Sympraxis Is Growing: A Huge Welcome to Julie Turner!

Sympraxis LogoWell, it’s official: Julie Turner (@jfj1997) will be joining me at Sympraxis in mid-May. This is very exciting news for me.

If you’ve been following me at all, you may know that I have my own little company called Sympraxis Consulting LLC. (One of the first things Julie is going to make me do is bring that Web site into the second decade of the twenty-first century!) I started it with my good friend Peter Sterpe back in 2008. Starting a business at the end of 2008 was – well – let’s call it bad timing. Pete and I had a slow go of it for a while, and he left to take a real job. I was solo for about 6 years until Pete rejoined me last year. A few months ago Pete got the opportunity to take a full time teaching role at Boston College, and I couldn’t be happier for him.

I’ve never had grand plans for Sympraxis. I wanted to go out on my own mainly to see if I could pull it off. I also was tired of “working for the man”; anyone who knows me understands that office politics and bureaucracy are not my thing – I just want to get stuff done. I was extremely lucky to have a little idea that became SPServices and that little library has opened many doors for me. It seems like it’s worked: eight years later I still love what I’m doing and I’m able to make money doing it.

Julie is someone I’ve heard about for years, mainly through my friends who worked together at Knowledge Management Associates (KMA). (As is so often the case in this busy world, KMA is no longer extent as a standalone entity, having been acquired by Sentri, and then by Polycom.) The info I heard about Julie was universally positive over the years. When people like Sadie Van Buren (@sadalit), Chris McNulty (@cmcnulty2000), and Mike Gilronan (@mikegil) say good things about someone, it means a lot.

There’s a strong synergy between what I love to do in the SharePoint space and what Julie loves to do. We both do a lot of client side development, we both are passionate about implementing solutions that work extremely well with an excellent user experience, we both believe in the promise of effective knowledge management driving organization performance improvement, and the list goes on and on. We don’t believe in technology just for the sake of technology; it has to solve specific business needs.

I’ve been extremely impressed by the work that Julie has done with Bob German (@bob1german) on their Widget Wrangler (WW), which is now a part of the Office Development Patterns and Practices repo (OfficeDev/PnPSamples / ww) on GitHub. The approach that Bob and Julie have taken in the WW is incredibly well-aligned with the approaches I’ve been advocating for development on SharePoint for years. Without deploying any server-side code, we can build extremely robust solutions on top of SharePoint, and the thinking Bob and Julie have done with the WW takes it even further than I’ve been able to go as a solo artist.

I expect to learn a *lot* from Julie – and I’m hoping she can learn some things from me. Julie brings server side development skills I’ve never even tried to master, and those skills complement the client side work extremely well. Need a new REST service? Julie can do that. Need an AngularJS app done fast? Julie can do that, too. In my mind, Julie is technically ambidextrous: she’s equally comfortable writing code on the server and the client. She has a reputation as being extremely fast and good. Julie is also funny, smart as a whip, and believes in a good work/life balance. Having Julie aboard will greatly expand Sympraxis’ capacity to do more of what I’ve been doing all along, and bring her highly complementary capabilities into the mix. Who could want more?

Running a small business like Sympraxis is definitely a family affair. We discussed Julie joining Sympraxis in my kitchen after she had met my wife Melanie and son Calder. I look forward to meeting Julie’s husband Ken and her awesome son Evan. Some people say that being an entrepreneur is all about sacrifice, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s going to be great to have Julie join the Sympraxis family.

Julie Turner with her husband Ken and son Evan

The Year That Will Be: 2015

It’s that time of year when people tend to look back at the prior year or look forward to the new one. In my case, I’m generally choosing to look forward. 2014 was a swell year on most counts, but I’m really looking forward to 2015.

I’m excited about a number of things coming up this year, and I wanted to tell you about some of them.

My 5th Microsoft MVP Award

Yesterday morning I learned that I received my fifth Microsoft MVP award. As it is each time, it’s an incredible honor to be put in the company of such talented people. The MVP program lets me spend time with some of the brightest and most motivated SharePoint / Office365 people on the planet.

Sympraxis Consulting LLC

Sympraxis LogoMany of you who know me may not be familiar with Sympraxis Consulting LLC. It’s my own little company that I started when I went out on my own (sort of; see below). 2015 promises to be a transition year for my little company. (One resolution I should probably make is to come up with a better Web site than the WSS3-based one I’ve had limping along for the last six years!) Back in 2008, my buddy Pete Sterpe (@petesterpe) and I started Sympraxis together with big dreams. The Fall of 2008 seemed like such a great time – not. Sadly, due as much to the economy as anything else, Pete realized about a year in that he needed a more solid paycheck to fit his life goals at the time.

Luckily for me, Pete is rejoining me at Sympraxis. I’ve known Pete since 1996, when we worked together at Renaissance Solutions. Renaissance focused on knowledge management and performance enhancement by utilizing technology and the Balanced Scorecard. You may know better now where some of my rhetoric comes from. (Sadly even the Way Back Machine doesn’t have a good snapshot of Renaissance from those times, though it does have one of the successor company, Renaissance Worldwide.)

Pete will be ramping back up with Sympraxis as his existing work ramps down, and I am delighted to have him back. He’s one of the sharpest people I’ve ever worked with and our business ethics are perfectly attuned. I hope you get a chance to meet Pete in the near future. You can check out his blog to get to know him a little bit. Since he never changed his About page, you can read how he started Sympraxis with me!


I’ve got two nascent partnerships I’m working on that I’m very excited about. I’ve written about them before but I wanted to go over them here again.

Seven Sigma / Glyma

Seven SigmaThe first relationship is with the folks at Seven Sigma down in Perth Australia. Paul Culmsee (@paulculmsee) and Chris Tomich (@christomich82) are two of the smartest folks I know in SharePoint land. It turns out that we’ve been admiring each other from afar for a long time. If they weren’t all the way around the planet in Perth, I’m sure we would have worked together sooner. I was lucky enough to meet both of them when I was down in Australia at ShareThePoint‘s 5th Annual Australian SharePoint Conference in Sydney last July. (It’s a great conference if you are anywhere near there for the next one.) We talked about the fact that it would be great to work together in some way and we’re still trying to figure out exactly how that might work. It will be something we’re both convinced will add value and as the partnership starts to gel I think it’s going to be an exciting thing to work together.

Their Glyma product really gets the knowledge management part of me excited. Using the concept of dialog mapping, it’s a fantastic way to encapsulate and map the knowledge contained within an organization as well as a way to help map strategic focus and direction decisions. Watch for more about Glyma from me in the weeks and months ahead.

Dynamic Owl / Bonzai Intranets

DynamicOwlLogoThe second relationship is with my friends at Dynamic Owl in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Dynamic Owl is headed by Michal Pisarek (@michalpisarek) and he has a small group of incredibly intelligent folks working with him. Michal and I have talked about ways we could work together over the years, but have never come up with something that makes sense.

Bonzai IntranetThe Owls’ product is called Bonzai Intranet and I’m incredibly impressed with what Matthew Carriere (@matthewcarriere) and Shereen Qumsieh (@msshushu) have built in a very short time. They’ve taken the learning that they have over the years working in SharePoint and built some of the most common things that they’ve seen time and time again in customer Intranets. The most impressive thing about it to me is the architecture. The majority of the functionality is driven from the client side using AngularJS and calls to CSOM and REST. I’ve been working with them to think through how their architecture might work with Office 365. As we all know there are some different challenges there, but with a bit of good thinking ahead of time I think they are going to be able to do some amazing things.

I’m not exactly sure where these two relationships will lead, but I’m hoping it will go far beyond just pasting each others’ logos into our Web sites. These are great people with whom I hope to work a lot more in 2015.


SharePoint – and by extension – Office365 – would never be what they are without the incredibly strong community around them.

IT Unity Webinar: #CollabTalk, The Show

ITUnityLogoI’m joining an impressive crew of people to do a new video series on IT Unity. Many of you have probably participated in the #CollabTalk tweet jams that have been going on for the last couple of years. Tweet jams are great, but of course they only have a certain utility since we can type just 140 characters at a time. With this new video series hosted by IT Unity, Christian Buckley (@buckleyplanet), Naomi Moneypenny (@nmoneypenny), Benjamin Niaulin (@bniaulin), and I will be able to go into much more depth about topics that we think are important to people who are interested in Office365. I think we will have a lot of fun and talk about some really important topics at a level of depth that we could never do in a tweet jam.

CollabTalk - Tiny - Tiny


I love speaking at conferences. I learn so much talking about what I do with attendees and getting to go to other speakers’ sessions is the icing on the cake. I used to always say I’d like to teach some day, and this is my way of doing a bit of it on a regular basis.

In 2014 I was fortunate to speak at ShareThePoint’s conferences in Sydney and Auckland, which was my first chance to visit that side of the world. We made it into a family trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, so it was quite the globe-trotting romp. (Don’t look at a globe and tell me how ridiculous that was; I know.)

There were lots of other great conferences, too: SEF in Stockholm, Sweden; SPTechCon in San Francisco and Boston; and SharePointFest in Chicago, just to name some of the most prominent ones.

This year I already have SPTechCon in Austin, TX lined up, along with SharePoint Evolution in London. If you’re dying to keep up with where I’ll be, watch the Speaking page here.

Oh, and Clients!

I’ve been very lucky to have some wonderful clients who have engaged me multiple times over the years. As is always my hope, with most of them I have a long-standing, open and honest relationship. Along with all the fun stuff above, I do occasionally focus on earning a living, and my clients are the best. Here’s to a lot of great projects in 2015!


blackshadesYeah, it may be true. The future may be so bright I’ve gotta wear shades. I don’t mean this in a gloating way by any means. I’m incredibly lucky to be in the position I’m in at this point in my career. For many reasons which I won’t go into here, my time in the sun seems to be in my 50s. Many of my contemporaries may be able to rest on their laurels at this age, having accomplished their world-changing stuff in their 20s or 30s. I’m excited to know that my time is now or may be yet to come. I can’t wait to see what else 2015 has in store for me. Happy New Year!

Office365 Makes Developing in SharePoint’s Middle Tier More Relevant

If you’ve stuck your head out from under your rock at all recently, you’ve heard about Office365. There was a huge hullabaloo in NYC and elsewhere yesterday to accompany the “big announcement” (which most of us have been hearing about for probably six months now) as Microsoft launched Office365 globally .

It may not surprise you to know that the reason I’m excited about Office365 has little to do with Office365 itself. Office365 is simply SharePoint (with Office, Exchange, and Lync too, but I’m all about SharePoint) in “the cloud”. Some of us have been using SharePoint in the cloud for a long time already, through the good work of people like FPWeb. In fact, I’ve had my Sympraxis Consulting site in the cloud with FPWeb since late 2008 and it’s where I do all of my SPServices development as well as where I host my public-facing site. (Yeah, my public-facing site for Sympraxis is a bit tired; it serves me little purpose in the grand scheme of things, though is is where you can see my demos and such.)

So why does Office365 have me excited? Why, its limitations, of course! For every whine I hear from a “real” SharePoint developer, I see an opportunity for a SharePoint Middle Tier developer. All of the Middle Tier development techniques work great with hosted SharePoint, regardless where it is, because we don’t need to touch the server. All of our code (XSL, XML, CSS, jQuery, JavaScript) goes into the database just like any other content.

So if your organization is thinking about moving to the cloud, seriously think about which business requirements you can fulfill by developing in SharePoint’s Middle Tier.  Read the white paper called The Middle Tier Manifesto: An Alternative Approach to Development with Microsoft SharePoint which I wrote last April and see if it doesn’t start to make a little more sense now that you’re thinking about cloud computing. (Yes, I can be prone to saying “I told you so”, but I won’t do it this time.)

My recent survey about SPServices usage (more details on those results will be forthcoming) says that 26% of SPServices users may be heading in the cloud direction, and they are already well-equipped to take advantage of it.


Here comes a shameless plug for a business I’m a part of and extremely passionate about. If you’d like to learn more about Middle Tier development techniques, consider taking one of my courses at USPJ Academy. I currently have three courses available in both collaborative and self-paced versions which cover SharePoint’s Middle Tier:

  • Data View Web Part Basics
  • Enhancing the User Experience with jQuery
  • Introduction to the SharePoint Web Services

So hurray for Office365!

Follow Up on ‘What’s Next for Me and Sympraxis Consulting?’

After posting my sort of rambling, pointless What’s Next for Me and Sympraxis Consulting?, I got a *lot* of very useful and kind responses.  (If you like that rambling, here’s another fix for you.) Many of the responses were direct, so you can’t see them in the comments on the post.  This is going to be a pretty long post, so bear with me again.

People made some great (or funny) points:

  • The people I am helping in the forums are probably not the people who would hire me. This isn’t a dis on anyone, but it’s probably true.
  • I give too much time away.  This actually came from people who I’ve worked with the most.  They don’t want me to stop, though.
  • I should charge for the jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services.  Yeah, but see my thoughts on that below.
  • Quite a few people have offered to hook me up with work as well as to make connections for me with people who they believe can find me work.  For this, I am deeply grateful.
  • They don’t want someone to hire me because then I won’t help them.  Hey, none of you can keep this monkey in a cage!

I’ll give you the straight dope on my goals in founding Sympraxis Consulting LLC.  It was pretty simple:

  • I started the company with a guy who I’ve known a long time and respect greatly named Peter Sterpe. I wanted to work with him, and this was a good way to do it.  He’s moved on to another job because it was a great opportunity, so I’m on my own at this point.
  • I realized that others (meaning my prior employers) were making the money on my efforts where I might be able to get a larger slice of the return.  This is the “selfish” line item.
  • I felt that I could do a better job for my clients out from under the politics and hassles of a larger organization.  I loathe political jockeying and see it as a waste of time and money.  (I actually believe in collaboration is the true sense.  One for all and all for one!)
  • I wanted to have fun.  I figured that the points above would help to increase the odds of this.  I want my vocation to be my avocation and so far this part is working well.

Note that none of those bullets talk about rampant growth.  I’m not interested in creating the next great anything.  What I want is to accomplish the things above and make a decent living for my family.  If there’s enough work so that I can bring in some like-minded folks to work with me, that would be absolutely great.  (It certainly would be less lonely around here.)

If you’re reading this, then I assume that you’ve been "watching" what I’ve been up to in one way or another.  So you know that I play in what I call the "Middle Tier" of development with SharePoint, by which I mean SharePoint Designer. I try to stay off the server and leave the hardware and managed code to others. I feel that this lets me get more done faster, but it can seem unorthodox to many. (Maybe this is part of my problem!)

I’ve been giving the jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services away for free, as you know.  I like the “crack cocaine” discussion I’ve had with a couple of people.  You know, here, just have a little taste of jQuery and Web Services: it can’t hurt. ;)  Giving software away for free and trying to make the money on services is a business model that I was a part of once before with a company here in the Boston area called ArsDigita.  We had a free community Web development toolkit and and no, we didn’t make it up on volume.  It worked until the bottom dropped out of the market in 2001-2002, though mismanagement of the VC money played a huge role, too. 

What I don’t want to do is cross the line.  I’ve been giving the library away for free, and it’ll stay free.  I’ve seen too many others try to change their approach in the middle and be reviled by the community they have so carefully built up.  Deciding that something you’ve been offering for free should now cost money is not a good idea, IMHO. Once it’s free, the genie is out of the bottle; no stuffing him back in.

So, I’ve had a few new thoughts based on some of the input that I’ve gotten.  They are absolutely non baked yet (barely batter):

  • Retainer-based model  – I don’t know if anyone will even go for this.  I’d have to stop the free support to make it look worthwhile.  That isn’t going to make a lot of people happy.
  • An independent SharePoint consultant referral network, sort of a small job mart a la or something, but not allowing ANY recruiters in.
  • A loose, collaborative society of VERY GOOD SharePoint professionals who work together.  This would go beyond the ideas of things like (which is really cool and new; check it out) and the International SharePoint Professionals Association (“ISPA”) to be a real talent pool to draw from so that we could all go for larger projects together.

The whole speaker thing is interesting. If I worked for some big company, I’d be all over it. As it is, getting to the venues is on my own dime.  When I went to SPTechCon in January out in Burlingame (not San Francisco, but it was a great conference all the same) it really opened my eyes to the fact that I’m recognized out there in the SharePoint community and that people appreciate what I do.  That’s a great feeling.  It also showed me that I can help people by talking about my approach to building things with SharePoint.

I would argue that my "Middle Tier" approach is faster and cheaper to develop, easier to test, more reliable, and more maintainable.  I know, I may be the only one who believes all that.  What I’d like to be able to do is get out there and convince people of my belief in this.  Flying around to SharePoint Saturdays is a labor of love, though; there’s no money in it.  Just paying for the flights and hotels adds up pretty fast.

All this said, I’m interested in hearing about anything. My background in management consulting and development means that I can add value to projects from conception through strategy formulation, requirements gathering, architecture, and implementation. I hope this doesn’t sound grandiose, but I’ve been around the block enough to have worn a groove in the pavement.

I hope that all of this makes sense to you. I guess that hearing back if it does or not will be another useful bit of info for me as I continue to think about how I present myself and my capabilities to the world.

What’s Next for Me and Sympraxis Consulting?

This post may come off a little whiny and entitled, but bear with me, as I don’t mean it that way.  I was on vacation recently and did some long, hard thinking about where I am in my career and where I want to go.

This cow has been giving away milk for a long time.  I don’t want to be a whiner about it, but the kid will need to go to college, there’s stuff around the house that needs fixing, we find that eating is a useful activity, etc.  I absolutely love what I’m doing: I’m my own boss, I get to work on things that interest me and challenge me, and people appreciate what I do.

I’ve been thinking about ways to monetize some of the support which I give away without being crass about it.  I figured that we live in a social computing world, so why not throw it out for discussion.

Quite a few of you who use my jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services said you would be more than willing to pay for it, so I set up a link so that you could donate to the Boston Museum of Science.  I did it because I figured that it wasn’t going to be big money, and they could use it.

I’m not a sales guy.  I’m not good at flogging my services.  However, I *do* know what I’m doing, and I’m a very good consultant.  (It’s taken me years to be confident enough to say that out loud.)

I don’t know if it’s that people assume that someone who is so vocal in the SharePoint community must already be busy or too expensive or what, but I don’t get pinged too often about potential projects.  Yes, I had hoped that by getting out there with a strong personal brand, the knocking at the door would become deafening.   Not really, but I did figure that I’d get some contacts every once in a while from it.

I read in the press and on other people’s blogs that there’s a real shortage of SharePoint people.  I would argue that there’s an *extreme* shortage of *good* SharePoint people.  So, where’s the work?

Here we go: I’m saying out loud that I’m looking for good projects to work on.  Know of any?

And what about monetizing the "support" work that I do for my jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services or in other places?  Do you think that there’s a business model for retainer-based SharePoint support? Does my Web site not say enough about what I do and where my strengths lie?

I’m interested in your thoughts (and projects).  Toss ’em over.