign of a good quality CBT is the inclusion of challenge testing so that students can quickly ‘opt out’ of a section of check understanding plus animated expert solutions and demonstrations to help in those difficult moments. If the product behaves like a linear book with nothing more than electronic page turning, what value does it add over a paper based book?

    CBT has come a long way from the earlier days of SharePoint.

    For SharePoint 2007, there is a Learning package available for SharePoint which will enable users to actively learn how to use SharePoint and their learning is tracked; it’s on this link:

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=673dc932-626a-4e59-9dca-16d685600a51&displaylang=en

    For SharePoint 2010, the Productivity Hub is targeted at those who need to quickly setup a central location for a knowledge base on SharePoint, Word, Lync and more.

    It’s a downloadable product that can be further customised. Additional modules can be added that meet business requirements.

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=4aaa9862-e420-4331-8bc3-469d7bae0ff1

    For SharePoint 2013, there is a SharePoint Learning Kit available download in Codeplex. This is a e-learning delivery and tracking application, built as a SharePoint solution, and amongst other things allows assignment, tracking and grading of e-learning and non-e-learning content.

    There are also other CBT’s; that could be provided, but you need to pay for them – again, you need to carry out appraisals to identify which best fits the requirement. An example is OnTidWit (which provides a learning platform of collected resources which can be selected) – see http://sharepointgeoff.ontidwit.com for an example.

  4. Support Resources

    Strictly speaking, Support Resources are not training tools, but are part of the renewal process once Stage 4 (unconscious competence) has been reached, providing ‘on the job’ information at your fingertips. The most basic form is the electronic manual with a search and retrieval engine, with linked hypertext, a memory of topics visited, suggested related topics and the ability to copy and paste code and scripts for SharePoint.

    Microsoft Press now has a good collection of SharePoint books located on this link:

    https://www.microsoftpressstore.com/search/index.aspx?query=sharepoint&x=0&y=0

    There is the Support Office site which in particular provides information about SharePoint Online – in particular describing the major feature areas:

    https://support.office.com/en-au/article/Find-content-about-SharePoint-Online-0ff4f5c6-b8b3-4d6a-be9a-99e6dcb9a3b7?ui=en-US&rs=en-AU&ad=AU

    The Office365 Learning Centre for Business and Education is also an extremely useful resource. This resource helps when providing a SharePoint service – the Discover SharePoint section advises users how to start using a team site, controlling access, customising navigation and many more topics. Additionally, there links to training resources. Check this one out for example, the ‘Organize files in your SharePoint libraries‘ training course.

    Additionally, there are a vast list of online resources, like Technet, WSSDemo, EndSharePoint and many others. Again, with all of this information available the issue is the same as having someone ask for a SharePoint site but doesn’t know what to put in it – meaning, what do I need, where do I need it, how will I record it, how will I retrieve it.

    Increasingly, there are a number of online providers now pushing Knowledge Bases on SharePoint. Slowly, these are becoming more structured and standardised into their own lands of expertise.

    This I think is a good thing. Someone once said to me ‘I’m going to provide a central blog on the Internet that will provide information on everything to do with SharePoint’. I said ‘Wow… That’s going to either take a long time or you will need a hell of a lot of help’ (thinking of it at the time I was being diplomatic – its impossible to provide let along support that resource unless you know everything there is to know about SharePoint and have a huge amount of time to gathering and maintaining that resource).

    Note that whilst I call these ‘support resources’ they are definitely not designed to simply be a replacement for your SharePoint company support resource. Information provides on these resources should be tested in your own test environments and validated before putting them into your production environment.

  5. Learning Centres

    In SharePoint land, in fact, probably with any kind of development, workers find that the normal workplace is not suitable for self-paced learning. They are subject to many interruptions and cannot dedicate the time needed to learn or develop.

    Self-Paced products can form the core of a facilitated ‘Learning Centre’. That Learning Centre concept uses training technology to help people learn and become more effective. It does this by recording their activities; how long they are working through a topic and pointers as to where they may get further information concerning an aspect of SharePoint.

    Microsoft provides a Learning Centre which displays end user courses, and provides material that should be used when the user wishes to engage in Microsoft Certifications. For SharePoint and Office365, there are specific areas of interest covering End Users, IT Pros and Developers. SharePoint has its own learning segment which includes over 10 separated courses which have been rated.

    Microsoft also provides a Certification Roadmap which shows the popular Skills and Certification Roadmap to reflect the latest skills development and certification information, including the new Devices MCSE, Azure exams and exam electives. For a one-stop source for certification pathways, download the roadmap. When looking at the Roadmap, it is interesting to see how SharePoint certification has changed over the ages. The clearer distinction in the fact of simply taking a non-compulsory training course grants an MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate). Also the MCSA Office365 and MCSE SharePoint 2013 are closer together.

    https://borntolearn.mslearn.net/b/weblog/archive/2015/01/29/ace-newsbyte-exam-times-they-are-a-changing

    What resources are there to help people with taking technical exams?

    MeasureUp provides material in the form of test questions to allow individuals to prepare for product certification.

    Certiport provides end user certification and provides the MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist) certification tracks for Microsoft Office which includes SharePoint.

    MOS 2010:

    http://www.certiport.com/Portal/desktopdefault.aspx?page=common/pagelibrary/mos2010.html

    MOS 2013:

    http://www.certiport.com/Portal/desktopdefault.aspx?page=common/pagelibrary/mos2013.html

    These are just the ones I am aware of but there will undoubtedly be others. How valid they are depends on the strategy you adopt for yourself and others, especially if you are setting out a strategy for SharePoint training in the organisation.

  6. The Human Touch

    Whilst self-paced courses can provide the majority of training needed, do not forget the value human experience can bring. A hybrid approach is to attend scheduled events where an experienced trainer is available to provide assistance and advice as the student progresses through a self-paced programme. The student also gains from meeting other SharePoint developers, administrators, architects, program managers, exchanging ideas and attending optional break-out sessions on additional topics given by the class leader.

    Certain technologies may be best covered by traditional means involving lectures and presentations. Some of these may include:

    Microsoft Seminars and Conferences. These are very useful since they bring additional training sessions and normally rolled into the cost. Additionally good to meet with other SharePoint peeps, learn best practices and find out how others are using SharePoint. These are regional and there are many of these. A search on google gave this:

    SharePoint Conferences

    SharePoint User Groups. 

    There are so many benefits to belonging to a SharePoint user group. You can learn about SharePoint related events applicable to your user group when they become available. You can find out how your peers are solving problems and even sharpen your leadership and managerial skills by serving as a user group manager. The reason why user groups appear as a human touch is because social events usually evolve around them. User groups, whilst revolving around a bulletin board or forum, are regional / local so getting to see faces is definitely an option. This is very useful since it increases your social network and allows you to focus your training resources. Don’t get me wrong, forums are great – SharePoint Technet forum is really good, but to expand your social network there’s nothing like a user group where you can put blogs and articles to faces.

    Externally Provided Training

    Going back to competency, if you want human touch training you had better make sure that you choose a relevant arena – in SharePoint, there are a number of these – I’ve listed the key ones and in no particular order:

  • Content Management
  • Findability
  • Social Computing
  • Business Productivity
  • Look and Feel
  • Deployment
  • Administration
  • Business Solutions

 

Within these sections you will find training companies providing resources and instructors in one or more of those arenas. In my experience, make sure you define a strategy for training that connects SharePoint to the business in terms of what other tools SharePoint integrates with. Get a trainer who can instruct and provide resources on those additional levels. There are a number of success stories which details how organisations seeking a training model have managed to provide training to their staff, not only on the different aspects of the technology, but also in combining the best of differing provisions I have covered in this article (CBT, On-Line, Classroom, etc.) – crucially from one training provider. Check out the following case study for more information on how they succeeded.

Johnson Matthey’s Training Case Study

Finding a good training company can be daunting, like looking for a needle in a stack of needles. Make sure you choose wisely, read-up on their credentials, customer reviews and associated case studies. A good source to get started on choosing a SharePoint training company is here:

http://www.sharepointreviews.com/training-companies.html

  1. Are you a ‘Model Student’?

    In the land of SharePoint everyday I learn something new about the product. Whether it is a technical bit of knowledge or even business, governance, implementation – everyday is a voyage of discovery. I am I think, a student but far from being a model student. I reckon a model student is that who has all the resources at hand for the topic area they wish to cover.

    So after reading this article, ask yourself these questions.

  • What kind of training suits you the most? Book? e-Book? Online Training? CBT? A combination?
  • Where do you stand on the competency ladder?
  • Do you have access to the resources you need? How do you collate them? Can you quickly find the answers in the resources you have?
  • What area do you excel in? Do you have a blog and is this communicated to others?
  • How did you learn SharePoint? Reading? Diving into the Platform? Certification? A combination?
  • Whatever happens, when tackling SharePoint Training, try to get a vision of where would want to get to, whether you need training to prove to others you are competent, whether you want to solve a problem, or even whether you are attempting to build a strategy for others. Doing this will help you identify the planning that needs to be done, how long it will take and what is needed to succeed.

Office 365 Customer Success Centre Available

When delivering an Office 365 service, you will need to ensure that the customer has access to resources to help them understand and get up to speed. As seen with SharePoint ‘getting the users on-board’, there is always a danger of ‘recreating’ adoption content, simply because information is non-centralised – that also means having to spend time gathering and crafting that content so that it is visually appealing (for example)..

(more…)

Delivering SharePoint Solutions – Areas of Importance

A challenge that SharePoint organisations have who are actively involved in the creation, then management, of SharePoint solutions, is then applying a process of delivering those solutions, and then using the same defined process. And note, we are not talking complex or simple SharePoint solutions, these solutions could be as simple as configuring a SharePoint site with repositories to provide a records management experience, or to provide a method of filling in on-line forms, or a business automation solution utilising workflow templates, or even taking on a third party app in a SharePoint 2013 online site, etc.

More often than not, those who do not apply any process involving any kind of systems analysis and design, then through to administration of SharePoint solutions usually end in disaster because:

  • The level of support provided is inadequate to the solution can be scaled
  • The deployment process has not been followed, for example, in an ‘on-premise land’, ‘let’s build the lot on production…’
  • It’s easier to start building the solution virtually identical to one already in use, than working from the design of another likewise solution, because it is not possible to locate the design for the existing solution.
  • Solution ABC is nothing like another solution whose focus is virtually identical and has been built from scratch

Some customers when quizzed speak of their alternatives to delivering a solution, and some are nothing short of astonishing – here are some examples – prepare to laugh:

  1. Get a third party organisation to put the solution in for us because we do not have the time to follow any delivery process – but we want to control everything and be able to support it ourselves
  2. Build a delivery process, show that there is such a process in place,  but don’t actually follow the process
  3. Let’s simply get on with it, build the lot in a ‘fly by night’ fashion, we will deal with all the issues as they arise

Ok, laugh over… Let us quickly see why alternatives have been addressed which simply do not work. The main reason appears to be that organisations find it difficult to build let alone understand a delivery framework surrounding SharePoint solutions. This may be due to having one person to provide the entire solution start to finish with no proper support, or a lack of skills concerning how to provision a solution (because their background is programming), or even that the current process does not map to SharePoint.

If you happen to work in an organisation where there has been SharePoint solution success; for example, you have been on or lead a team responsible for delivering a SharePoint comprising of a number of tools and services, you will be in no doubt that the following areas would have been addressed:

  • Service Testing
  • Deployment
  • Versions
  • Support

Conversely, you may have been in a situation where there was deployed a SharePoint solution which had failed because it had not addressed the above.

Am going to try to help out then. I am going to describe four areas which relate to the practical work required around delivering SharePoint solutions – every SharePoint solution being conceived must:

  1. Be Usable
  2. Be Repeatable
  3. Be Supportable
  4. Be Extensible

If any one of the above areas is not fulfilled then the adoption of that solution will fail.

For each of the four areas I will describe some actions that you should consider. The topics will be written in a way that is SharePoint version agnostic and generic and can be applied to your organization.

At the end of each section will be a Deliver Actions section which will show three areas of concern related to the topic:

  1. Implementation – what actions needs to be done to ensure that the relevant framework section is in place.
  2. Consumption – what resources will benefit from the relevant section and what resources should be used to help place the framework section.
  3. Administration – How you will ensure that the service delivery model relevant to the section includes an element of management. This will ensure the sustainability of the relevant section.

Please note though, describing these areas is not easy. I have even have difficulty amongst other solution architects in explaining the concepts, because of statements of SharePoint service delivery which is all over this article, and the fact that the areas covered in this article may touch all parts in an organization, which therefore increases complexity. So, to those new to SharePoint Service Delivery, as well as reading the guides, I suggest that you:

  • Get help. Seek a SharePoint solutions architect to help you meld the service framework to match your organisation resources.
  • Ensure that to back up the SharePoint framework that you have / using a methodology that allows the framework to connect to, that also allows a logical and structured approach. 

The areas being described are separate articles as follows – please read them (when they are available) and they will be listed and categorised on the site (when they are available):

SharePoint Champions are Vital Roles

With every SharePoint solution being delivered, there is comes a change management effort that requires not only organizational, but also behavioural change on the part of the participants. You can set up the finest SharePoint solution on the planet, but if people do not take to the SharePoint solution, nothing will change and the effort will be lost.

“To get a horse to drink water, you make the horse thirsty”

Successful adoption of any SharePoint solution enables users with self determination. Irrespective of user task, or position, self determination needs three factors, which is competence, relatedness and autonomy. These combined produces motivation. And, when you have self determined people, support requirements are properly defined, people understand how the solution makes their tasks more productive, training strategies are easier to develop and sustain. A key person requirement, which is not technical, is the SharePoint Champion; whose objective is to foster self-determination amongs their peers; a person elected to help drive adoption of SharePoint solutions, elected by the business, and for the business.

I wrote a pretty detailed piece on the topic of SharePoint Champion being a vital role, because I think it is so important to provide successful service delivery of SharePoint solutions. To see this, check out on Microsoft TechNet Newsletters article posted here:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/uktechnet/archive/2013/07/29/sharepoint-champions-are-vital-roles.aspx

Hope you find the article useful!

SharePoint 2010 and 2013 User Adoption Kits and 2010 Productivity Hub

The SharePoint 2010 Productivity Hub and the User Adoption Kits for SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 are great tools of centralizing knowledge in the organization, providing materials to enable the communication of SharePoint to information workers and helping organizations address User Adoption principles. (more…)

Analysing Site Activity in SharePoint 2013

Analysing Site Activity in SharePoint 2013

Tracking site usage is a very important method of identifying and helping sustain user adoption of a SharePoint 2013 site. Using site usage statistics can help prove the take up of a new SharePoint site, identify shortfalls in the design, and indicates how searches are being used and whether they are effective and optimised. There is a usage report available in SharePoint 2013, which shows historical usage information about the site, such as the number of views and unique users.

(more…)

Microsoft® SharePoint® 2013: Planning for Adoption and Governance

Microsoft® SharePoint® 2013: Planning for Adoption and Governance

Take control of user adoption and governance processes in your next SharePoint 2013 deployment—whether it’s a specific site or complete farm solution. In this book, you’ll learn proven techniques and methods that will help you better manage the entire project lifecycle concerning SharePoint implementation from a practical standpoint.

Discover how to:

  • Align organizational goals and requirements
  • Define the full scope of the project
  • Set up a team to deliver a SharePoint solution
  • Effectively communicate with and include your stakeholders
  • Prepare for user feedback and adoption
  • Establish and maintain governance through the entire project
  • Use web analytics to provide substance to governance
  • Confirm readiness for delivery to the organization

Check out this review on the book:

http://www.bcs.org/content/conWebDoc/51817

Go here to get the book and find out more information.

Microsoft Office Specialist – SharePoint Importance

Sustained User Adoption is vital to ensure people using SharePoint remain productive and proactive. Pro-activity is key, since the reliance on SharePoint support will grow based – success breeds success; on solving user queries, meeting and solving business information and collaborative challenges using SharePoint, delivering solutions. A significant number of queries will come from the use of Microsoft Office with SharePoint. Particularly since virtually all interaction with content in SharePoint will come from the use of Microsoft Products such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and even moving beyond into the lands of Project, Visio, OneNote (the list continues).

If  you want sustainable User Adoption, amongst other techniques, focus on the information workers core toolset – Microsoft Office. For information workers to remain SharePoint productive, to make them more empowered, to give them a sense of achievement, you should consider informing and evangelizing to them the Microsoft Office Specialist certification, of which SharePoint is part.

(more…)

How to connect a SharePoint 2013 Document Library to Outlook 2013

How to connect a SharePoint 2013 Document Library to Outlook 2013

One of the key methods of gaining User Adoption of SharePoint is ensuring and pushing the integration it has with Microsoft Office to information workers. After all, information workers generally use Outlook as their ‘mother-ship’. Getting those users to switch immediately to SharePoint or, asking them to visit a document library in a SharePoint site which they will need to access could take time, especially since it means opening a browser, navigating to the site, covering their beloved Outlook client in the process.

(more…)

SharePoint Delivery Planning Guide

As part of my book, SharePoint 2013 User Adoption Planning and Governance, below is a SharePoint Delivery Detail Plan. This plan encompasses the tasks required to deliver a SharePoint solution from Envision through to User Adoption.

Office 365 becomes part of Microsoft Office Specialist Programme

A major important milestone in the step to get information workers creditations in the use of Office products. Just last year I completed the SharePoint Study guide for Microsoft Office, and now in not the too distant future (in fact in late August to be precise), Office 365 will get an exam study guide. In fact, the author happens to be my co-author for the brilliant study guide for Office 2010 (including SharePoint of course!).

This is I think a major move on the part of Microsoft who are keen to ensure that educational establishments, armed with the free offer of Office 365 will now also be able to offer courses, examinations and creditations for information workers to place on their CVs, and shout to the world they are proficient in the use of Office 365! (more…)

Wow, just I’ve joined the MVP Student Partner Mentoring Programme

Am pretty humbled here having been accepted into the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Student Mentoring programme (ok its a long title).  However, its all about giving back your expertise, knowledge and experience into those who will in future help shape SharePoint and associated products. To recap, the MVP Student Mentor Program pairs MVPs with students in the Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) Program to share their knowledge and experience as influential technical leaders in the community. The MSP Program is a worldwide educational program that sponsors students majoring in disciplines related to technology who then share their knowledge with the academic community. The MVP Student Mentor Program helps MVPs share their passion, expertise, and real-world experience with students who share their passion and are just starting out in the technology community.

Also when I’m paired up I’ll be adding more articles related to SharePoint experiences with students so watch this space!

More information here:

http://www.microsoft.com/uk/education/students/learning/microsoft-student-partners.aspx

Information Workers Certification in SharePoint 2010 (77-886)

If you are an Information Worker in SharePoint, and you would like proove your skills by marking on your Cirriculum Vitae as a Microsoft Office Specialist in SharePoint, then the best way is by doing the Microsoft Office Specialist suite of exams provided by Microsoft and run by Certiport. This is also true if you teach Microsoft Office at school, college or university, and would like your students to be made aware of this offering.

(more…)

Excel Web App Video from Microsoft

One of the most difficult areas to engage users with in the adoption of SharePoint is sometimes wrongly perceieved to be the easiest because the assumption is the user must already be using the product. And when needing to get users productive with their client and web app Office 2010, there is sometimes a tendency in some providers to shy away from training users in them, particularly when it comes to SharePoint. Afterall, it looks daunting yes? Office 2010 boasts integration services with SharePoint, notably Excel, Access, Word, Outlook and some of the really cool integration aspects of OneNote, Visio, Performance Point – and they all have major solution benefits.

(more…)

My Books

I’m focused on SharePoint, having been involved since SharePoint 2003 hit the streets. All of my books are dedicated to SharePoint Implementation, Service, Support, Automation and SharePoint teaching. Click any of the links below to find out more about the books I have published:

Managing and Implementing SharePoint® 2010 Projects

MOS 2010 Study Guide for Microsoft® Office SharePoint®

MOS 2010 Study Guide for Microsoft® Word Expert, Excel® Expert, Access®, and SharePoint®

Microsoft® SharePoint® 2013: Planning for Adoption and Governance

Additionally, I was technical author for the following two books:

MOS 2013 Study Guide for Microsoft Office SharePoint

Creating and Implementing Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Real-World Projects

I am editor for the Software Best Practice Development Journal here.

Ten Steps to a successful implementation of SharePoint

People have been requesting me do a shortened article to cover SharePoint Implementation from a higher level; a kind of whats my the key steps required to deliver SharePoint to a client. Please note there’s a whole bunch of webcasts coming soon to go into some more detail on each of the steps, so watch this space. If you need further information go ahead and give me a shout! Happy Reading!

 

(more…)