SharePoint Conference 2014 (#SPC14) Wrap Up

SharePoint Conference 2014; connect, reimagine, transform

Wow. Whew. The 2014 episode of the Microsoft SharePoint Conference aka #SPC14 is a wrap. What an amazing experience.

It seems obligatory for anyone who has more than two eyeballs on their blog to do a wrap up post after a conference like this, and I didn’t want to be the exception. So here you go…

This was what used to be called a “non-release” year. That meant that there wasn’t a new, three-year epic release coming out with the attendant marketing push from Microsoft. Now that we are living in the bold new world of Office365 with its nearly weekly updates, there’s really no such thing as a “release year” anymore. Sure, we’ve been promised a new on premises release in 2015, but odds are that it will contain the incremental improvements that we’ve been seeing on Office365 – as we recently saw with the Service Pack 1 release – and some shiny new things, but the SharePoint Product Group is all about continuous improvement now. There will still be splashes, but they won’t be as big. (Joel Oleson (@joeloleson) did a post a while back that explains how this all is going to work in great detail, if you’d like to understand more about it.)

image The keynote was a big one. Former US President Bill Clinton was the featured speaker. While he didn’t wow me with his messages, it was impressive (and no doubt expensive) for Microsoft to have him speak. From the Microsoft angle we heard from Jared Spatero (@jared_spatero – the emcee of sorts), Jeff Teper (@jeffteper), Julia White (@julwhite), Arpan Shah (@arpanshah), and Michal Gideoni.

While there were fewer “big splash” announcements, the things that were announced may prove to be impressive enhancements to the SharePoint platform once they are ready for prime time.

One big theme I was happy to see throughout the developer-focused sessions: embracing JavaScript. It’s wonderful to see the community embracing JavaScript as never before. What a difference a little time passing makes. Just a few years ago, my forays into the JavaScript world with SPServices and other methods were considered child’s play. Now many of those same naysayers have embraced the technology and new, highly useful development patterns for SharePoint pop up all the time. (Props specifically to Scot Hillier (@scothillier)here. I’ll go to one of his sessions every time I have the opportunity.)

Perhaps this change of heart is due to the splendid frameworks which have been evolving over the last few years. This isn’t your father’s JavaScript. Development approaches are evolving rapidly, with frameworks rising and falling in popularity.

Perhaps the most important session I attended from a strategic standpoint was SPC348 – Update on InfoPath and SharePoint Forms. Greg Lindhorst from the Access team and Sonya Koptyev – my new pal on the Product Group team; bless her if she’s been assigned to keep me in line – led the session.The content was extremely important to many of us in the SharePoint community. However, how the session was set up and went is even more important. Rather than simply demoing something shiny with a high wow factor and leaving it at that, the session was truly interactive.

There was an acknowledgement that progress isn’t always easy. I loved the up-front quote from Charles Kettering:

2014-03-09 19-23 page #0Greg and Sonya showed us a real timeline, with rough dates and planned enhancements.

Streamlined technical product roadmap

Streamlined technical product roadmap

As you can see, there are four planned areas of focus:

  • Excel Surveys
  • List Forms (FoSL, or Forms on SharePoint Lists)
  • Structured Documents – Maybe this will be where Word plays a role
  • App Forms – aka Access Services

Note the timeframes in the slide. (Is this really Microsoft talking?) They aren’t carved in stone, but they ought to be directionally correct. Behind those timelines, though, was a true request for all of us to participate in the journey. The Product Group doesn’t always have all the answers, and they are saying that out loud now. They want our feedback and wish list items and have set up a new User Voice to capture them at

Don’t think this is just some exercise to placate us by letting us make suggestions we’ll never see. The User Voice platform is already driving enhancements making it into Office365 and seems to be the main feedback mechanisms where you can make your needs known.

The reason I think that SPC348 – Update on InfoPath and SharePoint Forms was so important wasn’t about the content. It was about *how* the content was presented. To me, this is the Microsoft I’ve been trying to find: open, honest, and wanting to collaborate to attain a higher goal. That’s what I always wanted to do when I became an MVP, and it looks like they are finally catching up to me. I’m going to be all over Sonya if this Great New Attitude flags. I’ve warned her. (For an excellent, detailed write up on this session, see Nik Patel’s (@nikxpatel) post Future of InfoPath – SPC14 Notes from Office and SharePoint Forms Roadmap Update.)

Oh, and the conference was in Las Vegas, so there was some shenanigans. I managed to come out reasonably unscathed on the gambling front – merely a flesh wound! – and the parties were tadifa. From the opening attendee reception to Club SPC to the Attendee Party at the Las Vegas Motor Speeedway, there was no lack of ways for attendees to entertain themselves. Of course, this is the biggest SharePoint conference in the world (at least so far) and it’s the only time so many of us in the community manage to get together to cause trouble. This was social business at its finest.

I’m including a few of the photos I took during the conference in the slideshow below. Enjoy!

Announcing the Top 25 SharePoint Influencers for 2014

HomeLast Wednesday at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas – in a clear lapse of judgment – named me the seventh most influential SharePoint person for 2014. Read more in Announcing the Top 25 SharePoint Influencers for 2014 on the blog.

I’m honored and humbled to be recognized as even in the same league as the other 24 people on the list. They are some of the smartest and most dedicated people in the SharePoint community. I hardly belong there with them. Thanks to for the recognition. Thanks also to anyone out there who finds my musings and activities useful and voted for me for this honor.

The Top 10

  • Andrew Connell, Co-Founder, Co-Host, Microsoft Cloud Show (@andrewconnell).
  • Joel Oleson, Global Collaboration Evangelist, Community Builder and Strategist (@joeloleson).
  • Todd Klindt, SharePoint Consultant, Rackspace Hosting (@toddklindt).
  • Christian Buckley, Chief Evangelist, Metalogix (@buckleyplanet).
  • Laura Rogers, Senior SharePoint Consultant, Rackspace Hosting (@WonderLaura).
  • Jeremy Thake, VP of Global Product Innovation, AvePoint Inc. (@jthake).
  • Marc D. Anderson, Management and Technology Consultant, Sympraxis Consulting LLC (@sympmarc).
  • Dux Raymond Sy, VP of Customer Strategy & Solutions, AvePoint Public Sector (@meetdux).
  • Jeff Willinger, Director of Collaboration, Social Business and Intranets, Rightpoint, World-wide SharePoint Speaker and Evangelist (@jwillie).
  • Spencer Harbar, Managing Director, Triumph Media Limited, Enterprise Architect, Microsoft (@harbars)

As a service to the business community, has commissioned the third annual ranking of the “Top 25 SharePoint Influencers.”  Prominent industry analyst Dana Gartner and Scratch Marketing + Media were tapped to identify those leaders who are helping others navigate the SharePoint/Yammer platform. Based on a finalist list of top 100 SharePoint professionals, a weighted formula was used to identify the top 25 U.S. SharePoint influencers. Selection was based on: each professional’s SharePoint knowledge and business impact; digital and social presence and influence; blog reach and frequency; depth of SharePoint topic coverage; citations by other influential bloggers; and more than 3,000 qualified community votes.

MySPC 2012

Well, Microsoft’s SharePoint Conference 2012 has come to a close, and I’m writing this post on the plane flying back to Boston. It was a humdinger of a conference. Not only was this the largest SharePoint conference on record, having it in Las Vegas made everything seem just that much bigger and flashy.

2012-11-12 09.45.38Whether it was strolling the Exhibit Hall or the halls of the convention center or sitting in one of the over 250 sessions, all the buzz was about SharePoint 2013, which was released to manufacturing (RTM – a Microsoft term for”shipped” ). While only one of my clients has indicated any real interest in 2013 at this point (I do a mix of SharePoint 2007 and 2010 work these days), it was hard not to be swept up in the fever around this new release. SharePoint 2013 is a huge undertaking in its own right, but Microsoft has also RTMed Office 2013 and Windows 8 in concert, and there was a lot of information at SPC about the great integration across those toolsets.

SharePoint 2013 Unveiled: Live from Las Vegas

Thursday I had the honor of participating in a webinar for SusQTech’s ’30 on Thursday’ series called SharePoint 2013 Unveiled: Live from Las Vegas. Liam Cleary and I talked about the key takeaways we had from attending SPC this week. Since our perspectives are different and we do different types of work, of course we keyed in on different aspects of 2013. In the webinar, I talked about my three main takeaways from SPC. You can listen to the free webinar recording when it’s available if you are interested.

The Democratization of SharePoint Development

With the new App Model and the ability to host apps off-SharePoint, the market opens up to developers of many stripes, as long as those stripes blend into the colors of the Web development savannah. I’ve been promoting this for quite a few years now, and I’m truly glad to see it happen under Microsoft’s auspices. Now we have “official” ways to use JavaScript, jQuery, etc. to create SharePoint apps, and in fact, many SharePoint apps will be all JavaScript apps. I’m not saying that the .NET model hasn’t been a successful way to build upon SharePoint, I’m saying that now we have the options that I think we need to push the envelope even further on usability and distributed processing where it makes good sense.

New Search Features

The most exciting new Search feature is, for me, hands down the Content Search Web Part. This little beauty will be a game changer. What it allows you to do is surface content from anywhere in the farm using custom display templates. That means that it truly no longer matters where content lives, as long as it is correctly constructed and  tagged so that search can identify it. Think of the CQWP as the Content Query Web Part with nuclear power. The underlying search engine in 2013 is greatly improved to start with and the CSWP makes it sing. Think of this example: a CSWP in a page in a Community of Practice or Center of Excellence site could surface collaborative content a from across the Site Collection which meets certain keyword or content inclusion criteria, with ratings and usage metrics used as further filters. All this can happen with the expected, appropriate security trimming for each individual user or permissions groups. The UI for the CSWP is simple enough to allow a Site Administrator to set it up, with added capabilities for writing more complex queries in the advanced mode.

Access 2013 Apps

While I can see that there are some parts of Access 2013 story which haven’t quite been written yet, this approach to developing SharePoint applications shows great promise, as Ruven Gotz (@ruveng) and I have discussed in person and had been hoping on his blog. Access has always been an underrated development environment in my opinion, seen as underpowered and rejected in favor of more complicated server-based tools over the last half dozen years or so. With this release’s ability to store its content in SQL Server in Azure, the corporate IT concern that the data isn’t controllable and secure is mitigated. The tool itself has taken on a wonderfully minimalistic likeness of the Windows 8 UI (aka Metro) which is clean yet extremely capable for building real applications.

2012-11-14 17.09.55The integration with SharePoint isn’t fully there yet, and SharePoint list data can only be used in read-only mode in the release. However, I can see a path forward where Access 2013 becomes a viable replacement for InfoPath, and given that InfoPath received no development love this go-around it may well be what Microsoft is thinking as well. Forms development becomes easier, at least to me, and with the underlying data constructs and event triggers we have an environment ready to take off. When we hear “in this release” from Microsoft, we’re used to thinking three years or so, but my gut tells me that paradigm is about to be broken in a significant way, so stay tuned on this one.

But Wait, There’s More…

Other things worthy of note are the new Design Manager capabilities for building out your branding and the improved workflow capabilities of SharePoint Designer. SharePoint Designer itself has become a bit of an orphan, as it loses the Design and Split views in 2013. While the Design Manager capabilities can fill some of that gap (but only with the Server license when Publishing is enabled) we have a gap there which isn’t filled by anything other than perhaps Access 2010.

Improved Social in 2013 + Yammer

Social in 2013 is leaps and bounds beyond what 2010 gives us. We can follow people, documents, sites, and tags. We can monitor our own newsfeeds and access that content via rich client side APIs. But the real ace in the hole here is going to be Yammer. While I’m impressed with Yammer as it stands, the best is unknown and yet to come, I think. I’m impressed with the SharePoint integration points that Yammer has already built in the few months since the purchase by Microsoft. But I think the real secret sauce they bring to the table is their deep knowledge of rapid feature development and deployment in a true SaaS approach. Microsoft can leverage that knowledge and significantly learn from it. If they don’t, and instead wipe the secret sauce away, then it is at their peril. While there are a lot of positive things to say about Microsoft’s products, they simply cannot continue in the three year “enterprise” cycle they have followed for the last few decades. Yammer’s mindset (and to a lesser degree, Skype‘s) can push Microsoft out of this rut into being a nimble and potent “player” in social or any other part of the stack. By pushing out regular new features and existing feature refreshes, Microsoft can start to act more like its competition has been acting for a long time now. We see the vision in the vast array of current releases that follow the same patterns in design and development; having them continue to evolve rapidly and in concert would be a stellar improvement.

There was plenty more information for IT Pros and Business people as well, of course, but I focused almost exclusively on the Development track. Since the session videos will be available online, I’ll probably try to catch on some of the better ones based on the tweets I saw throughout the conference later.

All Work and No Play…

Oh, and the parties. Vegas isn’t known for low key events, and neither do people at a conference there act that way. Everything was bigger, louder, flashier, and more exciting than last year’s SPC in Anaheim. Here were the events I was lucky enough to attend.

  • US MVP breakfast on Wednesday morning
  • Dinner Wednesday night at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon with Michal Pisarek (@michalpisarek), Denise Ching (@deniseching), and Cindy Hui (@CindyHui2). OK, so this wasn’t really a party, but it was the best meal of the week for me. Food photos here.
  • The SharePoint City party at Tryst on Wednesday night, sponsored by Axeler, Jornata, and many more. For some reason, they had Pamela Anderson show up. Go figure. vegas logo2012-11-14 22.37.45

Wrap Up

All in all, this SPC was the biggest Microsoft event I’ve ever attended, with more information and more glitz than ever. Thanks to everyone on the event planning and logistics staff for all of the yeoman’s work. No, everything wasn’t perfect. The lack of wireless capabilities during almost the entire conference certainly detracted from getting information and messaging out that Microsoft should have wanted people not in attendance to hear. There were many sessions that were far to popular for the size of the room the were held in. Predicting this sort of thing is hard, but MySPC should have given a better handle on things. There were too many sessions at any given time to even try to learn about much out side one’s own “track”, though the videos will help with that after the fact. We easily spot these shortcomings and can’t see many of the things that simply went right. The staff at the Mandalay Bay complex were so helpful and knowledgeable most of the time that it was almost creepy, they really seem to enjoy their work and making things go well for us attendees.

So, a big thank you to everyone who had any part of the panning and execution. I hope to see you in ??? next year!