Advice from SPTechCon: Move to the Cloud and No Cat Pictures

Last month, the SPTechCon was held for the first time in Austin, Texas. It was a particularly timely conference, in that the user community had a lot of questions about where SharePoint and Office 365 are heading. The conference presented an opportunity to listen to a number of interesting and valuable presentations from thought leaders in the SharePoint community.

Arpen Shaw, the Senior Director of Technical Product Management for Microsoft office 365, presented the Keynote speech for the conference. Shaw offered insight regarding the roadmap for Office 365 and how it integrates with SharePoint. Many of the conference attendees were there to find guidance on whether they should stick with on premise installations of SharePoint, or if it was time to move to the Cloud. Shaw directly addressed the security concerns of customers who are hesitant to move to the cloud. He challenged these customers to consider whether their site security can really exceed the security standards that Microsoft requires for them.

Besides Mr. Shaw, there was an abundance of quality speakers at the conference. The well-known Wonder Laura, also known as Laura Rogers, served as a panel speaker and presenting her own session. She provided a good overview of some of the more useful, yet lesser-known, web parts available with a standard SharePoint installation. Many of the web parts fit SharePoint 2010, but they seem to work better for the newer SharePoint 2013 version.

Marc Anderson, President of Sympraxis, presented a session on the use of content types and the importance of planning ahead in their use. He discussed how content types should motivate good information architectures and emphasized that understanding them can reveal the true value of using SharePoint.

Benjamin Niaulin, SharePoint MVP, presented on ”Cool Dashboards, Charts And Visualizations For Power Users.” In this session, Benjamin demonstrated some rather imaginative ways to use Microsoft Excel together with SharePoint in order to create a self-service Business Intelligence System that rivals the Power BI Subscription offering from Office 365. He even demonstrated animated three-dimensional maps for visualizing data. Thanks to Benjamin’s presentation, we now have a thorough understanding of the audience sizes for each episode of the Game of Thrones.

Susan Hanley, Consultant and SharePoint MVP, held a session that offered some tips and techniques for providing performance support to end-users and content developers. Susan had some strong examples of how to use wiki pages effectively to quickly develop content that supports a consistency in SharePoint environments.

One session was particularly interesting, “Understanding the Value of Social in the Enterprise,” took a look at the use of Yammer and how it compliments SharePoint and Office 365. While some users first see Yammer as “Facebook for SharePoint,” Yammer provides a tool with a broad reach to help users accomplish specific business tasks. It was pointed out that Yammer will probably be most effective after the organization institutes a “no cat pictures” policy.

Besides offering presentations on best practices for SharePoint, the conference also gave attendees the opportunity to speak directly with some of the premier vendors in the SharePoint space. Representatives from Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, and Metalogix were all available to answer questions regarding how to effectively use their tools.

SPTechCon provided the chance to learn more about utilizing SharePoint from experienced professionals. I left with a better understanding of tools that will help my clients be more efficient, not just with their use of SharePoint, but also with their core business.