Monday, May 17, 2010

Fierce Content Management with Errin O'Connor

Founder and Chief Executive Officer for EPC Group, a SharePoint integrator, where he manages corporate strategy. In fact, O'Connor has written a new book due out later this year called Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010. He previously authored Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Inside Out.

We asked O'Connor about the new release and why SharePoint has proven to be so popular in the enterprise.

FCM: What are the biggest changes in SharePoint 2010?

EO: The biggest and most exciting changes in SharePoint 2010 are around increasing SharePoint’s Enterprise Content Management capabilities. A large number of organizations with existing LiveLink or Documentum implementations also use SharePoint 2007 as a collaboration platform. Users tend to find SharePoint much more user friendly than their existing document management systems.

These organizations had concerns around the customizations that were required in Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) to enable true records management, retention and the corresponding custom workflow development to match their existing systems. SharePoint Server 2010 offers a more powerful document management system than LiveLink or Documentum as well as an arsenal of other tools with business intelligence capabilities, seamless integration with other external data sources, enterprise metadata capabilities, powerful eDiscovery and professional networking.

What is so amazing about this is that a large number of these organizations already own licenses for SharePoint and can literally save millions of dollars a year by migrating away from their existing ECM solutions as well as other systems such as eRoom, WebSphere or even their existing Internet platform to have a single system that can be supported by a cross-functional staff.

The ROI in SharePoint 2010 with an enterprise governance model, support and run-time model, and single sign-on interface across the organization with true ECM, eDiscovery, BI, and supercharged collaborative features is something no other system can currently match.

FCM: Do you think Microsoft has done enough to address the major criticisms around governance?

EO: I have been working with more than 100 of EPC Group’s clients in the past four to five years on developing SharePoint governance and I believe the phrase, “Don’t blame it on SharePoint” should be acknowledged when it comes to organizations without a strong governance model.

This is due to the lack of proper planning prior to or during the deployment and not putting enough emphasis on SharePoint Governance but if there is one thing I can preach to the masses regarding governance and SharePoint is around the need for “Run Time” or “Operational” governance.

You need to know how to drive the SharePoint ship, maintain the SharePoint ship, dock the SharePoint ship, etc. Many organizations implemented SharePoint as an Intranet platform first without implementing site provisioning and enterprise metadata/Content Type Governance or identifying the Power Users who would support and champion the deployment and that, in my opinion, is why SharePoint has experienced criticisms around governance.

FCM: Why is SharePoint so popular?

EO: SharePoint’s popularity starts with its ease of use. This can be a double-edged sword though if organizations do not have a Site Provisioning plan in place. That being said, SharePoint is so popular because a user can request and get a site within an hour and be up and using it right away.

With a proper training model or simple things like the creation of a SharePoint training site with a collection of short three to five minute videos on “how to use SharePoint,” organizations can ensure their users are trained and quickly up to speed. With SharePoint 2010 and the Office 2010 suite, SharePoint is going to get even more popular. Can you imagine how powerful it’s going to be for users to create workflows in Visio 2010 and be able to then load them into SharePoint? With the addition of Silverlight, more powerful My Site capabilities, and the BCS (the upgrade to the BDC) this platform is in a class of its own.

FCM: What becomes of partners when SharePoint upgrades and begins to fill in some of the holes?

EO: My firm EPC Group has worked on more than 500 SharePoint implementations since SharePoint 2001 was first released and we have found that the more successful a SharePoint implementation is within an organization and the more we can empower our customers, we actually end up engaging in more projects with the client and end up building many more long-term relationships. My approach is not a “one and done”-type model where an installation is done and some gaps are filled but rather looking at the organization’s overall roadmap and helping them prepare a “platform” so that SharePoint can be relevant in their organization for many years to come. I find that the more successful the implementation is and the more buy-in, quick wins, and “wowed” customers we have to show real ROI, the client continues to engage EPC Group in many future phases.

FCM: How important are partners to SharePoint's success?

EO: I believe partners are critical to the success of SharePoint. Of course I am a SharePoint consultant and most would think I have a one-sided view on this. But people like me, and the dedicated folks at my firm, spend day-in and day-out “in the trenches” to understand the real business and functional requirements of the organization we are working with. Once a SharePoint implementation goes off the tracks, it’s twice as expensive to get it back in the right direction. These missteps could also cost you user support and give SharePoint a bad name within the organization. So the strategies that we have developed around SharePoint governance, site provisioning, power users, enterprise content types, tying in an organization’s retention schedule to the content types, etc. can save millions of dollars in litigation, increase user productivity and delivery real ROI.