This article by Wendy Neal illustrates what I try to communicate to businesses about their SharePoint investment. Most companies install the product and point users to the URL. That’s like planting a sapling, and then walking away from it! Don’t blame the sapling that doesn’t grow because you don’t provide care for and feed it. No wonder people don’t like saplings!
Microsoft’s newest product – Fuse – will revolutionize your life. It is a smart home solution that will let you control all appliances and systems within the home. You can track usage patterns to increase efficiency and spot trends with your family’s utilities usage. In addition, this product will allow you to track all manner of information like grocery inventory – automatically updated by the shopping list feature, budget info, birthday and anniversary reminders, auto maintenance tracker, Christmas wish list, ability to turn on reminders for any aspect of any bit of information, and more. This piece of software is available as an app for the XBox One, and all this information is available from the also brand new Microsoft smartphone (cool new name yet to come!). Imagine having all this information at your fingertips at any time! The information is secure and invisible to even the NSA due to double secret encryption techniques and some other tech I can’t divulge at this time. Don’t tell anyone, but this product is really a scaled down version of SharePoint. Naturally it has been re-branded into a consumer version with lots of content types geared toward the homeowner. A re-branding of the product has been a long time coming don’t you think? Obviously, this is not a real product from Microsoft. At least not yet! I could see it all coming together though with the recent moves the company has made.
Nadella’s new mantra for Microsoft is “mobile first, cloud first.” While the company has been in the cloud for some time, the mobile first seems to be a shift. And a needed one at that. I feel that this new CEO can bring an excitement to the software maker similar to what Jobs did for Apple. In my mind I can already see him on stage in that blue hoodie promoting the newest mobile device. Nadella ought to drive hard toward a groundbreaking new mobile device, be it a smartphone or tablet. It should be an advance over the Apple/Google products currently on the market and finally give the Microsoft crowd a reason to not own an iOS or Android product. I’m not talking about a shot across the bow of its competitors, but a kill shot aimed at pulling customers back to a device with Windows OS. Oh yeah, time the rollout of this device with the rollout of Windows 9 as well. And let this device be customizable by its owner. They paid for it after all, and they should be able to replace a broken screen or old battery themselves. Am I setting my sights too high? For the first time in years I’m excited about the future of Microsoft!
As a SharePoint professional, I have watched with anticipation as Microsoft searched for a new CEO. Now that Nadella has been named for the post, I find myself wondering what this means for SharePoint. As former head of the cloud and enterprise group he knows the profitability and importance of the product within the company. I wonder if he will aim SharePoint more toward the mobile platform and away from desktops. Mobile SharePoint has been available for several versions now, but the mobile component always seemed to me like an afterthought. Since that is the direction computing is headed it would make sense to drive SharePoint there too. I think the hiring of Nadella is a very good thing for Microsoft. He looks to add some youthful exuberance to what has historically been seen as a stodgy, slow-moving behemoth. Exciting days ahead!
I don’t want to upgrade beyond SharePoint 2010, at least not right now. I’ve seen 2013, and it’s got some pretty cool features. It also lacks some things that made it easy to customize. I know that 2013 was built so that we the developers couldn’t play around with things that Microsoft feels you shouldn’t have access to unless you have a Little Orphan Annie SharePoint decoder ring or something. And I’m still a bit resentful about that. 2010 is a good solution, and provides a scalable customizable platform upon which you can do a great many things. There are lots of free solutions that extend it further, and virtually limitless aftermarket bolt-ons if you want to go that route. It’s not that I don’t want to learn about the new version, I just don’t think the new version is good enough (yet) to make the jump. I suppose that eventually I will have to. Probably right after I upgrade my home PC from Windows XP.
I love cars. I like to work on them, watch shows about them, and occasionally buy and sell them. I dream of one day owning a classic car that I restore with my son. I can imagine Saturday mornings with him leaning over the fender and pointing out different parts of a motor and how to fix what is broken. One day I envision him and I running a speed shop where we take classic cars like 57 Chevys and Porsche 911s, and restore and modify them to go faster. Most of the time though I find myself fixing my broke down (non-classic) car in my disorganized garage. Where are the vintage automotive signs on the walls and the pegboard neatly organizing my tools? I don’t have a nice clean workbench to do precision work, just a random box to lay tools and parts on. While I fancy myself one day an owner and restorer of classic cars, it seems a far cry from the shadetree mechanic I am today. Working with SharePoint often seems like that to me. I dream of one day building the perfect app or plug-in to “supercharge” SharePoint, but most days I end up fiddling with what is broken or finding workarounds to what doesn’t quite work.
Recently I had some issues with an SPD workflow I was making. I had 5 Start Approval Processes, and everything worked well. Then I had a requirement to break out one of the 5 processes into 2, so that made 6 approval processes altogether. And everyone knows that an SPD workflow can only handle 7000 nodes, right? I mean, who doesn’t know that?!? And you know that every Start Approval Process brings 1176 nodes with it, right? So simple math tells us that alone is 7056 nodes! About that same time the 2 step approval process got cut back to just one, so I was tried to cull parts of the processes that I THOUGHT WERE UNECESSARY. Turns out they were necessary and I had deleted the portion of the processes that actually created the tasks and emails! So I scrambled about for a day or so trying to figure out where the create task/email section was. Three hours before a status meeting about the workflow I decided to scrap the original and rebuild it using Collect Feedback processes. Collect Feedback processes have 1010 nodes each. Not lightweight, but lighter than the approval processes. Even with these lighter processes I had to cut back some of the other nodes in the workflow I myself had created. In any case, the moral of the story is that generally speaking the limit for Start Approval Processes in a workflow is 5, and 6 for Collect Feedback Processes.
Seems every day I read about the death of SharePoint, should Microsoft kill SharePoint, etc. I’m not concerned. Remember the mainframe computer (or at least reading about them in Intro to Computers)? They were declared obsolete and a thing of the past over 20 years ago. Yet they are still churning away, reliably processing a gazillion records per second with nary a reboot and less than 5 seconds downtime per year! As far as computing has come, and as amazing as the devices we have now there hasn’t been a machine developed that can compete against the mainframe with the balance of power and reliability. And…mountains and mountains of legacy data are housed in the mainframe system. How does this relate to SharePoint, you ask? It runs on the Windows platform, which is as fragile as a snowflake is a forest fire. Companies have invested quite a lot of their IT infrastructure into Windows products, and they all integrate seamlessly with each other (just ask the marketing department). Plus, the Microsoft Office Suite. People can’t live without Word and Excel, and it’s a proven fact that executives crave the PowerPoint. While a Microsoft shop is not as deeply entrenched as the mainframe guys, the principle holds true. Change is difficult, and migrating all that data to something new is in most cases a bridge too far. Predicitng the end of this product or that company is nothing new. Consider this “Microsoft is Dead” article circa 2007.
After reading Joel Olesen’s article (http://www.collabshow.com/2013/09/26/do-consultants-really-matter-to-sharepoint-success-infographic-2/) about SharePoint deployment success I was reminded of an episode of Top Gear UK. In it Richard Hammond (a skilled performance car driver) was to drive a Formula One race car on a track. “How hard could it be?” he boasted. Apparently it is very hard. Take the steering wheel for instance (costs about $50k, and you thought SharePoint was expensive!) which has over 20 controls. As well, when entering a corner you must be traveling at a high rate of speed. The car must be going fast so that the front and rear wings can generate enough downforce coupled with the grip of warm tires, or the ($2.6M) car will go hurtling into the haybales! Check out that clip here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9773pisjCSw
My point is that many IT departments approach their SharePoint deployments in the same manner. How hard could it be, right? Just install the software, and send the URL to the companywide distro list. Piece of cake, we’ll be outta here by 7. Much like the Hamster’s F1 experience, the reality for most implementing SharePoint is that you need a good (pit) crew and experienced professionals to drive development, user adoption, security, governance, branding, etc. Anyone can roll the car out of the garage, but it takes a good crew to get it up to speed in the real world and keep it there. Spend the time to build a good team and think about all aspects of deployment, or risk crashing your deployment.
I just got an email from Microsoft saying that my three month trial has ended! I just started the subscription 9 days ago! Anyone else have this problem?