While sitting here in Austin Texas, this week presenting and attending SPTechCon, it has been very interesting to see what the popular sessions are. For the ones that I present, they are normally focused on very specific technical topics, which in reality means that the number of people attending them tends to be less than others. I often wondered about this, and wondered what sessions people attend, and what types of topics bring in the big crowds. After wandering around to see where they all were I was very surprised with what I found.
I would have thought that SharePoint is mature enough as a product, solution or capability that people would just know it, and now be looking for more technical topics. Nothing is further from the truth.
What never ceases to amaze me is the amount of people that are either new or in the early stage of SharePoint projects and learning.
Having worked in this space for many more years that I wish to think about, I have come to realize that there are those die hard SharePoint users that have been there through all versions, but then there is a larger set of people that simply looking for ways to do things, how to create workflows, how to solve a business need or even just understand what this SharePoint thing is all about.
While wandering around I have noticed that in reality the topics that get the big crowds are based around simple topics within SharePoint. Looking at the list of sessions here, the ones that have done really well so far are:
- Search – How to make search work, not technically but from an end user and business user perspective
- Business Intelligence – Knowing what is available both On-Premises and in Office 365 and basic use of it
- User Adoption – Knowing how to get people in the Office to adopt and use SharePoint as their first choice
- Workflow – How to enhance business processes using core Workflow Services and even Add-ons
- Mistakes and Lessons Learned – Understanding what mistakes to not make, and great real world experiences
- Client Side Enhancements – How to build solutions using simple components already in SharePoint and then enhance using client side technologies
- New Features – What new features are coming to On-Premises or Office 365 that we should be using
- SharePoint 2016 – What’s new and should we upgrade
These topics are not the technical or deep dive ones at all, they are all really focused on what can be done by the business or end user easily to facilitate the “Digital Transformation” that is being talked about a lot. During the keynote yesterday, Seth Patton, the Global Senior Director for SharePoint and OneDrive Product Marketing at Microsoft, talked about the “Modern Workplace”, and really details on the evolution of SharePoint to facilitate this. As with the sessions listed above, this did not focus on deep IT Pro, Development or Customization solutions, but more simple things like investments in Office and supporting services from Office 365. The real core message was all about the simplicity that is now coming to these services allowing for more time to be spent delivering value for the business.
Tuesday’s Keynote delivered by Steven Porter, the Director for Enterprise Partners and Alliances for Nintex, talked deeply about the “Digital Transformation” providing, tangible research on how technology should be the enabler for cost savings and more streamlined business processes. He even went as far to share Forrester details on dollar value and time estimates of savings, by re-focusing on Business Value versus the Technology being the main focus.
Though not related directly, Yina Arenas, a Senior Program Manager in the Office Extensibility Team at Microsoft, spoke about the investments that Microsoft have made in the “Microsoft Graph” and took an interesting tact in presenting the approach they have taken to ensure Developers can focus on “Business Value” versus trying to get the technology to do what is needed. The following is taken from her slide deck:
As you can see the old way of thinking led to less business value, whereas even Microsoft when building out their solutions are heavily focused on allowing us to get business value from all the technology stacks they provide. So my key take away so far from SPTechCon is that even though Technology is important, it is the ultimately the Business Value that makes it successful.