InnerWorkings Adds SharePoint 2010 to Its Learning Platform in Partnership with USPJ Academy

Over at the USPJ Academy, we’re really excited to finally be able to talk publicly about the partnership we’ve formed with InnerWorkings. We’ve been working hard with them over the last few months to get our content and platform capabilities integrated with theirs to deliver our classes to their customer base. We’re proud of our content and look forward to being able to offer it to a far wider audience.

Here’s the full text of the InnerWorking press release today:

InnerWorkings Adds SharePoint 2010 to its Learning Platform

Posted by Brian Finnerty

SharePoint 2010San Francisco, CA — October 18, 2011.

InnerWorkings announced a major addition to its Learning Platform  today with the  release of self-paced SharePoint 2010 training for professional  developers and software teams.

Working in partnership with the USPJ Academy,  InnerWorkings is offering world class SharePoint learning solutions to  its customers. USPJA boasts a team of industry renowned SharePoint  experts whose approach emphasizes the real-world aspects of learning  SharePoint — a perfect fit with the InnerWorkings methodology.

InnerWorkings confirmed the immediate release of three SharePoint courses to its Learning Platform, covering the following topics:

  • Beginning SharePoint Development
  • SharePoint Data View Web Part Basics
  • SharePoint Designer 2010 Workflow

Additional SharePoint courses are in development and will be released on a quarterly basis. All of the SharePoint courses  include video-based instruction from USPJA experts, hand-picked  e-books, and a virtual lab environment to practice important  configuration tasks. In addition, a Live Guide feature connects  developers and in-house SharePoint experts to facilitate ongoing support  and grading of assignments.

“With over 100M users and $1B in revenue for Microsoft, SharePoint is  the understated giant of Microsoft’s enterprise collaboration  strategy”, said Francis McKeagney, InnerWorkings CEO. “As a server-based  technology, SharePoint presents significant challenges to organizations  wishing to provide deep, hands-on training to their software teams. We  are really excited that our new offering addresses this issue in a  rigorous and compelling way. The virtual lab capability, in particular,  allows for deep learning in both generic and customizable setups. We are  delighted to partner with USPJA to deliver such a comprehensive  enterprise learning solution for SharePoint development teams. USPJA’s  knowledge and expertise has made this offering possible.”

“The market for SharePoint developers has never been hotter”, said  Bjørn Furuknap, USPJA CEO. “We’ve always been extremely confident in the  depth and quality of our SharePoint learning solutions, but this  partnership with InnerWorkings brings tremendous scale and reach to our  efforts. Coupling the technical strength of our training with the online  learning expertise and global audience of InnerWorkings is a winning  combination. We are delighted to partner with InnerWorkings to offer our  combined SharePoint learning services to a huge audience of SharePoint  developers and teams hungry to succeed in their chosen area of domain  expertise.”

About InnerWorkings
At InnerWorkings, our mission is to help our customers build great  software organizations. We believe that it is possible to create a  successful, efficient, and cost-effective software organization and  sustain it over multiple projects. How do we do this? By providing  software executives with an integrated platform to improve learning,  collaboration, and software processes across your development teams. The  company’s R&D facility is based in Dublin, Ireland and  InnerWorkings maintains its corporate headquarters in San Francisco,  California. For more information about InnerWorkings and its services,  visit www.innerworkings.com.

Tonight’s Forecast: Cloudy with a Side of SharePoint

I just got back from a nice little event put together by our friends over at SoftArtisans called “Cloudy with a Side of SharePoint”. It was a freeform discussion at a local beer pub on all sorts of topics, but nominally “What’s up with SharePoint in the cloud?”.

Of course, you can get a bunch of techies together over beers without the conversation ranging all over the place (it was great to catch up with some folks I haven’t seen in a while), but we did indeed talk about SharePoint in the cloud.

Some of the more interesting takeaways for me…

Having servers in the cloud where novice developers can’t break things very easily (the sandbox is *supposed* to make that the case) means that the number of developers expected to start working with SharePoint over the next 3 to 5 years may be more possible. As more and more techies jump onto the SharePoint bandwagon – it’s everywhere, don’t you know – we have the danger of even more horribly badly implemented solutions than we’ve had in the past. SharePoint is a truly huge beast and it takes a *very* long time to get good with it. By adding a protective barrier between SharePoint and these newbies, the ecosystem may grow more safely and even faster.

The possibility of increased uptime because “the cloud” is a dedicated service (we were generally lumping together Office365 with FPWeb in the conversation tonight, but there are other good shops as well) with highly trained people running it (we hope, and so we’re told) can certainly be appealing. Interestingly, no one I talk to really seems to care about the “money back guarantee” behind Office365. After all, if it’s down, it’s down, and if your content goes missing, the money you get back certainly won’t cover it.

Finally, as we went around the table, it was interesting that even in a relatively small group there are very different views on what “SharePoint in the cloud” means as well as the impact it may have on each of us. The small-shop, high end consultants worry about developing in Office365’s sandbox and what it takes away; the partners who develop products see issues when it comes to licensing and as well as new opportunities; and of course there’s me, thinking that the cloud doesn’t change a heck of a lot about how I think of SharePoint, though there may be more people interested in the courses I teach at USPJA.

It was great to join in the banter with Ian Dicker, Ryan Thomas, Rob Windsor (Rob is infiltrating the US from his native Canada and his incursions have not gone unnoticed. First BASPUG last night and then CWASOS tonight.), Mike Gilronan, and Claire D. Willett, Ben Jones, and David Wihl from SoftArtisans. Unfortunately I was a little late and missed my pal Sadie Van Buren who had to cut out before I got there.

And no, there was no BAITR tonight, at least not at my end of the table.

p.s. Claire called it both CWACOS *and* CWASOS, so I’m right either way. She and Ben want it to be a monthly thing, so stay tuned if you’re in the Boston area…

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.

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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!

Symply the Best: My Side

Yup, I’m stealing the main part of the title from Dan Antion’s (@dantion) SharePoint Story for this week. Why? Well, because the story is about the two days I spent with Dan and his team talking about developing in SharePoint’s Middle Tier. I don’t usually like to crow, but when someone like Dan comes up with a cool title like that, I steal it.

Dan summarizes the work we did well, but let me give you my slant on it.

Dan and I started talking about getting together in some fashion back in February. Dan and I had met briefly a couple of times at conferences, but I really didn’t know that much about him or his company other than what I read on Twitter and his blog, both of which I really enjoy.

Dan and I exchanged quite a few emails. We had lunch when Dan was here in the Boston area and talked at great length about his approach to development, the skills within his team, the type of business his company does, and where he wanted to expand all of that. We exchanged lots more emails and we set up a session for late March.

Then the earthquake and tsunami happened in Japan, and suddenly it wasn’t such a simple time to be in the nuclear insurance business, so we postponed things.

That gave us the opportunity to exchange even more emails and hone what we were going to do, tweak who would be in the room, and what we were going to cover.

I’m not outlining all of this to make it sound onerous. I enjoyed every bit of it. The reason I talk about all of the steps is to point out that Dan and I were taking our own little SharePoint journey together. (Yeah, I’m alluding to the Microsoft SharePoint Journeys thing.) Everyone needs to arrive at new ways of accomplishing things by taking the right path for themselves, and Dan and I were figuring out what that might look like for him as we went.

Even after all that, I’m not sure that each of the people in the room (there were five or six of us there for most of it) knew exactly what they were in for. One clear key ingredient for success to me was to be extremely flexible. That meant that I wasn’t walking in with some big pile of slides which I was going to force Dan and his folks through.

The two things I decided were the most important, and which I stressed to Dan throughout our conversations, were to:

  • Show some of my favorite demos in the beginning to demonstrate some of the possibilities. The demos would be abstract, in the sense that they wouldn’t be about Dan’s business at all.
  • Build something real with ANI’s data so that Dan and his team could see how things might work in their own environment and to make these techniques their own.

But most importantly, to go with wherever the conversation led. I hadn’t met this group and I didn’t really know what made them tick, just what Dan thought made them tick.

Some of my most valuable learning experiences came while I was sitting around a Harkness table at Exeter. I’m a crude hack next to the fantastic teachers I had leading me there, but I aspire to bring some of the same fluidity and conversational style to the table (pun intended) when I teach. So whether it’s a quick session at a conference, two days with a client like this was, or a six week course at the USPJ Academy, I like to let the group lead the way. Sure, there’s always material to cover, but there are also always huge swaths of ideas which come up which I could never predict. Sometimes it’s the tangents which become more important than the originally intended path. I find that is the fertile ground where most of the “Aha!” moments come. They are unpredictable, impossible to plan, and invaluable.

So that’s what we did. As it turned out, I did far less demo than I thought I would and we spent far more time working with Dan’s real data. We spent more time talking about the philosophy behind building a great User Experience (UX) than probably either Dan or I would have thought. We talked about how to make the code modular and reusable, but not as much as I might have expected, since the team wasn’t focused on that part of these techniques yet.

All in all, as I said in my comments on Dan’s post, I truly enjoyed myself. I walked away feeling that Dan and his team know a little more than they did before I arrived and that they were going to build better solutions with what they learned. Maybe they will call me back to help, but if not, they know that I’m always available to help answer questions and give quick advice.

SPTechCon Boston 2011 Wrap Up

SPTechCon was my first SharePoint conference back when I attended the San Francisco 2010 edition. That doesn’t seem so long ago, yet it really is in SharePoint time. (They say you’ll never forget your first girl, but in this case it’s my first conference, so… Yeah, if I have to explain it, it’s a stretch.)

SPTechCon was where I first really got how powerful and useful the SharePoint community is. It was when I realized that it would be cool to find a place for myself within it.

I’ve read a couple of write ups about the conference which I liked, so I figured I’d give pointers to them here. Ruven Gotz’s (@ruveng) post SPTechCon: Sing(apore) for your supper and Josh McCarty’s (@josh_a_mccarty) post Thoughts on SPTechCon Boston 2011 captured the conference well (and Josh’s not just because he talked about me!), plus a bit of what they enjoyed while they were here in Boston. If you’re interested in other slants on the conference and extracurricular activities, give them a read. 

I was once again honored to be able to speak at this edition of SPTechCon, right here in my home town of Boston. Not only was I able to do a technical session, but David Rubinstein (@drubinstein), tsar of the conference, invited me to do a Lightning Talk on Wednesday night. You get 4 minutes for those darn things, so I decided to simply do a “promo” for my session on Friday.

Thursday night, I also had the honor of being on the BASPUG “Ask the Experts” panel, sitting next to none other than Christian “Flying Monkey” Finn. Also on the panel were Michael Noel, Laura Rogers, Todd Klindt, Randy Drisgill, and Jeremy Thake. (I’m forgetting someone…)

My session was entitled “Developing in SharePoint’s Middle Tier”  (it’s session 607) and I demoed some generalized solutions from past project work. Since I had the slides from the Lightning Talks, I figured I’d clean them up a little and use them as an intro for the session. I’ve posted solution files (WSPs) for SharePoint 2010 to my Sympraxis Consulting Demos site (upper right of the page) which contain the two main demos I showed. There’s also a SharePoint 2007 version (MiddleTier2007) of the custom navigation demo, if that’s more useful to you. (It’s an earlier version, but not too far off from what I showed.)

“Customized Navigation”

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“Budget”

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Finally, and not to be too mercantile about it, if you are interested in learning more about these development techniques, consider taking my classes at the USPJ Academy. I have three courses which cover SharePoint’s Middle Tier:

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

These three courses cover much of what I showed in the demos and more. You can see more details on the courses on the Academy Course Listing page. Come join us!