October 10, 2011

Review: SharePoint Conference 2011

I recently had the opportunity to attend and speak at SharePoint Conference 2011 in Anaheim, California along with roughly 8,000 other attendees.

This was the first SharePoint conference since the Fall of 2009. It was also the first conference since the launch of SharePoint 2010 – the latest public version available to customers.

20111010-115441.jpgMy overarching impression post conference is that attendees, speakers and Microsoft are now (some would say finally) on the ‘social train’. In 2009 there were relatively few sessions focused on social, and even those were sparsely populated in terms of attendance. In 2011, not only were there more social-based sessions, any non-focused social session seemed to have social being discussed at some point in the chat too.

The social focused sessions were jammed pack, overflowing at times.

I attended two “birds of a feather” sessions where social in the enterprise as well as within educational institutions was discussed at length. Interest was plentiful in social, rest assured.

I found the term ‘collaboration’ being used throughout the conference as well. To me, this is a far better term to describe the behaviours we are trying to instil with our employees, whether they are collaborationg with each other, partners or customers. To see this being splashed around many of the sessions and discussions felt like an evolution of sorts.

There was plenty of chatter about widgets and code, but it seemed to be complimented by the act of collaboration as a business process or workflow more often than not.

20111010-120342.jpgThat’s the good news.

In no particular order, I thought there were a few items that could have used a second look:

  • The keynotes by Jared Spataro, Jeff Teper and Kurt Delbene on Day One were underwhelming, even uninspiring, aside from the Nethope charities Case Study. To me, it felt more like a commercial for Office 365. Although I appreciate the launch of the Microsoft Certified Architect program for SharePoint, this really shouldn’t be your ‘big’ announcement at your pinnacle conference.
  • OfficeTalk debacle; why MSFT continues to hide behind this problem is confusing, even frustrating. Everyone knows SharePoint 2010 and the MySites Facebook-clone status update feature is not enterprise-wide micro-blogging worthy, yet, within their own internal deployment of SP2010, they have incorporated the Microsoft Labs experiment of OfficeTalk into a federated micro-blogging tool for all MSFT employees. I had expected at this conference Microsoft would be announcing a simple add-on to the 2010 platform so this feature could be incorporated, but, alas, we were provided with a demo on the work within Microsoft’s intranet/collaboration environments and nothing else. Sad really.
  • 5pm session start times? Who on Earth thought this was a good idea, especially for 75-minute slots? Egads.
  • Cutback chatter; with 65,000 companies already on the books for SharePoint installations totalling roughly 125 million end user licenses (holy smokes), there was ‘talk’ about Microsoft deinvesting in SharePoint and the various SharePoint Redmond teams in particular. For example, Christian Finn, long-time Microsoft employee and SharePoint driver … disappeared. Turns out he’s no longer at the company. Why? I hope that Redmond doesn’t see the SharePoint market as being saturated and thus giving licence to deinvest in platform enhancements and thus headcount.
  • SharePoint 15? I suppose the next SharePoint Conference (slated for Fall, 2012 in Las Vegas) will divulge details on the next release but it’s my opinion Microsoft missed out on an opportunity to begin openly discussing where they are heading … complimented by open feedback sessions. SharePoint is supposed to be a collaboration platform, right? I’ve previously given my time to Microsoft for purposes of videos, case studies and speaking. Would this not have been a good time, with developers and product managers littered throughout the conference floors, to corral those of us with ideas on how to make SP even more useful in the future? (of course, this could have happened with me not being invited to the party)

Overall, it was a good conference. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who attended my session and for the great feedback I received thereafter.

Disclosure: Microsoft paid for my flight, hotel and conference pass in return for speaking at #SPC11

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