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.