Monday, November 28, 2011

SharePoint Consulting - Developing a SharePoint 2010 Steering Committee

Overview
Within an enterprise SharePoint 2010 deployment, a key best practice to ensure your organization’s long-term SharePoint’s success, is the creation of a SharePoint Steering committee and engaging and\or including your organizaton’s key business and technology leaders to this committee. The SharePoint Steering Committee is the overall governing body of Microsoft SharePoint that ensures the technology is implemented so that it will fit the business and functional needs of the organization for years to come as well as to ensure the decisions that are made will not affect future upgrades of the technology.

I have been working with my senior architecture team at EPC Group on a series of white papers to provide to the SharePoint community through our SharePoint Consulting efforts and lessons learned.

Define
First, determine who the key stakeholders are that should be involved in the SharePoint Steering committee. Initially, develop a somewhat generic forum to discuss the phase 1 and future phase 2 (phase 3, phase 4, etc.) issues as the committee will learn over time how best to work together and will identify internal committee roles that will work best within the organization. Typically, these are Business Leaders, IT Managers, Key Technology Stakeholders, Legal, and Records Management owners, etc.

EducateIs is key that the SharePoint Services Team demo to the SharePoint Steering Committee any existing solutions that have been created in phase 1 and discuss the types of requests that are coming in to the SharePoint Services Team to help the Steering Committee understand the overall scale of the SharePoint, its growth and the types of business units within the organization making the requests. Ongoing demos should continue to be demoed to the SharePoint Steering Committee to reflect any updates or new projects.

SharePoint 2010 Steering Committee Best Practices
The SharePoint Steering committee is comprised of key stakeholders which oversees the strategic service direction and provides policy guidance.

The SharePoint Steering Committee will be comprised of a number of roles through the organization including the SharePoint Services Team Senior Management and SharePoint Stakeholders. SharePoint Stakeholders are defined as those in the business units which rely on the SharePoint Services as a part of their business operation. The committee will meet regularly with defined success criteria and measurable goals based on project definition, design and timeline.

The SharePoint Steering Committee should meet regularly to revisit structure, responsibilities and membership to ensure maximum effectiveness as well as potential scope changes for the organization to address changes in business conditions and technology.

The role of the SharePoint Steering Committee will be to:

•Aligning SharePoint initiatives to overall business goals.
•Set strategic and functional guidance to the SharePoint Platform \ Service(s) Team.
•Continually assess SharePoint project viability.
•Determine corporate standards.
•Approve all governance, standards and policies.
Note: With large enterprise organizations, other business units or subsidiaries worldwide may adopt some of their own regional governance policies (i.e. development, etc.) and the SharePoint Steering Committee will be responsible for taking these local considerations into the overall SharePoint 2010 Governance to ensure SharePoint governance stays up-to-date and relevant.

•Approve content publishing policies and assigning departmental and functional ownership.
•Approve SharePoint branding/usability/look and feel.
•Approve changes to the SharePoint Governance Document.
•Review any 3rd party SharePoint Software Vendor purchase requests to ensure that any large licensing purchases are taken into consideration at the enterprise level.
•Ensure the SharePoint training strategies continue to fit the needs of the organization.
Roles

An overview of Best Practices responsibilities for the an organization’s SharePoint Steering Committee are as follows:

Roles and Their Responsibilities

SharePoint Steering Committee Chair PersonResponsible for Chairing the SharePoint Steering Committee and owning sign-offs and casting the overall vote or decision should any impasse occur.

SharePoint Platform or Services OwnerThe overall platform or service owner of SharePoint who is responsible for all SharePoint Product and Technology Efforts. Leads the SharePoint Steering Committee meetings and is the manager of the SharePoint Services Team.

SharePoint Services Team Manager
The manager of the SharePoint Services team who is responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the SharePoint Services team and delegating the incoming requests coming into the team from the different business units.

Records Management Representative
A key stakeholder for Records Management within the organization and ensures the technology and business decisions being made for the SharePoint System continue to follow the records management standards within the organization.

Development Team(s) Representative
A key stakeholder or manager representing the SharePoint development teams and providing input on the continued development and how best the custom SharePoint Solutions should be managed and added into the SharePoint platform (i.e. continuing the development of a SharePoint as a Service Concept I have written about in the past).

SharePoint Training Representative
A key stakeholder from training that will continue to monitor the ongoing activities of the SharePoint 2010 initiative while continuing to deliver training to the different audiences to meet the ongoing and possible changing needs and requirements of the SharePoint user base within the organization.

Help Desk or Service Desk Representative
A key stakeholder from your organization’s help desk \ service desk or I.T. support staff that will monitor the activities of SharePoint and report back to the committee on metrics regarding support calls, possible resolutions to reoccurring issues, and ensure they continue to be properly trained and proactive regarding the overall SharePoint Services within the organization.


SharePoint Governance, as we all know is one of the major keys to any organization's SharePoint long-term success, and implementing a SharePoint 2010 Steering Committee is something that myself and my team at EPC Group.net have helped to establish within orgnaizations and its something that is overlooked in at least 80% of enterprise SharePoint implementations.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Best Practices for SharePoint Cultural Change Management - From the SharePoint Consulting Trenches

Originally Posted on EPC Group’s AIIM.ORG SharePoint Expert Blog

By Errin O'Connor, Founder & CEO at EPC Group.net and the EPC Group Team of Experts

I wanted to share with the AIIM Community the overview of a White Paper that myself and my team at EPC Group.net have been working on by studying approximately 35 enterprise SharePoint 2010 implementations we have completed between March 2011 and November 2011.

It is not unusual for those implementing SharePoint 2010 to experience a fair amount of change and conflict as part of their deployment process. Other than e-mail, no other product that you will implement will have as wide or personal “touch and feel” as SharePoint 2010 if you intend to implement this product in a wide, deep, and pervasive way. When SharePoint Server 2010 is implemented in your environment, you’re not just implementing a simple document management or Web-based collaboration solution. You’re implementing change; Culture change. Business process change and Information management change. Usually, when change happens within an organization, power balances get shifted and conflicts can ensue.

Understanding Change in a Corporate Environment – EPC Group

It was once thought that a manager could simply tell everyone that they were going to do things a certain way and everyone would salute and follow. In today’s corporate environment, that is a misconception. In fact, there are several misconceptions about change that need to be recognized.

The first misconception is that a great solution, like SharePoint 2010, will be accepted just because it is a great solution with real ROI. When it comes to SharePoint, it might be a great software product with a lot of helpful features that solve many existing information management and collaboration problems, but that doesn’t mean it will be readily accepted. The fact is that even some of the best ideas are not readily accepted. Remember the old Sony Beta technology for videocassettes? Sony had a clearly superior technology to the VHS videocassettes, but due to poor marketing and other factors, the VHS became the adopted standard. If we borrow from family theory for just a moment, family therapists will tell you that the family system will put pressure on the individual who is changing to remain the same—even if the change is for the better. Human beings are wired to resist change. Just because it’s a good (or even a great) idea doesn’t mean the idea will be automatically accepted.

Another misconception is that all you have to do is explain the new idea and the explanation, by itself, will remove the resistance to change. Explain it, perform some training activities, and get people excited and you’re done. No follow-up is needed. No care and feeding is warranted. If you’re thinking this way, please be prepared for a long, sustained effort. The reality is that introducing change in an organization requires persistence. You need to be in this for the long haul if you’re going to be successful.

New software roll-outs always represent change at the desktop. (You need to consider SharePoint to encompass a similar effect as updating the Office suite at the desktop because of its pervasive and persistent touch and feel.) Have you ever rolled out a new software product only to find that, over time, the product is not persistently used and the old methods are still the primary methods of accomplishing work? In many organizations, change can be an illusion while the old reality persists.

A third misconception is that implementing change slowly while building grassroots support will result in nothing getting done. In fact, the opposite is true. What research has shown is that while bottom-up change is more gradual, it addresses resistance more effectively. The emphasis in bottom-up change is on participation and on keeping people informed about what is going on, so uncertainty and resistance are minimized. Furthermore, research has revealed that people are not resistant to change; they are resistant to being changed. People are better at coping with change if they have participation in bringing the change to reality. This is why—with or without grassroots support—the best way to introduce SharePoint into your environment is through a gradual, collaborative process where your users, managers, and executives all have input into the overall deployment objectives and direction.

Common Types of Change in a Corporate Environment

Experts in change management tell us that organizations can experience several common types of change:

•Structural Change. This type of change looks at the organization as a set of functional parts that need to be restructured. The parts are re-configured (re-organized) to achieve greater overall performance. Mergers and acquisitions are two examples of structural change.

•Cost Cutting. This type of change focuses on the elimination of nonessential activities or on other methods of squeezing costs out of operations.

•Process Change. This type of change focuses on altering how tasks and activities are accomplished. Examples include re-engineering processes or implementing a new decision-making framework. The introduction of new software products onto the desktop clearly falls into this type of change.

•Cultural Change. This type of change focuses on the human side of the organization, such as a company’s general approach to doing business or the relationship between its management and employees.

Cultural change nearly always involves relational change. Since relationships are built on personal interaction, how people communicate and interact with each other helps build the culture. Introducing SharePoint Products and Technologies into your environment introduces culture changes because SharePoint Products and Technologies introduce new communication paths and new ways of relating to co-workers, partners, vendors, and customers.

SharePoint represents change in three out of the four areas: structural, process, and cultural. It is structural in that the major parts of the business (however this is defined) will need to adjust their work habits to incorporate SharePoint’s features into their daily work routines. For example, end-users will be managing Web sites while power users will be managing a range of Web site administrative tasks including the security of the information that resides in SharePoint. Another example is managing documents in a library versus a file server. This is a significant change that will be felt by everyone in the organization.

SharePoint represents huge process change because we’re now going to ask everyone in the organization to (more or less) get on the same page when it comes to information management and information process management. And since SharePoint has a huge touch and feel at the desktop level, the process changes will be experienced by nearly everyone in your organization who uses a desktop computer.

Finally, SharePoint represents significant cultural changes because of the way it handles information and the new communication paths that are created by its introduction. Collaboration moves from e-mail threads to team sites. Discussions are handled online while offline synchronization involves Microsoft Office Outlook or Groove.

Workflows introduce an electronic way of gaining document approvals, and communication about approvals involves both e-mail and the browser. Hence, implementing SharePoint Products and Technologies in your environment represents significant, pervasive change. If this aspect of your deployment is not managed correctly, the chances are increased that your deployment will either fail or not be as successful as initially envisioned.

How Different Individuals Accept Change

Not everyone in your organization will accept change in the same way or at the same pace. This thinking has been around since the early 1900s, but was refined in 1953 by E.M. Rogers in his book, Diffusion of Innovations. Rogers defined diffusion as the process by which innovation is communicated through channels to the members over time. In this thinking, diffusion included four main elements:

•Innovation. The new idea is incubated and defined.

•Communication Channel. The methods or paths that messages flow over between individuals. Time Three factors were mentioned here, but for our purposes, the innovation’s rate of adoption is the one factor that is most important. How fast the new idea is accepted and utilized is part of the diffusion process.

•Social System. The set of interrelated groups that are working toward a common goal.
The overall thrust was that a new idea or an innovation needed to be defined, communicated, and, over time, adopted within the social system of the organization. From a diffusion viewpoint, SharePoint represents the new idea or the innovation.

The communication channels that currently exist in your organization will need to be utilized to introduce SharePoint Products and Technologies to your environment. The rate of adoption will likely depend on how adept you are at working with the five groups described below and meeting each of their needs. And a solid understanding of your social system, the stakeholder’s needs, and your overall culture will enable you to manage the potential pitfalls along the way.

As you look to implement SharePoint in your organization, you’ll need to be aware that these four factors cannot be avoided: You must define, communicate, be patient, and work within the social structure of your organization if you’re going to be successful.

The theory of diffusion holds that a new idea will be adopted faster when the following is present:

•The new idea is perceived to have more value than the current system.
•The new idea is compatible with existing values, past experiences, and current needs.
•The new idea is not overly complex.
•The new idea is testable before its production implementation.
•The new idea results in visible, measurable positive outcomes.
Critical mass is achieved once enough individuals in the organization have adopted the new idea so that the idea is commonplace and self-sustaining. In short, critical mass means the new idea will survive. The problem with achieving critical mass is that there is a time lag in how fast new ideas are adopted. This is why it is important to understand the different groups that naturally exist in your environment as you try to introduce SharePoint Server 2010 into your environment:

•Innovators. This group makes up about 2.5 percent of the overall population. They accept new ideas quickly and need little persuasion. They often like new ideas simply because they are new. They tend to be venturesome, daring, and risk-takers. They also tend to have the financial resources to absorb a loss if the new idea proves to be unprofitable. Finally, this group has the ability to cope with a high degree of uncertainty about the innovation along with the time to understand and apply the technical knowledge the innovation represents.

•Early Adopters. This group represents about 13.5 percent of the overall population. They are open to new ideas, but will accept them only after serious consideration. This group usually holds the greatest degree of opinion and thought leadership within an organization. They tend to look for the strategic opportunity an innovation can provide. They serve as role models for others in the organization and they tend to be highly respected.

•Early Majority. This group represents about 33 percent of the overall population. These folks frequently interact with one another and tend to be followers, not leaders. They want to see that others have been successful with the innovation before they adopt it themselves. Critical mass is usually achieved once this group has adopted the new idea.

•Late Majority. This group is also about 33 percent of the overall population. These folks tend to be skeptical and cautious and will usually adopt new ideas only when pressured to do so.

•Laggards. This is the last group to adopt a new idea, which by the time they adopt it, is a current or fading idea. This group possesses no opinion leadership at all. They tend to be isolated and suspicious of new ideas and will filter these ideas through referential points in the past. Their acceptance of a new idea results from other’s pressure coupled with the certainty that the innovation cannot fail.
Managing Environmental Change - EPC GroupOnce we understand the basic ideas in Rogers’ (and others’) work, there is an opportunity to apply how change should be managed when it comes to doing a SharePoint implementation.

First, in some environments, SharePoint 2010 will be perceived as a huge step forward by the decision-makers because of the features and benefits inherent in the program, such as collaboration, information aggregation, or publishing. Many customers with whom we work don’t have a problem seeing the obvious advantages that SharePoint brings to the organization. Yet sometimes, there is little grassroots, managerial, or information technology support; when this support is absent, the task of working within existing communication channels and the social culture will be foundational to success.

Second, SharePoint 2010 is rarely seen as a system that is incompatible with the organization’s values and goals. Because the system is so flexible, it can be used by nearly any organization. We have yet to encounter a customer who found that SharePoint was inherently in conflict with his organization’s goals and values.

Third, SharePoint 2010 is sometimes thought to be a system that is highly intuitive for non-technical people who work with it on a day-to-day basis. This assumption needs to be challenged. While SharePoint’s interface is rather easy to use and is somewhat self-explanatory, we still find that users need a solid base of education on how to use the product and the scenarios in which certain features would be used.

Some customers have balked at purchasing SharePoint until they knew their user-base would be adequately educated to use the software appropriately. In short, everyone in your organization will need education if you are planning on obtaining a robust Return on Investment (ROI) for the money your organization has spent on SharePoint licenses.

Fourth, SharePoint 2010 can be (and should be) tested in a proof-of-concept (POC) before it is deployed into production. POCs can be great tools to learn about a new software product and simulate a production environment. In our experience, however, the danger is that the POC often morphs into a production environment because the test team members tend to really test SharePoint, find that they like it, and then dump all sorts of mission-critical information into the POC.

After that, they have little interest in pulling out the information and re-doing their work in a production environment. So while a POC or some type of pre-production test is a good idea, you should also have clear agreements about when the POC will start and stop and the expectations that users will have regarding the information they have placed into their POC sites.

Finally, the ability to measure SharePoint’s ROI is probably the highest pain point in this entire discussion. How “success” is defined is elusive and this results in measurements that tend to be more emotional or anecdotal in nature as opposed to being more structured and objective. But there are some ideas you can work with to help understand if your implementation is successful or not.

First, count the number of site collections in your farm. Just add up the number of “sites” on your content databases and this will be a rough equal to the actual number of site collections in your farm.

Second, you can measure database growth patterns and determine if the growth rate is what you had hoped it would be.

Third, you can count the number of people who have attended SharePoint training as another metric of success. Or you could use one or more of these metrics plus others that you develop yourself and then use those numbers to determine if your implementation is successful or not. While still a subjective measure, it will add some statistical support to your conclusions.

Most organizations don’t roll out SharePoint to everyone on the same day. Most IT personnel would strongly advise against this. Given that there are five types of people in your organization (from an adoption-of-innovation standpoint), best practice is to find one or two groups that like to work with new technology and roll out SharePoint just to those groups. Not only will they enjoy having a new technology with which to work, but you will have the opportunity to refine and mature your rollout processes so that by the time you’re rolling out to the Early Majority, you’ve fixed the bugs in the rollout process and have better defined how to use SharePoint in your environment and how to present its usage to your users.

So find out who your Innovators are in your environment. Go to them with SharePoint. Let them use it and get excited about it. They tend to be opinionated, so get their feedback on how to use SharePoint better in your environment and then use them as your first “win.” Others will see what is happening, the Early Adopters will likely want to get going with SharePoint, and your adoption will spread.

In EPC Group's experience working with customers, most have a hard time throttling their deployment because the demand for this product is so strong. Don’t give in to the large demand. Stay methodical about your deployment and ensure that you move along at the rate you had hoped. Don’t let demand push you into going too fast. If you do, you might find that the demand was more vocal than serious. Going more slowly will help you resolve nagging problems early in the deployment so that those in the Early and Late Majority groups will have better experiences once they start using SharePoint.

Having said all this, it is highly probable that you’ll roll out SharePoint Products and Technologies to a departmental team composed of people from all five groups. If possible, try to avoid this scenario. But if you must roll out to a group that is mixed in their attitudes about adopting SharePoint Products and Technologies, then please take the time to communicate with them about the “how’s and whys” of SharePoint Products and Technologies and ask for their input and help in adopting SharePoint Server 2010. While bottom-up changes take longer, the resistance will be less and, in the end, you’ll have a more successful deployment of SharePoint in your environment.

Understanding Power Dynamics and Change

If you’re like most information technology professionals, it is likely that you don’t spend much time thinking about the power dynamics in your organization. Yet, there is nothing more demoralizing than feeling you have a creative idea or a unique skill to help solve a significant problem and then encountering resistance to your ideas from individuals within your organization. You might even be someone who has become disillusioned and cynical about the realities of how managers and peers improperly use their power in ways that negatively affect you.

What is power? Power is the potential of an individual (or group) to influence another individual or group. Influence, in turn, is the exercise of power to change the behavior, attitudes, and/ or values of that individual or group. It is easier to change behavior than attitudes, and in turn, it is easier to change attitudes than values. Power and influence are always at work within organizations. For example, most organizations experience conflict over resources, schedules, or personnel. These conflicts are inevitable and their resolutions often require the intervention of someone with influence and power. Organizations consist of individuals and groups with divergent interests who must figure out how to reconcile these interests.

Power comes from several sources within an organization, and those sources are as follows:

•Formal Authority. Formal authority refers to a person’s position in the organization hierarchy. The higher in the corporate hierarchy or the greater the scope and scale of responsibilities, the more power that person will have. Most workers today don’t respond well to the raw use of formal authority.

•Relevance. Relevance refers to a person’s ability to align work activities with corporate priorities. The more relevant a person is in his or her job, the more powerful that person will be. For example, in a company that focuses on innovation, the vice president of research and development will likely yield power and influence that is beyond her stated job description.

•Centrality. Those occupying central positions in important networks in organizations tend to have power because others in the organization must depend on them for access to resources or for help in getting critical tasks accomplished. Hence, a person’s position in the workflow can yield power or influence beyond a stated job description or place in the organizational chart.

•Autonomy. The greater one’s ability to exercise discretion or freedom in his position, the more power and influence that person will have within the organization. These people generally do not need to seek out approval from a superior. Tasks that tend to be novel or highly technical tend to have considerable autonomy, since it is difficult to develop guidelines or rules on how the work should be done.

•Visibility. Those whose job activities tend to be highly visible to other powerful
people within the organization will tend to have more power than those whose job
performance is less obvious.

•Expertise. Those who possess technical expertise or hard-to-find skills typically are people who are in a position to influence the opinions and behavior of others. This is because others need to rely on their expertise or skills to accomplish their own goals and objectives.

Understanding Specific Changes that SharePoint IntroducesFor those who are new to SharePoint, an immediate change will be how documents are accessed and consumed. At present, many companies have shared network drives that host large data sets with hundreds or even thousands of folders with tens of thousands of documents. It is not uncommon to hear of shared network drives that host a terabyte or more of data, much of it redundant, old, outdated, and unusable. So, two problems immediately present themselves in this scenario.

First, as SharePoint is increasingly used, users will not access the shared network drive to work with a document. Instead, they will access the document using a URL namespace via their browser or their Office client. The catch is that it’s difficult to use the Office client to access a document library until the user has manually created a Web folder client connection to the document library, or the user has created a mapped drive to the document library, or the user has visited the library and worked with documents in such a manner as to have the Web folder client connection automatically created in their My Network Places on their desktop.

This need to “visit-first” in order to obtain a shortcut route to the document library can be frustrating for your users.

Logically, the shared drive’s contents will likely not be hosted in the same document library. In nearly all scenarios, this shared drive’s content will be re-hosted in SharePoint spanning many, many document libraries. So, what once was a single drive mapping for the end-user that resulted in wading through countless folders to find their documents now becomes accessing information through a plethora of Web folder client connections while learning to manage documents across many different document libraries and sites.

Governance and Potential ConflictsIt is very important that proper governance is for the new SharePoint environment is in place. Without strong governance, you’ll likely encounter at least three major conflicts in your SharePoint deployment:

•Confusion about where information should reside
•Confusion about how information is to be handled
•Confusion about who makes which decisions in SharePoint

Knowing Where to Put Information

You cannot assume that users will know where their information should be hosted in your SharePoint environment. Without communicating a corporate-wide set of expectations about where information goes in SharePoint, users will be left to make the decision on their own and you’ll find that each one will have a different idea as to where their own information should reside.

If your organization can’t bring itself to make core governance decisions, then conflict is bound to erupt based on the lack of direction for your SharePoint deployment. Because users will decide where their information goes, they will necessarily end up negotiating where they will collaborate within SharePoint.

Someone in your organization needs to make some high-level decisions about where information will go and who will manage it. These decisions need to be communicated and then enforced if you plan on avoiding conflict surrounding where information goes in SharePoint.

Knowing How Information Is to Be Handled

In most organizations, there are different kinds of information with different security levels. For example, payroll information is often highly secured, whereas public Web site information is generally less secured.

When users are developing information within SharePoint, they cannot be assumed to know how their information should be managed. For many, the prospect of managing and securing their information is a new task; in the absence of direction, they’re bound to violate some unwritten rule or expectation. Best practice is to have an organization wide information architecture from which document-type definitions can be described and then implemented in SharePoint.

Knowing Who Makes Which Decisions

At the core of your governance plan is the need to decide who can make decisions within your SharePoint implementation. A myriad of configuration settings are available for manipulation at four basic levels: farm, Web application, site collection, and site. Generally speaking, SharePoint farm administrators will manage the options at the farm and Web application levels, whereas power users with advanced training will manage the options at the site collection level. Nearly everyone in your organization who is involved with content creation or management will manage configuration values at the site level.

Your governance plan needs to specify which people and positions will be able to make decisions and commit changes at each of these four levels. Planning this out before you deploy SharePoint Server 2010 is the optimal method of ensuring success for your SharePoint deployment.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

10 SharePoint 2010 Methodology Best Practices Articles from EPC Group

10 SharePoint 2010 Methodology Best Practices Articles from EPC Group

EPC Group's Summary of Methodologies on our Award Winning Approach to Enterprise SharePoint 2010 Deployments.The original AIIM.ORG SharePoint Expert Blog posts an also be found at: http://www.aiim.org/Community/members/blogs/4affeb16f1494069ab772955fd5bde7e
"Methodologies and Enterprise Blog Strategy Posts by EPC Group's CEO Errin O'Connor as well as the EPC Group team of Senior SharePoint Architects, Developers, and Business Analysts"

Article 1) Why Large Enterprise and Global SharePoint Deployments Will Not Work in the Cloud“Everyone is going to want one of these,” Gary Dahl half-joking said. Gary Dahl is an author and advertising executive, but more importantly, the inventor of the Pet Rock. A Cloud-based SharePoint... Link to Article: (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/Why-Large-Enterprise-and-Global-SharePoint-Deployments-Will-Not-Work-in-the-Cloud)

Article 2) Is Records Management and Usability, Together, Even Possible?Why are 75% of the organizations in the United States (with an enterprise presence) looking at implementing a records management solution and why are they drawn so much to a particular Microsoft platform... Link to Article: (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/Is-Records-Management-and-Usability-Together-Even-Possible)

Article 3)SharePoint 2010 Web Standards, Accessibility, and Usability Quick Reference GuideThe following is a SharePoint 2010 Web Standards and Usability Quick Reference Guide following EPC Group’s best practices for SharePoint GUI development (master page) and configuration best practice...Link to Article: (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/SharePoint-2010-Web-Standards-Accessibility-and-Usability-Quick-Reference-Guide )

Article 4)Selecting the Right SharePoint Consulting Firm: Comparing Apples to Apples, or Apples to OrangesBackground on One of Many Similar Situations I Have Come Across in the Past 24 Months As a disclaimer to this article, I do own a SharePoint consulting firm, EPC Group.net, and am writing this ... Link to Article: (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/SharePoint-2010-Web-Standards-Accessibility-and-Usability-Quick-Reference-Guide)

Article 5)The SharePoint 2010 “Magical Mystery Tour”The Perceptions vs. Reality of I.T. and New Technologies When discussing with a client who is considering or beginning the process of rolling out SharePoint 2010, I sometimes feel like a broken... Link to Article (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/The-SharePoint-2010-e2809cMagical-Mystery-Toure2809d)

Article 6) A “Phase 0” Approach for SharePoint 2010An approach that I have seen work well for a large number of organizations either implementing a new SharePoint 2010 enterprise implementation or possibly upgrading from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint... Link to Article: (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/A-e2809cPhase-0e2809d-Approach-for-SharePoint-2010)

Article 7) Navigating the “World of SharePoint 2010” and All It Encompasses - Part 1Microsoft SharePoint 2010 is one of the most popular software programs \ platforms in history and with it has come a community with a near cult following as well as a large number of extremely powerful... Link to Article: (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/Navigating-the-e2809cWorld-of-SharePoint-2010e2809d-and-All-It-Encompasses-Part-1)

Article 8) SharePoint 2010 - A Learning Management System (LMS) for Government\DoD, Private Sector\Fortune 1000, and Educational Institutions (SP vs. Blackboard)Your organization more than likely already owns SharePoint licenses and may be using it for collaboration, the Intranet, an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) \ Enterprise Records Management (ERM)... Link to Article:(http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/SharePoint-2010-A-Learning-Management-System-(LMS)-for-Government5cDoD-Private-Sector5cFortune-1000-and-Educational-Institutions-7c-(SP-vs-Blackboard)2010)

Article 9) Mobility, Browser Compatibility, Compliance, and its Continued Dominance in the Marketplace... Like a stock trader who has purchased a “put” on a stock in hopes the stock value will decrease, I continue to see articles and blogs every now and then asking questions and making statements on do... Link to Article: (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/SharePoint-2010-A-Learning-Management-System-(LMS)-for-Government5cDoD-Private-Sector5cFortune-1000-and-Educational-Institutions-7c-(SP-vs-Blackboard)

Article 10)Developing a Hybrid SharePoint 2010 ERM \ ECM Platform (SPaaS)In developing any Enterprise Records Management (ERM) or (ECM) Platform, the key to long-term success is your organizations ability to develop a roadmap that takes into consideration the hybrid type... Link to Article: (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/Developing-a-Hybrid-SharePoint-2010-ERM-5c-ECM-Platform-(SPaaS)For additional information contact EPC Group at sharepoint@epcgroup.net or http://www.epcgroup.net/

Monday, November 14, 2011

SharePoint Deployment Tips - Commonsense Comments from a Near-Decade's Worth of SharePoint Diving






SharePoint Deployment Tips -
Commonsense Comments from a Near-Decade's Worth of SharePoint Diving
SharePoint Pro Magazine Article Originally Posted Here
Posted @ 10/28/2011 5:08 PM By Caroline Marwitz

"SharePoint is typically one of the most high profile deployments," says Errin O'Connor, founder and head of EPC Group. "People have their jobs on the line. EPC has a unique approach to helping organizations deploy SharePoint that allows companies to be like partners."

Based on experience that goes back to the original STS 2001, and bolstered by projects such as helping Chevron, Continental Airlines, the US Naval Air Command, and the National Institutes of Health with their SharePoint deployments, O'Connor's SharePoint knowledge runs deep. In fact, you could get lost for days in it. Here are a few tips for success gleaned from a short conversation with O'Connor and Miranda Price, EPC Group's Vice President:

1. Approach a project with the mindset of SharePoint as a service and as a platform. "It's a hybrid solution. It's not only an intranet--if you want to transform it into a records management solution, you'll be ready."

2. Engage power users. "Companies put their budget into administrator training but you need to develop the folks that implement SharePoint for a specific reason--they tend to implement it for other things, too."

3. Keep SharePoint simple. It's important to follow site provisioning and permissions best practices. "You can end up defeating the purpose of SharePoint if you have five sites that do the same thing or store the same documents. We try to ensure there's an approval process to create sites."

4. Governance, governance, governance. "We like to set up governance committees. Governance is thrown around a lot-it ranges from provisions, security, roadmap, content types, to end-user training. It consists of two parts-infrastructure information management (server side-load balancing and DR) and information management (site collections, site creation)."

5. Don't re-invent the (training) wheel. Re-use training--a centralized training model can do wonders. Consider doing an organization-agnostic training for all departments--implement once, take a roadmap approach.

6. Get a store. "We have a private cloud with a private app store where folks in the organization can go in and see what other departments have done and go in, download a web part, code, business requirements in the documentation--it's like a solutions gallery where you can get help or support."

7. Get organized. "We saw the NIH buying AvePoint, Idera, Colligo, three or four times over--we worked with all their vendors so they could buy a solution one time and reuse it."
To learn more about EPC Group, see the company's website.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why Large Enterprise and Global SharePoint Deployments Will Not Work in the Cloud - AIIM.ORG SharePoint Expert Blog

Expert AIIM Article: Why Large Enterprise and Global SharePoint Deployments Will Not Work in the Cloud

Original AIIM.ORG Post Located Here

By Errin O'Connor, Founder & CEO at EPC Group.net
November 10, 2011 - 6:17 AM

“Everyone is going to want one of these,” Gary Dahl half-joking said. Gary Dahl is an author and advertising executive, but more importantly, the inventor of the Pet Rock.

A Cloud-based SharePoint Server 2010 enterprise-wide (i.e. Fortune 1000 sized company) and\or globally implemented deployment simply will not work. It may be initially appealing, but without the organization’s Information Technology executives completely owning the environment and its governance, customization, and federation strategy it will be a long-term failure and future migration project (from the external cloud into an internally hosted Private Cloud).

An enterprise SharePoint Server 2010 platform implemented in a Private Cloud, an environment internal to the organization with total control of its servers, permissions \ security, customization and deployment policies, and federation between line-of-business systems and various data sources is the only deployment platform global and large enterprise organization should focus on.

There is a place for a cloud-based SharePoint 2010 deployment in small to medium sized businesses who only mostly require out-of-the-box features and functionality and siloed \ departmental permission strategies. Organizations like these can utilize a cloud-based solution to not only be quickly up and running on a SharePoint 2010 solution but take advantage of the lower cost of ownership.

There may be some folks jumping up and down stating that a SharePoint, cloud-based hosted SharePoint environment, can easily scale to 5,000 or 15,000 users and I don’t doubt it can, but what does “scale to” really mean? SharePoint 2010 should be implemented as a Service with a Platform \ Hybrid methodology in mind. It will evolve to more than 1 or 2 specific business or functional requirements. It may be a collaboration and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution initially, but will eventually have workflows, executive dashboards \ KPIs, Social Networking, and probably many other capabilities. SharePoint 2010 seamless federation and single sign-on integration with other business systems is a core requirement of many enterprise and global companies.

It is very challenging to federate a hosted SharePoint 2010 solution with your organizations other internally hosted applications and data. It is also a challenge to deploying custom SharePoint-based applications your internal I,T, staff may have built within the cloud.

The SharePoint “App Store” concept is something of beauty but it is limited in scope in a hosted SharePoint cloud. There may be a set of reusable web parts the cloud may offer that may appeal to the masses, like an image rotator web part or commonly applicable solution for Policies and Procedures; simple things like weather or aggregation web parts but they are still mostly limited to data and content within the cloud or data that is publically accessible.

When you are working with business and functional requirements of enterprise and global organizations, you are also going to run across requirements wildcards such as:

•Countries who have issues with storing data in US-based data centers who must adhere to the Freedom of Information Act as well as the Patriot Act.

•Organizations who store HIPPA-related data and\or PHI and PII sensitive data.

•The storage of tax related documents and the way that content must be tracked and secured.

•The administrative access of the cloud hosting company (as they still can probably give themselves access, if desired, which can open the firm who is hosting their organization’s SharePoint deployment and content there up to possible litigation).

•Wanting to deploy and host custom applications built on SharePoint within the cloud environment | Deploying custom web parts built internally

•Federating massive active directory environments to a SharePoint cloud

•Federating internal data sources and other line of business systems to the external cloud

•Implementing Executive Dashboards and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that pull from multiple data sources including those that are non-SharePoint based

•Deploying custom workflows that may have multiple “swim lanes” and may cross and need to access these multiple data sources

•Managing your organizations future SharePoint Mobile Experience and related "edge devices"

•Sensitive or Highly sensitive data

◦Both in the private sector as well as in government, there is data that is highly sensitive and possibly top secret. This goes without saying, but you must take your organizations governing laws as well as retention and access control policies into consideration at all times.

◦This includes information security related to applications hosted on the platform for which your data is stored

Myself and my firm at EPC Group have also run across Countries and International Laws that prohibit the storage or access of content outside the borders of their country. We have dealt with this in places such as Germany and many countries in Africa where the ability to search data cannot return results either inside or outside (depending on the scenario, internal or external) of the country.

I believe that the Private Cloud, internally hosted and mostly on virtual platforms, is the only real solution that large enterprise and global organizations should rely on to meet their current and also future I.T. roadmap for SharePoint Server 2010 as its capabilities lead to SharePoint becoming a hybrid ecosystem within most of these organizations.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Expert AIIM Article: Are Records Management and Usability, Together, Even Possible?

By Errin O'Connor, Founder & CEO at EPC Group.net

October 25, 2011 - 6:40 AM

Why are 75% of the organizations in the United States (with an enterprise presence) looking at implementing a records management solution and why are they drawn so much to a particular Microsoft platform?

Can you have an enterprise content management (ECM) \ enterprise records management (ERM) solution with an easy to use interface that users are drawn to? How about a centralized platform that the organization can use as a Service? Lastly, can the organizations Intranet be seamlessly integrated as well as your file shares, exchange public folders, and other online or proprietary applications?

Ohh, and its needs to be accessible via an extranet and on mobile (Tablet and smartphone) devices as well.

The answer to these questions is why FileNet, LiveLink, Documentum, eRoom, and about 15 other platforms I can think of are losing market share by the day. I know I may get the “open source” and Microsoft detractors or those whose technology platform are in the direct line of fire of this tool or whose online “cloud” service can’t match up (comments), but that is understandable.

I thank my lucky stars every night that I joined the right team. Implementing a multi-million dollar ECM\ERM solution several years ago and literally having users not use it has happened all over the map. Enter SharePoint 2010…

I will also play devil’s advocate for a second as I had an interesting conversation with a client the other day regarding their company’s new records management plans and future roadmap. The organization had already made its mind up that SharePoint was not a true records management platform.

In fact, they did not even want to see a live demo of 3 different Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions that EPC Group had built and were in production for 3 Fortune 500’s that everyone would recognize as almost baseball and apple pie in the U.S. Did MOSS (SharePoint 2007) cause this? Probably so, and if all they had seen was an out of the box “record center” in MOSS than I can hardly blame them. In SharePoint 2007, there was a whole lot of customization \ configuration that had to be done to compete with the FileNet, LiveLink, and Documentum’s of the world.

It was very possible but not very attractive to the masses. In over 150+ implementations of SharePoint 2007, my teams and I at EPC Group don’t disagree on what you may have seen in MOSS (out-of-the-box) but SharePoint 2010 is a whole different animal and SharePoint 15 is not going to be any different…but back to the main point.

Why have so many Fortune 1000 organizations aligned themselves and committed to a SharePoint future roadmap strategy? They combined Gartner leading quadrant records management requirements with a tool that is easy to use and can meet the needs of 10 different enterprise requirements including social\professional networking and guarantee of a solution that will be around for at least another decade.

What would users think of when they hear the word usability or just “easy to use”?

•Effective and efficient in supporting work
•Easy to learn and memorize
•Error tolerant and efficient in error recovery
•Allows for a pleasant and safe working environment
•Making sure our end-users have an easier time learning new training, remaining productive, and accepting change if the end product is easy to use.
So what does usability really impact? What’s the ROI (we are looking at the bottom line these days!)?

•Continued productivity in core task activities
•Acceptance of changes
•Increased effectiveness in training
•Increased speed of adoption
At its core?

•Users can complete high-impact, critical must haves
•Users have productivity level understanding of easy to use ECM and collaboration tools
Note: Also, if you’re not doing it before your competition or spending the time and money to innovate you may lose market share and fall behind.

A lot of us who work from both sides of the isle (the company looking for a consulting firm and partner to assist them in integrating such a high profile project \ solution AND the consulting organization who is trying to not only win your business but show why they are different than all the other SharePoint firms and why you should feel safe spending your available budget and signing on for the engagement) understand budget is tight and every last dollar must be squeezed but there can be no cutting corners or taking shortcuts. It’s a hard decision for clients’ \ companies but one that must be decided. When does not spending money and saving budget start to kill innovation?

Usability is not only about the Internet Browser from a laptop or desktop and SharePoint 2010, it’s about mobility and those “edge” devices. Every single item discussed above must also be thought of in a case of a tablet device or a smartphone.

Usability must be managed in your companies MME or Mobility Management Experience. You may refer to it as a different acronym and I believe this thought process will continue to evolve but take into consideration not only company issued devices but the iPad that your CFO is about to get for his\her birthday. How do you manage usability on that device and govern it? Can you even do that and are your companies’ policies and procedures not yet updated to cover a situation like that? You’re not alone and it’s something that must be addressed and soon.

By selecting a platform that is going to give you not only ROI by replacing other expensive systems and allowing everything to be centralized, but to choose a solution that is going to be uttered every few seconds because it’s being used constantly its key to measure its “Usability Value” -

•Measurement and validation of end-user performance
◦Core work tasks
■Critical Must-Haves
■High Impact changes
◦Easy-to-use Information Management and Collaboration tools (Add Social\Professional Networking)
•Measurement of solution’s value to Businesses and End-Users
•Identify performance and feedback-based usability gaps and provide recommendations for solutions to usability gaps
•Advocate on behalf of End-Users and ensure their feedback is heard
•Decrease need for redesign in the future or missing things like mobility -> Evergreen

What true solution “statement” or usability “core values” should be required for success?

•SharePoint 2010 brings significant changes for the end-user
◦New work practices and attitudes around E-mail, messaging, and social (professional) networking
◦New collaboration and document sharing practices
◦New work operating system and digital work environment (Think about going green in the future with OCR \ Scanning solutions that are seamlessly integrated with SharePoint 2010)
•SharePoint 2010 End-Users will have an easier time learning new training, remaining productive, and accepting change if the end product is easy to use.
•Ensuring the usability of SharePoint 2010 will involve a process of examination, testing and refining by applying usability methodology.
◦This must include 508 compliance which has been overlooked for years but is now a core requirement for many organizations (especially government)
This all falls under governance, no surprise, but instead of just throwing around the G word, think true “Operational Governance” and a living breathing Governance strategy that aligns with your organization’s roadmap.

Myself and my team and EPC Group constantly discuss how an enterprise SharePoint project touches just about every area of an organization. Usability \ user experience is one that is not always on the forefront of peoples thoughts but it should be

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Site Implementations in SharePoint 2010 - A Best Practice

Original Article posted on EPC Group's SharePoint Expert Blog Profile which can be seen at the following AIIM.ORG Link: http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/My-Site-Implementation-in-SharePoint-2010-e28093-A-Best-Practices-Strategy


A SharePoint 2010 Enterprise initiative must be approached in a manner to ensure it is implemented with a “Platform Strategy” and “SharePoint as a Service” in mind. This not only includes the implementation of a Document Management \ Records Management SharePoint 2010 enterprise initiative in mind but all of the other facets that SharePoint 2010 bring to an organization.

I speak with business leaders and CIOs\IT Directors on a regular basis during my day-to-day activities at EPC Group and one question I continue to hear from many organizations is, “what is your opinion on how we could successful roll out SharePoint 2010 My Sites to our organization and how many other similar companies like ours are rolling it out”? The answer is currently about 60\40 in that 60% of organizations are rolling out My Sites and 40% are in a “wait and see” pattern and are struggling with legal & compliance or leadership who have serious concerns about rolling out My Sites.

I always discuss with client, in terms of a record, what is the difference between an email or a post on a My Site? Is there really any difference in the two from a legal perspective and unless the organization regularly monitors a large subset of employees emails, which is rare. My Sites are my more easily monitored and governable. In this, SharePoint 2010 My Site Governance is key and some initial core areas of consideration should be:

•All My Site Public View content must contain only work-related material. This includes work-related documents, discussions, pictures, links, calendar events, and related content.
•No My Site Public View content can contain any confidential or private data. If the organization would not allow all users within the company with a domain login to view this information, consider whether it should be on your My Site Public View.
•Content pertaining to human resources or legal (sensitive in nature) is typically considered confidential and should not be listed on My Site Public View.
•No PII or PHI (personal health information) information should ever be present in My Sites
◦PII: Organization may differ on what PII they may consider PII data. Data about an individual that could potentially identify that person, such as a name, fingerprints or other biometric data, email address, street address, telephone number or social security number. A subset of PII is PIFI (personally identifiable financial information).
◦PHI: under HIPAA includes any individually identifiable health information. Identifiable refers not only to data that is explicitly linked to a particular individual (that's identified information). It also includes health information with data items which reasonably could be expected to allow individual identification.
•Public and already released financial data must be reviewed prior to its posting on My Site Public View. (i.e. Reports, etc.)
•Content on the private site must not contain personal audio files, inappropriate pictures, or other materials not allowed within the organization.
•All discussions or blogging done within a My Site must follow company policies and must not contain sensitivecompany material or defamatory comments about any person within the organization.
I think a key area for organizations to look at is first not thinking of My Sites as the “Facebook” of the enterprise, even thou it was a lot of similar characteristics. Facebook is a poorly governed (by its out-of-the-box configured) nature and the user is responsible to setting proper permissions, showing what posts can be publically viewed, etc.

Its key to think of SharePoint 2010’s My Site as “Professional Networking” and that is the only term they should ever be referred to as that help set a standard and mindset within users. The other key area of concern I see is that organizations fear that existing and approved “policies and procedures” or “standard operating procedures” could be confused by someone’s “best practices” post on their My Site and again this is easily addressed. Having users sign either an online My Site “Professional Networking” user agreement or a paper based user agreement with the governance items and conduct responsibilities clearly spelled out is a great way myself and my professional networking teams at EPC Group have seen completely change the mindset and landscape of fears organizations face.

My Sites are an extremely powerful tool that, in my estimation, 40% of organizations are putting on the back burner or “in a later phase” that is causing them to loose productivity with this amazing tool at their fingertips (and by the way you already purchased\own it). You can institute My Site governance policies as well as actually configure the My Site templates with only the web parts and functionality you would like your user base to access and you do not have to give them all the capabilities right out of the gate.

My advice would be to pilot My Sites within 1 or 2 departments and test these strategies with these users and see how much ROI you really get out of them as I can guarantee you will be amazed at user productivity. One last area of concern I wanted to address is that organizations sometimes see the “My Site” as a replacement to the users existing personal file share. This may or may not be the case but my setting quotas on the My Sites and instituting required Content Type \ Metadata selection when they save documents will make a huge difference in your thinking in this area. These documents will also allow the users to fully search them with SharePoint’s native search and save the user time by searching rather than hunting and pecking around usually very poorly organized file shares.

In the past 4 months, we have completed over 5 extremely large enterprise My Site implementations in both the commercial (2 Fortune 500) and 2 mid-size organizations (1 government) and have not seen issues where they caused any major issues but rather training requirements to help users get used to having this powerful tool at their fingertips.

In summary, pilot My Sites for "Professional Networking" within 1 or 2 departments as you will not regret it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Selecting the Right SharePoint Consulting Firm: Comparing Apples to Apples, or Apples to Oranges

Selecting the Right SharePoint Consulting Firm: Comparing Apples to Apples, or Apples to Oranges

By Errin O'Connor, Founder & CEO at EPC Group.net - September 19, 2011

Background on One of Many Similar Situations I Have Come Across in the Past 24 Months

As a disclaimer to this article, I do own a SharePoint consulting firm, EPC Group.net, and am writing this based on my opinion and those of CIOs and IT Directors that I have interacted with over the past 24 months.

In working with clients and gathering their business requirements as well as their detailed functional requirements as well as listening to their past experiences in working with SharePoint consultants on previous versions like MOSS 2007 or SPS 2003, or even SharePoint 2010, I continue to hear an opinion and small pattern for which I thought I should address.

As an example, a few months ago I was asked to assist in scoping out a full FileNet to SharePoint 2010 migration initiative. There was no existing metadata, the security of FileNet was quite old and not aligned with the business, and the users could not get off of FileNet and into SharePoint fast enough; a department within the firm had implemented their own small SharePoint 2010 implementation and a number of staffers in this company had seen its capabilities and wanted in, and wanted in yesterday.

Trying to be politically correct here as much as possible, a 15 day SharePoint Deployment Services engagement, for which EPC Group shies away from as we tend to not see the value in it for our Enterprise clients, was not going to resolve this Enterprise Content Management (ECM) initiative and there was several months of hard work ahead for not only the company but for which ever firm they selected to trust and engage with on this undertaking. To my surprise the CIO called me and said he had 5 quotes on his desk that ranged from $56,000 to $310,000. Lets just say for conversation sake, the SOW I developed was not on the cheaper side as myself and my team who worked on this proposal with me for sevearl days understood the level of effort, has gone back into Project Server and pulled out 3 similar project plans to verify tasks, etc. and in no way was any firm in the world going to accomplish this initiative for $56,000 or anything near that number. Its important the client understand what the SharePoint firm is delivering, what is the engagement model, what type of project management are they expecting, how much face to face knowledge transfer should they expect, etc... (As I could go on and on but i believe this is a point that many in the SharePoint arena to not like to address).

Note: Not a whole lot can be accomplished in a 15 day initiative, especially if you are looking for knowledge transfer, which I believe is the absolutely key to long-term SharePoint success.

The Clients Perspective

I don't envy the client situation when going out to select a SharePoint Consulting partner to take on this task and there can be the route for which they do their own due diligence and come up with a list of 3 or 4 of the top firms in the US with 300 or 400+ or more of these projects under their belt or depending on the organization, put out an RFP and let the masses try and prove their prowess or expertise. Personally I don't have huge preference when working with clients to win their business based on my firm EPC Group's past performance and reputation and I am probably speaking for several other SharePoint firms out there but I would also caution clients to truly look into who they are receiving quotes from...

When selecting a SharePoint Consulting firm\partner, consider the proposal’s numbers (cost) vs. the quality and experience of the delivery team. With the 20 or so firms that have been founded in the past 24-36 months which I track (along with the other firms in the US), many of them are trying to underbid the project to win it to build a past performance or reference base, but in many cases firms who have been in the SharePoint consulting arena for 10 years end up getting a follow-up call from the client asking for a health check and assessment as well as a quote for a new initiative as they found out they need to throw-out the past few months of work and start over due to the disaster they have just experienced.

This is sometimes due to the SharePoint roadmap that was never developed, the experience level of the consultants, possibly the "1099 subcontracted for this job consultants" this original firm hired when signing up for a Dice.com account shortly after winning the project to hire a few "Senior SharePoint Consultants" that did not live up to the SharePoint Senior Architects \ Consultants for which they were “billed” at and pitched during the sales and project scoping process.

The Other "Big Vendors" in the Room

SharePoint is the most powerful and flexible enterprise solution who has taken on the past 800 pound giants and in its forth release (SharePoint 2010) as made EMC, OpenText, and others “call a bit of uncle, or there have been some board meetings in which the saying, “If you can’t beat em’, joint em’..” or "we have to open up our APIs to be SharePoint (seamlessly) friendly" just may have been uttered (my personal opinion of course).

Doing Due Diligence for Yourself and Your Firm When Selecting a Consulting Firm

It is critical that you look at not only certifications, experience, any beta testing or TAP program experience from those that were there at the pre-release, authoring of SharePoint publications, real-world experience, and those that talk about making mistakes and learning from them. Sometimes it important to not talk about SharePoint at all but listen to the business problem and ensure the consultants do not have blinders on and make it everything in the project just about SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint....

1. What defines a Senior SharePoint Architect \ Consultant vs. a consultant who has been subcontracted to work on 1 or 2 deployments?

2. Remember that just because a consulting firm may have the product vendor "or something similar" in their name, that doesn’t mean they necessarily know what they are doing or have the rock stars at the table to successfully complete your project (yes, even if they want to bid twice as much as the others who proposed a statement of work or hourly rate, etc.).

State of SharePoint

A large number SharePoint firms have been founded in the past 2-3 years (as I mentioned above) and at least 5 seasoned firm I know of have been purchased in the past 18-24 months by larger firms. I have been asked at conferences, "what about outsourcing SharePoint development and using a few information architects to control the face time"? Outsourcing SharePoint development overseas doesn’t not work on a large scale unless you have months and months to near 'fingerprint in stone' every single possible detail (business and functional requirement). If a change is needed, it will take several weeks to turn around, update, and receive it back to implement in your dev farm to test. You must ensure all your development environments are synchronized. Your developers must have experience in 2007 as well as 2010 to ensure you understand the issues in upgrading because SharePoint 15 is coming out sometime in 2014. (Note: we may get a sneak peak from the SharePoint product team in the very near future).

The External "Cloud" versus your own Internal "Private" Cloud

In my opinion, and with concerns of the recent outages of several of the large clouds, companies who must connect to external business data or have developed custom applications in house (web parts, workflows, master pages, using the BCS, etc.) are not going to jump on the bandwagon of an external cloud in the near future (especially with the negative press of day or two long outages) but rather implement and “Internal or Private Cloud” (no matter how many other expert bloggers may work for or own Cloud Computing organizations, again this is my opinion from sitting with prominent CIOs from the private and government sector). I believe there is value to the cloud for SMB type businesses but Fortune 500\1000 and major Government organizations need 24/7, 365 uptime and the ability to manage custom code, connect to external data sources, federate security seamlessly, and a whole lot more, and do it yesterday.

SharePoint Trainers vs. Consultants
Trainers who blog are not always experts in, “in the trenches” consulting and you may get a robotic or rehearsed answer; ensure the blogs and experts you follow are actual consultants who have sat in “war rooms” hours on end to whiteboard and solve real world problems where there are budgetary and political considerations as well as timelines, resources, and peoples jobs from the client on the line.

3rd Party Vendors \ ISVs

There are a large number of SharePoint 3rd party solutions (ISVs) who offer amazing solutions that can help you to lower your internal maintenance costs and almost act like another full-time employee (FTE) for your firm. On the other hand, ensure you are only buying what you need as some ISVs have moved to the model of bundling up their entire suite of products that not only cause a massive footprint on your servers but also cause you to possibly spend budget that you do not need to spend.

A Recent Area of Concern - Internal Politics and SharePoint 2010's Massive Functionality

Internal politics can absolutely be the death of a project and the firm you select must be able to tell you the hard truth about this and you should take it in stride. I have witnessed the application (SharePoint) teams literally fighting tooth and nail with the development, legal, or legacy solutions (Portal, ECM, etc.) and vice versa. SharePoint Server 2010 has an unbelievable amount of functionality (i.e. ECM\ERM, Portal, Collaboration, Social\Professional Networking, Business Intelligence, etc.). It is bound to cause political issues and find some people concerned about job security with their legacy systems.

SharePoint Licensing

Microsoft is adding 20,000 new users a day or 7+ million new users a year (for the past 5 years) so resolving issues and understanding SharePoint’s capabilities to provide ROI to your firm is in your best interest.

The-SharePoint 2010 "Magical Mystery Tour"

By Errin O'Connor, Founder & CEO at EPC Group.net - September 08, 2011

The Perceptions vs. Reality of I.T. and New Technologies

When discussing with a client who is considering or beginning the process of rolling out SharePoint 2010, I sometimes feel like a broken record in saying, “yes, it can accomplish that” or “it can be implemented to replace this or that system” but in reality these are all true statements. I read an interesting article the other day regarding Facebook and its comparison to corporate technologies and SharePoint in particular.

Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) 2003 (2 full SharePoint releases ago) had My Site (social) capabilities but it was before its time and management, legal, compliance, and CIOs were rightfully concerned and doing their due diligence in seeing how this new feature, along with others, such as blogs and wikis would positively or negatively affect their organization. Many of these organizations with these concerns thou also relied on file shares and antiquated HTML or custom .asp Intranets and good enough was better than the risk perceived.

There are some organizations that have taken SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010’s (social) professional networking capabilities (My Sites) and practically stood them on their head in doing some real work (i.e. allocating budget and resources) with huge ROI. SharePoint 2010’s capabilities bring your staff together to increase productivity, provide knowledge bases, open discussion areas to larger groups, while providing this in a secure environment is beyond powerful.

What is the difference between someone sending out an inappropriate email to a person or group of people or someone posting something possibly inappropriate on their My Site? Yes, they are both against company policy and should be removed and the issue dealt with accordingly.

My advice and urging is for organizations to step outside their comfort zone and invest in using SharePoint’s features (as you probably already own the licenses) and look at its Web Content Management, Document Management, Business Intelligence, Intranet, and Professional Networking capabilities.

There is no doubt that organizations have pulled back the reins on investing time and effort on the utilization of a new technology and have turned their focus on their existing technologies, keeping the status quo, and staying in between the lines. I had a conversation with an organization’s Director of I.T. last month and he told me, “If you compare what we used to spend (effort and budget) on innovation 8 to 10 years ago compared to now, it’s completely night and day.” He went on to say, “Our organization spends 10% of what it used to on innovation and it seems to be some fear of the unknown that is driving this.”

The I.T. Department within organizations is not the anti-sales department but an enabler to help you and your staff increase productivity, decrease wasted time on searching or finding content, protecting the organization from litigation, and making sure you have the tools to make your job easier.

Scenarios to Consider

This could be an area of conversation that could go on for hours, but I wanted to give a list of a few examples of what clients have approached EPC Group with in the past 4 months to kickoff this scenarios topic.

1.We have a LiveLink system and our users can’t stand to use the LiveLink interface and they love SharePoint’s easy to use interface so they end up just storing documents in SharePoint and that is not “our system of record.” Can we front-end LiveLink with SharePoint until our OpenText license expires?

2.We have a massive file share system where I am sure there are a ton of duplication as well as applications, large files, possible databases, and data that we are not sure what to do with… how can we migrate this successfully into SharePoint?

3.We want to roll-out SharePoint 2010 to a few departments and integrate it via Single Sign-on with the major LOB systems in those departments. How best can we do this without affecting future upgrades or patches that Microsoft releases on SharePoint 2010?

4.We want to implement SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise as our ECM solution but do not know where to start or have a retention schedule, what should we do?

5.We have to be 508 compliant in SharePoint, what solutions are out there and how do we do this the right way the first time as there is no room for error?

6.We want to upgrade SharePoint 2007 to 2010 but have done major customization and also have developed custom .NET KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in 2007 and want to now use PerformancePoint, what is the best approach?

7.Should we use some external cloud service or should we implement our own solution in-house? What are the pros and cons of that long term?

I sincerely enjoy my interactions with clients looking to implement SharePoint 2010 and there are best practices and past performance projects to show to all 7 questions above and SharePoint 2010 can meet all of these needs.

The major issues with a lot of the areas of concern tend to be political or a lack of ownership within the organization to drop the hammer and say this is the way it’s going to be. SharePoint initiatives are most successful with executive sponsorship or that visionary\maverick who is willing to drive and embrace change.

Items That Are Coming Down the Pipe – Like it or Not

To maintain a competitive advantage, most companies are going to have to embrace new technology and start getting prepared for Tablets, Mobile Device access, and truly implementing a records retention policy along with a system of record (ECM/ERM) that is fully searchable and high performing. Microsoft has purchased Skype and one can only wonder what they have up their sleeves with this as well as developed their new Lync Unified Communication solution.

Facebook, Netflix, self-check outs, on-demand cable shows, iTunes, and others things have changed the culture of what people, being your user base, expect. Your company may or may not have the budget right now to purchase new licenses or revamp your technology until 2012 or later but there are still options out there to prepare such as SharePoint Foundation 2010, Skype, getting off your file shares, and implementing strategies.

These strategies should consist of your organization’s IT Roadmap (including SharePoint) as well as an Enterprise Governance Strategy (including SharePoint and how you are going to deal with Mobility).

The last item I wanted to touch on is eDiscovery, as we live in a litigious world and being prepared and making that investment to be prepared may turn out to save you a great deal in the future. That equates to implementing a records management strategy in your organization and identifying “what is a record.” Also think about how best email is being managed and what are your technical options around streamlining your organizations technology.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A "Phase 0" Approach to SharePoint 2010

By EPC Group - August 15, 2011

An approach that I have seen work well for a large number of organizations either implementing a new SharePoint 2010 enterprise implementation or possibly upgrading from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 is to complete a “Phase 0” initiative prior to rolling out a full blown Phase 1 project.

“Phase 0” is a term for a project that helps the organization take a deep look at themselves to develop a "SharePoint 2010 roadmap” and should be very forward looking into an organization’s I.T. strategy. SharePoint 2010 is a Platform that can support an unparalleled number of both business needs and your staff’s functionality requirements in terms of an application.

As part of my job as EPC Group’s CEO is to sit down with CIO’s, I.T. Directors, Legal and Compliance Department heads, and business owners to find out what exactly their current “state” is and what technology it is that they have implemented, how well it is working for their organization, and to discuss how SharePoint can assist them in providing real Return on Investment (ROI) for their organization.

I like to really step back from the technology (that being SharePoint) and just look at what the business is trying to accomplish and how I.T. is supporting their organization’s (really their end-user or clients) needs. This conversation and project methodology can take a million different twists and turns at the beginning, but it really comes down to how best I.T. can utilize their available budget and time constraints.

What applications, licensing, hardware, staff, and biggest business concern (or squeaky wheel) needs to be addressed. But this all has to be done the right way by developing a 24-36 month roadmap to take into consideration the ever changing technology or mobile world we have all been accustom too in this “we expect the information now” mindset.

A CIO or I.T. Director may be focused on an enterprise strategy where a “Legal and Compliance” department may be looking at records and how best to focus on implementing or enforcing a records retention schedule to lower its possible litigation exposure and simply get the organization’s “records” in order.

That begs the question, what is a record and is everyone on the same page about the importance of that record? Is I.T. currently focused on implementing an Enterprise Content Management (ECM or ERM) solution or rather to develop a “Portal” type solution to enhance the organizations collaboration between staff members? Is there a concern regarding the licensing model \ purchases (a possible existing Documentum, LiveLink, FileNet, or Internet solution) that is currently being utilized to meet a specific need or possilby being discussed and is a possible political landmine? (These need to be addressed).

Microsoft SharePoint is being utilized in most every major organization (in varying capacities) from Wells Fargo to Viacom (MTV) to the Department of State and at the Pentagon. It’s being used in varying capacities at pharmaceutical companies, most every branch of the U.S. Government, the world’s top financial institutions, and even at your local YMCA chapter. It’s becoming as common as Microsoft Word.

SharePoint needs a roadmap and a solid governance strategy as well as a support model and a configuration \ customization policy. You will need a training strategy (including train-the-trainer and power users) and to really look at where the organization is going in email (records) management as well as automating paper-based processes into workflows.

What is that big “quick win” you’re looking for in SharePoint? What is the ROI analysis you’re looking to provide? If you already have SharePoint implemented you may be looking at performance, redundancy in farms, what in the world a “cloud” solution could do for you and the many add-ins (3rd party SharePoint solutions) and security concerns you may need to address.

If you’re looking at replacing your existing document management system, Internet solutions, Intranet solution, or file shares with SharePoint or adding mobile capabilities to your organization you may be asking an entire different set of questions.

This is why a “Phase 0” project can be so valuable but even if your organization is in Phase 1 or Phase 2 of an existing enterprise implementation, it’s never too late to ask these questions and level-set on your roadmap or “pop the hood” to do a health check and assessment (or ROI check) on what you currently have going.

Written by the EPC Group team of experts.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Navigating the "World of SharePoint 2010” and All It Encompasses

Posted on EPC Group's AIIM.ORG Expert Blog - July 26, 2011 - 12:24 PM

By Errin OConnor, Founder & CEO at EPC Group.net

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 is one of the most popular software programs \ platforms in history and with it has come a community with a near cult following as well as a large number of extremely powerful products that can integrate with it and continue to allow it to be tailored to your organization’s specific business needs.

For a CIO or IT Director new to the world of SharePoint I can’t imagine the questions they must may have as the blogosphere \ web can provide them with a fantastic amount of free information (correct and unbelievably incorrect), but it is key to consider the source. Is this person that authored the article 2 years into SharePoint and on their 1st or 2nd deployment or an administrator within their company in a very specific environment meant to meet a specific need of their organization or a true SharePoint expert or just an SharePoint trainer speaking in theory.

Playing devil’s advocate, and not to say I am the top expert out there on SharePoint, but I know of myself and a handful of others in the U.S. who have been working with SharePoint since its 2001 release (in the Tahoe days).

It pains me to read 17 articles on governance that all have a different opinion but what are their experiences? (Client’s \ Sources, etc.) What set of external circumstances did this “governance project” have in terms of political landmines, possibly the business or I.T. having issues with the development department(s) or even the parent company who “owns” the top level SharePoint farm but a division or partner firm wanting to stand-up their own specific SharePoint farm to meet requirements or a timeline that the parent company cannot meet.

Business does not always play nice with I.T. and vice versa.

System Architecture – Environment

You can absolutely virtualize your entire SharePoint environment, including your SQL Server(s). EPC Group has completed 75+ SharePoint 2010 projects with absolutely no virtualization issues. This has been a long standing questions regarding, “Should we keep the front-end web servers virtual and make the SQL boxes physical?” You can absolutely virtualize the entire farm with no issues.

Third-Party Tools and SharePoint ISVs

Over the past 8 or 9 years I have had the sincere pleasure of working with some of the top SharePoint ISVs out there and over the years some of come and gone but they key players are still there such as:

1.Idera
2.Metalogix
3.AvePoint
4.Axceler
5.Colligo
6.HiSoftware
7.Tzunami
8.WebPartGallery
9.Bamboo Solutions
10.Quest
11.KnowledgeLake
12.And many others I do not have room to mention but are very reputable

From an I.T. Director or SharePoint decision maker’s standpoint, what product is right for your firm?

Are you looking for a disaster recovery solution, a Performance Monitoring, Security tools, Migration solutions, SharePoint \ Email tools, 508 compliance solutions, Web parts, a tool to take out the trash and clean the kitchen sink?

In all fairness there are so many ISVs with high integrity that really want to do what is right for the client and then there are others that are transactional and want to sell you the entire suite, all the support you can buy, and put fear in you that the sky may be falling unless you purchase their product.

It is critical that you develop our initial business requirements as well as your SharePoint roadmap to take into consideration the true needs of your business and then look at the support staff you have available.

Could one of these powerful third-party tools almost act as another full-time employee (FTE) and offer substantial ROI? In many cases, I have personally seen this be the case but do your homework, demo, test, and ask the tough questions.

SharePoint Conferences

Prior to reading this section you may want to have an Advil or Tylenol bottle close at hand. I have had the pleasure of speaking at most every type of SharePoint conference in the U.S. and a few in Canada and I can tell you that all of these conference have the very best intentions in mind; Sharing information to the attendees so they can take it back to their place of work and perform at a high level or provide this knowledge to co-workers, etc.

Having spoken at over 100 conferences in the past 2 years I see a pattern developing recently thou that is starting to take the “fire” or interest out of some of the conferences.

That issue is repetitive information and the same topics being shared time and time again. Titles that start with things like:

•Best Practices
•Real-World
•From the Trenches - ok that was mine :)
•Lessons Learned

Note: These are all great but its time someone kick the conferences up a notch and provide case studies, bring their clients, show massive amounts of screen shots, and talk about the failures and how they were overcome and how you had to sit down with the client and have the hard conversation to get through an issue and keep the project going.

Taking the same exact Technology type sessions from one coast to the other will work for a short time but it will not sustain longevity and attendees will indeed stop attending.

EPC Group.net is current engaged on several SharePoint projects that are 24+ months long (80K plus users) and with any project there are going to be small issues (and sometimes large ones) that must be ironed out and there must be constant, granular communications and conversations from both the consulting side and the client side (a marriage of sorts or at least a long term dating relationship) to make a project that is so high profile successful that everyone in the company has access to it as jobs may be on the line.

SharePoint is unique in that sense; we are not installing some one-off solution that only one department will use every now and then. This is a platform, an ecosystem for which is core to the business. There is so much Return on Investment (ROI) in a SharePoint 2010 initiative it is almost comical but sometimes it takes pioneers from within and a power user \ super user concept to get people to realize it or take a chance on innovation with this supercharged platform.

Monday, July 18, 2011

SharePoint 2010 - A Learning Management System (LMS) for Government\DoD, Private Sector\Fortune 1000, and Educational Institutions

From EPC Group's AIIM.ORG - SharePoint Expert Blog

By Errin OConnor, Founder & CEO at EPC Group.net (July 18, 2011-12:18 PM)

Your organization more than likely already owns SharePoint licenses and may be using it for collaboration, the Intranet, an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) \ Enterprise Records Management (ERM) solution, or to meet a variety of other business requirements. One area where SharePoint is being extremely underutilized by a majority of organizations is as a Learning Management System (LMS) or Enterprise training solution.

We all live in a time where information is almost instantaneous and mobile advancements in the world are only helping to increase our expectations of “information at our fingertips” 24/7. In looking at how organizations conduct training or certification classes or provide educational materials to their end-users \ students \ staff, there are a variety of existing methods such as classroom training, distant learning, or computer-based online training (CBT).

The “brick and mortar” training is slowly becoming a thing of the past as organizations \ institutes of all types are trying to cut back on airline and travel expenses, the loss of having their staff gone for days on end, or not having 24/7 access to the materials to allow for their already busy day-to-day schedule.

There are existing popular LMS systems that exist such as Blackboard, recently acquired by an investor group,and others but if you can achieve with SharePoint 2010:

•Courseware administration and development
•Course enrollment
•Assessments or quizzes for student \ class placement
•24/7 secured online training (and by the way you probably already own the licenses to SharePoint)
•The development of learning paths, tracking of student progress, and customizable (audience driven) courseware
•Grade tracking
•Integration with Plagiarism Prevention Tools
•Executive Dashboards \ Business Intelligence via seamless integration with Microsoft PerformancePoint 2010

The most powerful element, in my opinion, that other LMS systems do not always offer, is the tracking of a student or staff member’s training \ achievements \ certifications, etc. for the entire lifecycle of their training while they are in the organization \ institution.

If you not only take the above information into consideration, but the fact that Microsoft has acquired Skype, you can also offer real-time video chat and training to enhance the student(s) experience in a 100% integrated LMS SharePoint platform with Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, etc. as well as it having the ability to sit atop a SharePoint ECM solution with industry leading external (extranet) access from anywhere in the world.

SharePoint’s multimedia capabilities (Digital Asset Management) and metadata (content type) tagging will allow your training staff to offer an enhanced experience to the student(s) and collaborate across multiple departments (worldwide) in the development, version tracking, and ultimate final approval of the courseware for the organization.

SharePoint is being used by a large number of educational institutes and organizations \ government institutes as their primary or secondary LMS \ Courseware Management System. The following list is just a small sampling of its use and diversity as this platform:

• Branches of the U.S. ARMY
• Portions of Harvard
• Purdue University
• Portions of the University of Phoenix
• Kansas State University
• University of New Orleans
• University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC)
• Rhode Island Public School Districts
• Worcester State University

With a SharePoint Learning Management System (LMS), there is going to be some configuration and\or custom development which can easily be managed to scale for size or performance but if your organization \ institute already owns and is using the software, a SharePoint LMS is yet another huge way SharePoint can produce real measurable and tangible Return on Investment (ROI).