SharePoint: Enabling Knowledge Management

I had the chance recently to have chat with TechnologyAdvice’s Josh Bland (@JoshBlandTA). This interview was a part of the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series. The series explores a variety of business and technology landscapes through conversations with industry leaders.

There’s plenty of great content there, including interviews with some of the speakers for the SharePoint Technology Conference – SPTechCon Austin – coming up February 21-24. If you register with code ANDERSON, you’ll get an extra $200 off any other discounts you might receive.

In this episode we discussed how I see SharePoint fitting into a successful knowledge management strategy, how modern work happens, big things that happened with SharePoint in 2015, and of course, the upcoming SPTechCon. If you enjoy this interview, you might want to check out the one I did with Josh last summer, just before SPTechCon Boston: Software Adoption: A People Problem, or A Technology Problem?

Below is an excerpt from the conversation:

Josh: What would you say, Marc? How would you sort of summarize the year? What sort of big developments occurred and what would you say were some of the highlights from 2015 in SharePoint?

Marc: One of the biggest things is that the hybrid story that Microsoft is just telling is getting richer and richer. We saw some capabilities that are available on Office 365 starting to filter back on Premises, and that’s via hooking up to a SharePoint online instant. So that you can sort of take advantage of the best of the cloud but still keep your content in-house. And of course, we’re seeing tremendous strides forward in Office 365 as well. It’s hard at this time of the year to look back and try to remember, how many of these things actually got stuffed into this one year? And it’s pretty incredible when you look at how many things have changed over the last year in the SharePoint space. We have things like Delve and groups and the video portal, and all these things that have really come into their own this year and shown that Microsoft is not sitting still, that they’re — I’m very bullish on Microsoft in what they’re doing with Office 365. And I’m not an easy one to convince [chuckles]. But I see them doing some very cool things – Planner – just all kinds of new experiences as they say, with fantastic user interfaces that really are bringing the whole platform ahead in leaps and bounds.

Josh: I want to hear what were some of the sort of difficulties that you have experienced, not only with your customers, but just in general that you think the industry has seen from SharePoint?

Marc: An ongoing challenge for anyone using these platforms is that the development story continues to evolve. And that’s not a bad thing, but for your average developer who’s trying to sort of swim with both hands tied behind their back, sometimes, keeping ahead of what the enterprise wants, it’s difficult because we look at the different– historically we’ve had features and solutions, we’ve had the sandbox model now. We have the apps crossed out, add-in model, and we’ll probably see some evolution from here. People are continually having to keep their skills fresh. Now, that to me is a damn good thing. Anybody who stops learning and thinks that what they know now is going to serve them forever is sort of letting themselves die intellectually. The fact that we have to learn new things all the time is a good thing. We’re seeing an evolution from server site code toward JavaScript and client site code to a degree that is really — it’s been a bumpy ride for some people over the last couple of years to make that mental switch. As we’re seeing better experiences coming out of Microsoft, we’re seeing these challenges for the developers inside enterprises who are trying to build bespoke functionality that is unique to that organization, or something that that organization wants that Microsoft does not provide exactly. It’s that 20% that’s actually the hard part. That’s going to be an ongoing set of challenges – understanding how this hybrid model, as you mentioned fits into the organization’s ethos – is going to be a tough one for a lot of people to get to.

Two years ago we would have been talking about the tremendous fear about security and, “Does the cloud make sense?” And, now we always talk about it as, “Which part of the cloud makes sense to me? Which parts should I take advantage of? Where am I going to get the bang for my buck?” So, we’re on a different part of the learning curve for all of that. But the development story is tough. And that hybrid aspect just adds a little bit of complexity to the whole thing.

Josh: One final question here on SPTechCon 2016. Do you see a lot of differences between Boston and Austin? All that to say, what do you think will be different about this year, Austin 2016 vs. Austin 2015 or Boston 2015?

Marc: The obvious difference is that we’ve got SharePoint 2016 coming up. So — Yeah, new software smell. There are a couple things there. One is obviously there is some new software out there; new bits. So, people will be able to hear some good information about what’s there, why would you be interested in it, how does it work and that sort of thing. One of the best things though about SPTechCon is that they’re very careful to manage the mix between: here’s the shiny new stuff and here’s that stuff that you are actually still stuck working with [chuckles]. There are still a lot of people in the crowd who use SharePoint 2010, there’s still a lot of people who are using 2013 obviously. There’s a great mix of content across that spectrum as opposed to just going for the new stuff. Go to the Microsoft conference for that. They’ll only talk about the new things. But SPTechCon has been traditionally very good about having that balance, so that everybody who comes to the conference gets a lot of depth out of it.

This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice, an Inc. 5000 company looking to help buyers find the best cloud storage, payroll systems, and more. Interview conducted by Josh Bland.

Software Adoption: A People Problem, or A Technology Problem?

I was a guest recently on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share my thoughts on the intersection of sales, marketing, and technology. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Josh Bland, explores a variety of business and technology landscapes through conversations with industry leaders.

In this episode we discussed corporate cultures, global collaboration, and the upcoming SharePoint Technology Conference (SPTechCon) in Boston August 24-27.

Below are a few highlights from our conversation:

TechnologyAdvice: How does SharePoint help businesses and employees collaborate in a world where everything is always connected?

Marc Anderson: SharePoint has had a rather long lifespan for enterprise software — lots of things don’t last as long as SharePoint has. In the earlier days, it was very focused on teamwork– small groups of people trying to accomplish specific things. The goals might have been bigger, but that was really the focus.

Where Microsoft is going now, is they’ve moved their focus to offering services rather than software. They’re actually at the forefront of where businesses are going over the next five to ten years, whether they know they will or not. It’s not about the technology so much. The fact that it’s in the cloud or that it’s got a blue logo or something really doesn’t make any difference.

Over the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve really seen a change in the way corporate cultures and structures work compared to the way they used to. The Industrial Revolution and 1950’s military industrial complex were very hierarchical, very siloed. Now inefficient organizations are getting flatter. They’re putting teams together to solve specific problems and they’re having those teams break apart again, then go off and form new teams, so each person in that team might go do different things.

We’re seeing a lot more agile, small organizations able to accomplish things in different ways than they used to. That’s where SharePoint’s really going with some of the stuff they’re rolling out on Office 365, with more machine learning. It’s not artificial intelligence but it’s trying to get you the information you need right before you think you needed it, or before you even realize you needed it. And that’s cool stuff.

It’s shifting from team members putting things into a document repository and just knowing it’s in there, to the point where content gets put in front of you because you’re going to need it in your work soon. And with the Office Graph and Delve, we’re starting to see some real evidence that’s going to be the way people are working in the future.

TA: If people are not in an office but around the world working on different projects, something like SharePoint can continue to grow and become more powerful. Do you agree with that?

Anderson: Absolutely. In almost all cases, even a small company like mine with two people – we’re a global company. I know that sounds ridiculous because we both live in Boston, but we work with customers all over the place. There’s no geographical barrier anymore, which is part of what you’re alluding to. People are out on the road more, and they need to stay tethered somehow to their home-base. But they also need to be able to work together with people who could be anywhere.

You might have a conference call with someone in Shanghai and then work on the document with somebody in Amsterdam. That’s a normal day in this global economy. Twenty or thirty years ago those were huge exceptions. SharePoint, which gives us a large surface area to enable remote and geographically dispersed work, is a win.

It lets us work asynchronously. We don’t have to be in a room having a meeting. Meetings are god-awful things anyway, but we don’t have to be in a room talking about something. We can do it asynchronously using technology and work when we need to work or when we’re able to work. I think it changes our lifestyle, it changes our incentives, it changes the culture of organization, and SharePoint’s been a big part of that.

TA: What common collaborative software challenges do you see?

Anderson: In many ways, I don’t see a lot of the challenges as technology challenges. They’re more business and cultural challenges. One of the things I’ve seen working with clients — I’ve been in consulting for decades now — is the aspiration is rarely reached. And very specifically with SharePoint, people bring it in and they want to change the way their company works, and they end up storing documents in SharePoint and that’s about it.

Getting from the execution to the promise of what they may have thought they wanted to do — or even not realized they could do — that’s one of the biggest challenges. The challenge is in enabling their organization to work differently. Some people talk about it as an adoption problem. SharePoint is in a lot of organizations, but a lot of people don’t use it. I don’t see it as an adoption problem, I see it as we’re not offering good enough capabilities to make people want to use it.

It’s really not about the technology per se. It’s about the implementation, it’s about the cultural stuff around it, it’s about incentives. It’s about helping people understand how they can be better at what they do and enjoy that. If they don’t enjoy it, they’re just going to dig their heels in and avoid it. So those are some of the biggest challenges, whether it’s cloud or on premises, or whether you’ve got to get a fatter pipe to get the data across. Those are all solvable problems. Those are technical problems.

The harder challenge is the soft stuff around the technology. People are softer than computers. They’re quirky and they don’t like change. Working on the things outside the technology can be even more important challenges to overcome.

This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Josh Bland.

SPTechCon Austin 2015 Wrap-Up

A splendid time was had by all at the inaugural Austin, TX version of the venerable SharePoint Technology Conference, usually known as SPTechCon. There was a tangibly different energy in the air at this SPTechCon. I’m sure some of that had to do with the new venue, but there seemed to be a bit more to it than that.

My friends at BZ Media did a wonderful job – as always – with the conference. David Rubinstein, Stacy Burris, Katie Serignese (soon to be Katie Flash!), and the whole team really know what they are doing and it shows.

In addition to the two session I presented, I was honored to be a part of an “expert panel”, discussing ‘SharePoint at the Crossroads’. I think SharePoint always seems to be at some sort of crossroads, so there’s always a lot to talk about.


Photo courtesy Heather Newman (@heddanewman)

After hours, we had a meeting of the SharePoint beards and thought deep thoughts.20150210_223631000_iOS

Here are many of the speakers at the speaker party.


Photo courtesy Christina Wheeler (@cwheeler76)

And what would a trip to Austin be without a stop at Salt Lick? BTW, that dude sitting behind Joel is Chris Tomich. He was there all the way from Perth, Australia (via San Francisco, where he’s spending a few months). Chris is one of my SharePoint heroes (not to slight anyone else), and it was awesome to have the chance to spend a bunch of time with him in Austin.


Photo courtesy Joel Oleson (@joeloleson)

The ‘Q:


Oh, and I presented two sessions. Thanks to everyone who joined me for them. The slides are up on Slideshare if you’d like to take a look.

The session I did on Content Types was a new one for me, and I had an unbelievably large and engaged crowd. Clearly this is a topic area where there need to be more resources available.

SPTechCon SFO 2014 Wrap Up

SPTechConLogoAnother splendid time was had by all at the latest rendition of SPTechCon, this time in sunny (mostly) San Francisco at the Hilton Union Square. The BZMedia folks who put on SPTechCon are great people and both the San Francisco and Boston versions are on my list of favorite SharePoint events.

Announcing SPTechCon BostonIf you weren’t able to attend this one, you may still be interested in my slides. Face it, though: it’s much more fun to go to these events to watch me make a fool of myself in person. Consider, nay decide that you will be, attending the Boston SPTechCon coming up September 16-19, 2014.

I’ve posted them to SlideShare for your fun and enjoyment. Even though several of the sessions I did were repeats of previous performances, they continually evolve, so every deck always has some new goodies in it.


Create a Business Solution, Step by Step, with No Managed Code at SPTechCon Boston 2013

SPTC_Boston2013_speakerbadge[important]If you’re coming to this post late, remember that you can still save $200 by using code ANDERSON, right up the conference![/important]

SPTechCon Boston 2013 is coming up fast. If you haven’t registered yet, do so by tomorrow (June 28) to get $400 off. If you use my code ANDERSON, you can get an additional $200 off. Act fast because there’s only a day and a half left to save that $600!

I’m doing two regular sessions this time around and one tutorial. Tutorials at SPTechCon used to be called workshops and I always wanted to try to do what I think of as a “real’ workshop: a session in which we work through some challenge as a group from start to finish. I managed to convince David Rubinstein (@drubinstein) at BZMedia, the SPTechCon head honcho, that this would be a good idea for me to try. We’ll see if I led him down a garden path or not, I suppose.

Here’s the description of the tutorial, taken directly from the listing on the SPTechCon site:

People often ask this instructor how he comes up with the somewhat unorthodox solutions he has built in SharePoint. In this tutorial, you will learn how you can devise powerful solutions from beginning to end without deploying any managed code. First, we’ll take a business problem submitted by one of you, go through a rapid design session, and figure out how we might build it. Next, you’ll be taken through the actual solution the instructor whacked together based on the requirements beforehand, and we’ll compare and contrast. Hopefully, we will hit on most of the same high points that we’ve designed into the solution together, but since we won’t know until we get there, all bets are off!
We’ll do the work in SharePoint 2010 so that the solution’s usefulness will be as wide as possible. However, we’ll dip into SharePoint 2013 as well to see how the solution might work there and discuss how we might approach things differently.
If you are interested in this tutorial and have a small solution you’d like to see the instructor run through, please send it to him via his blog ( before July 15. He will post the details of the requirements you’ll use, and then get cracking on his solution. A few constraints just to keep things relatively straightforward:

  • Single-site collection
  • Departmental scale solution (we’re not going to rebuild My Sites)
  • Things that are off the table: User Profiles, External Content Types (BCS), complex workflows, etc.

In other words, the point is education, not complexity or a production-ready solution. Come prepared to roll up your sleeves and participate. We’ll be making it up as we go, and we’ll all learn together!

Level: Intermediate

Topic Area : Developer Essentials, Information Worker Essentials

This post is to open up the discussion about a good topic or solution for the tutorial. If you have something you think would have broad appeal, I encourage you to post it as a comment here. Katie Serignese at BZMedia is also going to help me get the word out, so if something comes to me some other way, I’ll post it as a comment here myself. Even if you can’t make it to SPTechCon for some reason (Really? It’s a great conference!), if you have an idea, please post it. If you’re not there, I’ll still make sure that you get the demos and slides

In this case, it’s not a democracy, as I get to decide on the final topic(s). However, I’m sure many of you will have great ideas. If nothing else, we’ll gather a list of interesting things that one ought to be able to accomplish in SharePoint.

Please leave your ideas by July 15 and I’ll post the “winner(s)” shortly thereafter. Then plan to attend my tutorial on Sunday, August 11 from 9:00am-12:15pm and see if I can pull it off or not. It might be like watching a bad trapeze artist working without a net or it might be a thing of beauty. If you miss it, you may never know!