Dream Big with SharePoint or Go Home: 100 Days to London 2012 Summer Olympic Games

Next week I will join a number of my colleagues and readers in London for the International SharePoint Conference. Instead of speaking, I will be spending time one-on-one with enterprises to address their concerns about SharePoint. If you’re interested in registering for a one-hour discussion with me, you can register here. On Thursday of next week, Microsoft is hosting my half-day workshop focused on end-to-end SharePoint governance in London. The workshop is free, and you can register here.

Speaking of London, today marks the century mark: 100 days until opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London (July 27-August 12). For many of us, it’s a bit early to be thinking about it, but for me, it’s starting to get real and exciting.

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of the Games. My brother was an Olympian (ski jumping, Albertville and Lillehammer), so I attended those two games and set out a dream that I would somehow find a way to go to the Olympics on my own merit. Laughable, perhaps, given my age and lack of insane athletic talent! But you have to have a dream, right?

One day in the late 1990s, several years of hard work traveling the world and training tens of thousands of IT professionals how to work with the then-new Microsoft enterprise technologies led me to General Electric, which hired me to help design and guide their very first Active Directory domains. Soon after that, I attended the Salt Lake City Olympics as a spectator—my third games and, perhaps, the end of my Olympic dream.

As my consulting engagements with GE expanded, I found myself working with a super smart up-and-comer in GE’s management training program on a Windows project. A few months later, I got a call from Mike who had moved over to NBC—at the time a subsidiary of GE.

Turns out he was working in the group that produces the Olympics broadcasts for NBC, and they were beginning planning for the Torino games. All kinds of things would be new, technology wise, and it was important to have a manageable, secure, and highly responsive stack of Microsoft technologies.

I was brought in to help plan, design, deploy, and support the Microsoft technology stack, from Active Directory and policies to file services and DFS to desktop deployment and management.

The team at NBC Olympics is incredible: fun, talented, and exceptionally hard working. I really enjoyed the folks I met and worked with on the project! But I was thrilled beyond words when the Director of IT, Craig Lau, asked me to join the team for the Torino games in 2006.

It was during the Torino games that I fell in love with SharePoint, as a matter of fact. We had a critical business need arise during the broadcast—a need for collaboration around engineering issues—that would have been impossible to meet just a few years before. But we deployed a SharePoint farm (WSS v 2.0 to be specific) and had a solution built in just hours.

That experience proved to me just what a powerful platform SharePoint provides for many business scenarios. A lot of other great stories came out of Torino. Stop me at an event and I’ll tell you about the blue screen of death in our fireplace during a broadcast.

The experience in Torino was extraordinary, and I’ve been lucky enough to continue with the team through the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and I will be joining them in London for July and August this year. Who’d have thought that a geeky guy like me with a big dream to get to the Olympics would find himself there in the un-broadcast sport of crazy IT?

And, without getting too philosophical, I certainly believe there’s a lesson there—one that my (real) Olympian brother certainly was trained for—about defining your dreams, visualizing them, and working really hard to make them happen.

I certainly appreciate the gift of working with such an amazing team, in such a dynamic enterprise as NBC, in such a phenomenal atmosphere as the Olympics. It is, for me, the best job on the planet, combining my love of the Olympics, international business, travel, IT, and sheer challenge.

It’s also a great opportunity, every two years, to wrap up everything I do for customers around the world into a tidy package and deploy it—all at once—in a single real-world package. One of the most exciting aspects of my work with NBC Olympics IT is that the team effectively builds an enterprise from the ground up in a period of months.

Where there was nobody, there will be thousands of employees in just 100 days, each expecting the world from their technology in order to deliver the best programming possible to the audience back in the USA. And just 20 days after Opening Ceremonies, it will be gone—back in containers and warehouses—and preparations will begin for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Over these coming weeks and months, I’ll be sharing our experiences with SharePoint as a way to frame real-world SharePoint implementation challenges in an exciting context and a compressed time frame. If past Olympics are any indication, there will be some great “take-aways” for you, for me, and for Microsoft, and the great folks on the SharePoint product teams are again stepping up to the plate to be involved with and supportive of our activities.

I spent last week building out a SharePoint farm to support the teams at NBC Olympics for the broadcast of the Games. The farm is in the New York area for the time being, and will be moved over to London in a couple of weeks as operations ramp up there.

In the next week or two, I’ll share some of the pain points of the installation, and use the build-out as a way to summarize key considerations during installation of a new farm.

And I do hope to see many of you next week in London: in sessions, in my “one hour” discussions, or at the governance workshop on Thursday! Cheers!

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