A Workshop – One Day? Two Days? Longer?

Agnes outlines her thinking on workshop length:

The most common question I get about my upcoming workshop, SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 Search in Practice, is why I’ve decided to choose a two-day format.

I know it could be one day. Also, it could be three days, or even up to five.

I do have ten years of experience teaching and doing workshops around the globe. I’ve tried several formats. Some worked, some didn’t. What I’ve found is that I don’t like frontal teaching. It’s not my style. And I know, it can be exhausting as an attendee, too.

In her post, Agnes talks about:
– 3 teaching / learning approaches used in workshops, and
– the five reasons she has embraced the two-day design.

This is a question I have wrestled with many times too. It’s good to see someone else’s thinking … and decision rationale.

And if search in SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 is important in your work, you should sign up to attend.

SharePoint Intranets-in-a-Box v2 – from Clearbox

Sam and his team at Clearbox Consulting have published another great report: the 2016 update of their SharePoint Intranets-in-a-Box report:

Our comprehensive guide to turn-key SharePoint solutions will accelerate your purchasing decision and ensure you make the right choice. It is full of practical advice on the tools that can give you a quick-start to an intranet. Is Unily better than Rise? Is LiveTiles right for you? What are Wizdom’s strengths and weaknesses?

We review 26 of the solutions on offer, using eight common scenarios based on our years of experience in SharePoint consulting. Because we focus on the business side of SharePoint and don’t sell any products, we are able to give you a genuinely independent evaluation.

The report contains over 250 pages, including screenshots, scenario-based evaluations, and our honest opinion. You won’t get this kind of information just from vendor websites or anywhere else. To top it off, we have comparison tables across the board to help you identify options to match your requirements, budget and location.

Available immediately for purchase from Clearbox.

See also:
– Martin White, “The definitive guide

Your Future with SharePoint? Answer the 5 W’s


Earlier in this series:
1 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Back
2 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Forward

Answer the 5 W’s
Microsoft’s future with SharePoint offers increased simplicity (e.g., new modern libraries and lists), mobile interaction (e.g., the new SharePoint app for mobile phones), and efforts to make SharePoint core to the Office 365 platform – not a shrinking shadow of yesteryear. In the first post, I explored Microsoft’s journey with SharePoint over recent years.

In the second post, I took a wide view and reported on some of the principles and frameworks that can be used to inform an organisational journey with SharePoint. That was an exercise in listing numerous principles and frameworks to build an evidence set, not the work of synthesis across the frameworks to look for patterns, similarities, and common items.

My sense in looking at the principles and frameworks in the second post, is that organisations need to answer five questions in planning their future with SharePoint; and the questions are all of the W words:

  • Why? … the question of vision. In light of the business outcomes being pursued by an organisation, why is SharePoint the right answer?
  • Where? … the question of governance. With all that’s on offer in SharePoint, where does it make sense to use SharePoint, what internal guidance is needed to ensure alignment with business priorities, and what rails need to be laid to decrease the likelihood of everything turning to custard (e.g., proliferation of low-value and out-of-date sites)?
  • Who? … the question of people. Who are the key influencers in your organisation that need to be engaged to create context for the successful use of SharePoint? There are certain categories of these people – and their involvement needs to be shaped appropriately.
  • What? … the question of engagement. Everyone across your organisation has current ways of working; what aspects of their work should be transitioned to SharePoint?
  • When? … the question of adoption. Adoption of new ways of working doesn’t work without intentional activity. What strategies will be used to encourage adoption and drive effective use?

In future posts, I’ll look in more detail at each of these W’s.

Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Forward


Earlier in this series:
1 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Back

Looking Forward
In the first post, I summarised what’s been happening with SharePoint over recent years, asserted that those happenings are statements of fact (“that” statements), and asked whether statements of “that” were enough for organisations planning their SharePoint journey? In other words, in light of Microsoft’s public re-commitment to SharePoint, what’s the necessary equal response from organisations planning their journey with SharePoint?

In exploring how to frame that journey, I take note of the following principles:

  • Technology can provide a starting point, but not the journey itself. I like how Randy at AvePoint said it recently regarding SharePoint and Office 365, “it’s easy to get excited about the technology improvements …. but let’s not forget what matters most: making a difference in the lives of the information workers we serve.”
  • In my book Collaboration Roadmap (2011), only the first letter is about the technology (R = Really Understand the Technology). The other six letters in the roadmap are about organisational things, like vision, governance, business engagement, and user adoption.
  • In research conducted in the mid-90s on virtual teams, Jessica and Jeff at NetAge concluded that success was “90% people, 10% technology.” The people stuff – the business driver, the team culture, the level of interpersonal trust, the nature of interdependence, etc. – was much more important than whatever tools were used.
  • There’s a difference between avoiding failure and chasing success with new tools. According to Stephens in the mid-2000s, avoiding failure “only” required good infrastructure and responsive applications. But, if you wanted to chase success, there were a whole set of additional activities required – such as client support, business acceptance, training approaches, user manuals, and more.
  • In the AIIM 2016 report on SharePoint, the three leading reasons for SharePoint failing were all organisational concerns (see image above): 67% inadequate user training, 66% users never really liked it or found it hard to use, and 64% senior management didn’t endorse and enforce it.
  • In the Essential SharePoint 2013 book, the SharePoint strategy roadmap includes organisational questions: who are the stakeholders? How will success be measured? What kind of roles and responsibilities need to be in place? And so on.
  • And finally, a long time ago (last millennium, in 1996), there was this idea about enabling impact with groupware: “Groupware will …. not mysteriously transform organizations from collections of highly competitive loners to well integrated, cooperative groups of collaborators. Without careful planning for its introduction and the changes that this will entail, the impact of groupware will likely be quite limited. Successful groupware implementation will require both a careful assessment of the fit of the technology to the organization and a well designed training program to introduce this new technology and its potential to the organization members..” Now substitute the word “groupware” with “Office 365” and read it again. Interesting!

What principles are you using to guide your organisational journey with SharePoint?

Read Next:
3 – Your Future with SharePoint? Answer the 5 W’s

Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Back


A few weeks ago I presented the opening keynote at Congres SharePoint 2016 in the Netherlands. The keynote played off Microsoft’s re-embrace of SharePoint this year (e.g., The Future of SharePoint!) and was entitled “Your Future with SharePoint?” In preparing for the talk I reviewed all of the guidance I could find about getting business value from SharePoint over the years (including the books and reports I have written), and a synthesis of this was the main focus of my talk.

I began, however, with a look back at SharePoint over recent years, noting the following themes in each year …

– from the 2012 AIIM report on SharePoint: [1] the biggest issue is the lack of expertise to maximise the usefulness of SharePoint, and [2] in only 8% of firms are decisions about SharePoint made by a business systems advisory group.
– the key message from Microsoft was that SharePoint 2013 was the last on-premises edition; organisations should move to the cloud.

– the deployment process for SharePoint was noted to be elaborate and time consuming, and in many cases hard to complete.
– both Forrester and AIIM said users weren’t adopting SharePoint and didn’t like the SharePoint experience.
– Microsoft’s guidance was to use SharePoint for public facing internet sites.
– success with SharePoint appears to be about sales numbers, not actual effective use.
– a Gartner analyst recommended that Microsoft should “kill SharePoint” because nobody likes it, it’s too hard to use, and too hard to manage.
– Forrester said that organisations probably won’t continue to invest in SharePoint.
– the sense was that while end users disliked SharePoint, IT pros liked it a lot.

– SharePoint is too often approached as an IT delivery project, not a business one.
– Microsoft is de-emphasising the SharePoint brand name (remember the outcry after the SharePoint Conference 2014 at how little the word “SharePoint” was used during the event?)
– Office 365 is the place to be; the version of SharePoint after 2013 will be the last one.
– AIIM said that users still aren’t embracing SharePoint.
– Microsoft changed its guidance of public facing internet sites; don’t use SharePoint – use Sitecore instead.

– Microsoft revamped its messaging – [1] SharePoint Server 2016 will not be the last on-premises version, and [2] hybrid is a good strategy – take a mixed approach to SharePoint with some on-premises and some in SharePoint Online

– SharePoint has a bright future!!!!
– Microsoft is committed to SharePoint Server
– Hybrid is still good – use the right mix of Office 365 and SharePoint on-premises
– The SharePoint brand is re-established / re-celebrated in Office 365
– Microsoft introduced a streamlined UI, a simpler experience, and even a mobile app (finally)

In looking at the above data points, it is clear that Microsoft has pivoted on its love for / embrace of / direction with SharePoint. However, I would argue that all of these statements are statements of fact (“that” statements) which exist outside of how an organisation makes use of SharePoint. In other words, it appears clear that Microsoft has a plan for the future of SharePoint, but what should organisations do in planning their future with SharePoint?

Are statements of “that” enough?

Read Next:
2 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Forward
3 – Your Future with SharePoint? Answer the 5 W’s

Mini-Workshop at the Office 365 and SharePoint User Group Meeting


Last week I was the second of two presenters at the Office 365 and SharePoint User Group meeting in Christchurch. My topic was to look at how Office 365 could be used to re-imagine productive work, with the caveat from Lee (the organiser) that the session was to be “highly interactive.” In thinking about how to run the session, I decided to give a very brief introduction to Office 365, argue that it was vital to success to look at how Office 365 can improve various day-to-day working scenarios, and then have the participants do a 5 minute activity in six small groups – and then report back. All in 25 minutes.

I prepared two sets of question sheets – Opportunity Analysis (current state/problem/greatness), Capabilities in Office 365 (what’s on offer), and Behaviours and Culture (essential human behaviours) – and chose two scenarios (holding discussions and managing meetings). In two groups, with three subgroups in each group, I gave one of the six resulting sheets … and asked them to spend 5 minutes answering the questions. Each of the six groups then had 90 seconds each to report back on their analysis / findings.

Here’s what was said:

Holding Discussions

  • Opportunity Analysis … The same discussion happens repeatedly, it’s hard to get everyone on the same page at one time, and discussions are in different places / too many channels, e.g., Yammer, email, physical. There is also no organisation-wide process. It would be great if there was a defined tool and process for all discussions.
  • Capabilities in Office 365 … Yammer, Skype Groups, and SharePoint discussions, with Yammer being the best overall tool in the opinion of the group. Benefits of the different tools included visibility, inclusion (of others), real-time interaction, location independent, and interactive abilities.
  • Behaviours and Culture … Being open minded, willing to learn/adapt, flexibility, anytime/anywhere interaction, willing to be public and share. These were noted as being important because humans are social, we need to evolve, it requires understanding, and we can learn from each other.

Managing Meetings

  • Opportunity Analysis … Meetings happen without an agenda, and no minutes are captured. This means there is no structure to the meeting, people go off on tangents, time is wasted, people come late, and there are no takeaways / actions. It would be great if there was an agenda for every meeting with the invite (and it was early too), and actionable takeaways / decisions were captured.
  • Capabilities in Office 365 … Office 365 offers a whole raft of tools for meetings, including Skype for Business, Planner, Office 365 Groups, OneNote, co-authoring capabilities, SharePoint (for sites, lists, and tasks), Sway (for presenting / communicating differently), Yammer, and Office 365 Video. These tools bring benefits including access to historical information, support for remote meetings, working out loud, collaboration, and transparent action items. The group felt that Skype for Business was the most important tool for meetings.
  • Behaviours and Culture … Key meeting behaviours included focus, the right amount of time, and inclusiveness. The group almost called out the need for agendas for meetings.

Workshop activities like these are good to run in a larger group setting, where the whole group (8-20 people) get the same question in turn. This allows the capturing of more ideas, the ranking of ideas from a larger set, and joint understanding of how to combine new tools with effective behaviours to approach an opportunity. We didn’t do that in this workshop, and instead, given time constraints, I broke the group into small groups. However, it was remarkable how closely aligned the three sub-groups in each scenario were.

My slides are here:

Thanks to everyone who embraced the workshop activity despite the time constraints.

SharePoint Congress 2016 – September 22 in Netherlands


On Thursday September 22 I will be speaking at the SharePoint Congress 2016 in Utrecht, hosted by Entopic.

On September 22, 2016 Entopic organizes Congres SharePoint & Office 2016. This fifth edition of the yearly Dutch SharePoint conference will give best practices around governance, roadmap design and will give a vision on the future of SharePoint in organizations. The conference is focused around the business use of SharePoint and offers visitors the opportunity to inform themselves about business applications, new developments and best practices around SharePoint. It is intended for senior management, communication staff, information managers and IT professionals. In addition to the accumulation of knowledge, the network factor is clearly present at the conference.

I’m looking forward to attending and learning from the other speakers and delegates during the day.

I have two sessions to give:

  • The opening keynote called Your Future with SharePoint? That’s from 9.30am to 10.15am. Mark Morrell (of Intranet Pioneer) will give a second keynote to share his experience on SharePoint intranets from 10.15am.

  • Breakout session on Creating a Roadmap for Office 365, from 11.20am to 12.00pm.

The Congress runs for the full day, with dual-stream breakouts running for most of the day. I’m looking forward to it.

See the programme for more details, and get registered to attend.

Digital Workplace Conference 2016 in New Zealand

Last week I attended the Digital Workplace Conference in Auckland. There were about 600 people at the conference, with conference sessions spanning two days, along with both pre-conference and post-conference workshops. It was the eighth annual conference in New Zealand (having been renamed from the original “SharePoint Conference”), and the 21st conference put on by ShareThePoint across New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia. That’s pretty good going.

I had a couple of sessions to present at the conference (more to come on those), and was able to attend a few of the sessions. Some comments on those:

  • Ambiguity, Fetishes and Teddy Bears: The Modern Workplace Survival Kit (Paul Culmsee and Kailash Awati), focused on the positive and negative ways that models (a way of reducing uncertainty and ambiguity) can used in organisational life. Paul and Kailash led a fun activity during their session to show how to build a model and give it an impressive sounding name, and provided a categorisation of how people respond to and use models in their work.

  • Got O365 – Now What? (Bryan Holyoake) talked about the challenge every organisation is facing when they move to Office 365—how you do you take best advantage of the features and capabilities on offer? Bryan offered his thoughts and approaches for addressing this challenge, and given my own parallel interest in this topic, it was interesting to hear how someone else talked about / approached the same issue.

  • We Built it, but Why Won’t They Come? Practical Advice to Overcome Common User Adoption and Change Hurdles (Sue Hanley), provided an expansive view on user adoption and change, offering 12 practical strategies for addressing the hurdles. Sue had many stories to share (which the audience loved), and excellent pointers on to design an adoption program to maximise business value. I found a lot to agree with in the presentation.

  • Working on the Move with SharePoint and Other Microsoft Apps in your Pocket (Darrell Webster), in which Darrell lived the possibility and presented from and demoed from his mobile phone. Darrell talked about the idea of working on the move, presented the facts and figures to show it is happening on an ever-increasing basis, and provided live demonstrations of the various Microsoft apps for working with SharePoint and other Office 365 services from mobile devices. It was a live (and therefore risky session to pull off), but Darrell was up to the challenge. Darrell also talked about device add-ons—an external battery pack and headset, to name two—that enhance and support the mobile work style.

  • Graduating into a Digital World: How the University of Canterbury is Shaping its Future (Sudeep Ghatak, Toni Gee), on the SharePoint journey at the University of Canterbury. Sudeep and Toni talked specifically about the transition of HR personnel files from paper into SharePoint, and some of the design challenges facing the university in doing so. Sudeep and Toni proffered some key lessons for any organisation embarking on a SharePoint journey, such as a need to understand what SharePoint can do (fully agree) and the need for a long-term vision (business and technical). Good stuff.

Clearly the challenge at every event that has multiple tracks running simultaneously is which sessions to attend and which to pass on, and that’s not always an easy choice. My oldest son—who runs his own IT services company helping people and firms with Microsoft technologies (among others)—attended the conference too, and he said he really liked Lee Stevens’s sessions What the “Internet of Things” REALLY Means for Your Business. Other people I talked with called out Oscar Trimboli’s session Skills in the 21st Century Digital Workplace (which I skipped to go to Darrell’s session above) and Dorje McKinnon’s one Digital Workplace Success Metrics: Choosing the Right Analytics Tool.

All in all, a very good event. Thanks to the conference organisers and sponsors for making it possible.

Report On Intranet Analytics – Required Reading for Collaboration Teams and Analytics Vendors


At the end of 2011 I published Collaboration Roadmap, and then faced a decision about what to do regarding User Adoption Strategies. That first printing had sold well, and with only 50 copies left to sell, I could just order another print run or alternatively write a second edition. The second edition option won out for a couple of reasons, with adding a new chapter on measuring and evaluating user adoption (Chapter 11) high on the list of reasons. At the time I was concerned that collaboration service owners, collaboration strategists, intranet managers, and other people focused on delivering great tools and content were too focus on the easy numbers that came out of their analytics tools, and weren’t getting to the heart of what measuring adoption was all about.

In light of my research above and the advice I give in the User Adoption Strategies workshop around measurement and analytics, I was pleased to see the new Intranet Analytics report from ClearBox Consulting in the UK. In describing the purpose of the report, Sam Marshall (Director) says:

We want to move the focus away from reporting about platforms and onto reporting about how an intranet is being used from a business perspective: Who is engaged? What content is working well? Are people creating and collaborating or only consuming?

That intent very much aligns with the type of interest I have in the subject too, and I spent some hours yesterday reading the report and then talking with the report’s author (Dorje McKinnon, Vajra).

A couple of things to note about the report:
– it provides an indepth evaluation of seven major players in the market – HarePoint, CardioLog, NGAGE, Piwik, Webtrends, Adobe Analytics, and Google. The first four vendors provided interviews; the last three did not.
– in order to move away from reiterating a list of features or capability areas, the report runs the products through eleven scenarios, including intranet / enterprise social network / email, site-based activity, content and contributions, and collaboration. Using a scenario-based approach for exploring a topic is one I’m very supportive of.
– Dorje and Sam have provided multiple easy-to-scan tables, summaries, and visual dashboards for comparing and contrasting the tools.

For internal collaboration and intranet teams being asked for analytics information, the report presents the state of play – and will give useful insight into which tools would make most sense given the purposes (scenarios) sought. This is required reading for anyone reporting on or commenting on how their collaboration / social business / intranet / digital workspace is performing.

For the included vendors of analytics tools, the report shines a light on the weaknesses of current analytics products, and will be very useful in planning future capability areas in order to address the real-world scenarios examined in the report. For products not included in the report – such as Kudos Analytics, the brand new Panagenda ConnectionsExpert, and Nintex Hawkeye Workflow Analytics, among many others, the report will give an expert and informed view on what’s needed. This is required reading for every product manager of an analytics tool.

After reading the report yesterday I spoke with Dorje (who is also mentioned in my recent book) about the key message that he wanted people to take from the report. He said:

Thinking about what you need from analytics is the critical place to start. Until you know why you need analytics information – the purposes, the decisions to influence – you won’t get maximum value from analytics information, regardless of the tools you use.

Interestingly, Sam writes the same thing on page 3: The real art to digital workplace analytics is knowing which questions to ask – which requires a clear strategy and a set of goals.

So here’s what I think after reading the report:

  • If you have anything to do with analytics on how your collaboration spaces, social network, intranet or digital workplace is performing, you need to get a copy. It’s available for no charge, although registration is required.
  • As a consequence of this report, Sam and Dorje have established themselves as leading experts on the topic. Once reading the report, you should get their advice in a consulting engagement so as to optimise your internal efforts. Sam is in the UK (giving good coverage of the top half of the world), and Dorje in New Zealand (great access for customers in New Zealand, Australia, and Asia). Internal teams would get a lot of value from securing that consulting support – whether as an outside expert to guide and advise for a few hours a month, or securing Sam or Dorje to facilitate an internal workshop on planning an intranet analytics strategy that makes business sense.

Get your copy of the report
Contact Sam Marshall
Contact Dorje McKinnon

Let’s Have Another SharePoint Failure!

The third step of taking a strategic approach to the use of Office 365 focuses on creating the right organisational context for achieving value. This is founded on the principle that any particular thing exists within a wider environment, and the wider environment either enables or constrains that thing:
– the wheel doesn’t work without the car which doesn’t work without good roads and good driving disciplines.
– the fish swims in water.
– the use of SharePoint takes place within a group of people working at an organisation that has a particular culture

That’s the principle, and there’s a set of important disciplines to line up in order to create the right context, such as executive support, business engagement, and governance. I have explored quite a bit of this in my book Collaboration Roadmap, although by design that book doesn’t have a specific Office 365 focus.

Here’s a set of statements about a specific organisation:

1. The firm is moving to Office 365, from an on-premises Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint environment.

2. The firm has been using SharePoint for many years, and has had three major SharePoint deployments over the past decade.

(all good so far, but now for the context …)

3. All three of the SharePoint deployments have been considered a failure. Among other things, for example, out-of-date sites are never archived / deleted / tidied up, resulting in a data sprawl, and secondly, key people refuse to use SharePoint.

4. The current SharePoint deployment follows a heavily customised design, using add-on products from a SharePoint firm. The design has languished in recent years, becoming inflexible and hated by staff.

5. The move to Office 365 is viewed by management as a “lift-and-shift,” although technically that’s not possible given the current customised design. And the current design is out-of-date anyway.

6. No one has made an attempt to engage with key parts of the business around their use of SharePoint. It is actively resisted by many, if not rejected outright.

7. Teams that do similar work across the firm do not talk together, share ideas, or learn from each other. Although the requirements of the work are exactly the same, the firm is divided into specific geographical silos, and there is no discussion across the silos. No one cares what the other teams are doing.

8. No one in executive management champions the cultural tenets of collaboration, sharing, openness, and transparency.

9. Any attempt by the SharePoint administrator to flag fundamental issues with the approach to moving to Office 365 are dismissed at worst, or put on a risks register at best.

I could go on, but … that context is not right nor ready for SharePoint or Office 365 or any “collaboration” tool. The current project will be a failure, and the tool will be blamed.

What’s actually needed – regardless of whether the tool is SharePoint, Office 365, Jive, Google, IBM Connections, or anything else – is an audit of the organisational readiness for collaboration and sharing as cultural tenets, followed by an assessment of what tools, capabilities and approaches would fit within that assessment. In the above, for example, there is a critical need for someone in executive management – ideally the CEO – to champion the cultural tenets, to create the organisational context that expects and requires cross-firm sharing, that puts cultural emphasis on being on the same journey. Without this the attempt to move to the cloud is merely a request for yet another failed SharePoint project.

I used to offer a specific audit service, but now that type of assessment is part of my Planning Success consulting service.