SharePoint Perspectives South of the Equator

SharePoint Perspectives South of the Equator

SharePoint's community extends as far as Antarctica

Greetings, all! I am writing this column from 35,000 feet, on a plane to Patagonia, Chile. I am looking down at a ridiculously beautiful and dramatic landscape of mountains, glaciers, sharp valleys, turquoise glacial lakes, and cone shaped volcanoes… So excuse me for any typos I make while typing and looking out of the window at the same time! My partners in this grand adventure are Michael Noel, Joel Oleson, Paul Swider, Ricardo Muñoz, and Mark Miller. (See some of us below.)

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We’re on our way to Punta Arenas, Chile, which is our jumping off point for the final stop on the Sharing The Point South America tour: Antarctica. Tomorrow, I am privileged and lucky enough to head to this remote end of the planet, bringing along the SharePoint message to the researchers, information workers, and penguins of the white continent.

It’s all part of the community’s effort to reach out to the entire planet with SharePoint events and expertise, and it’s made possible by global sponsors fpweb.net and AvePoint.

I highly recommend that you follow our journey by following the Twitter hashtag, #STPSA and on our STP blog, both being driven by John Anderson of Bamboo Nation, who was our intrepid and awesome “embedded journalist” on the first leg of the tour. You can also see photos on my Facebook page and on the Facebook pages of the other SharePoint gurus on the tour.

This week, I’d like to share a few observations from our tour “down south.”

[Pause while we fly over the most extraordinary large glaciers… Wow!]

Glacier for Newsletter
 

This week has been incredible. We’ve reached out to SharePoint communities in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Montevideo, Uruguay, and Santiago, Chile. In each city, we hosted Sharing The Point events which in both Argentina and Uruguay were the largest and/or first SharePoint-dedicated events ever.

The attendees represented a diverse range of commercial, academic, and government enterprises, and were themselves representing information workers, business analysts, administrators, architects, consultants and executives. Response was overwhelming and positive.

Surrounding the events, we met with community leaders, MVPs, local sponsors, and enterprises at some fantastic tours, activities, and meals. I swear I’ve never eaten so much in my life, and thank goodness I left my vegetarian leanings at home in this land of extraordinary meats, fishes, and wines.

My SharePoint-related impressions of the communities and the markets here were several.

First, the communities are indeed thriving, though so often they are overlooked due to their geographic separation from what is (perhaps unfairly) the hub of community activity in the USA.

Super-expert, skilled folks support cutting-edge uses of SharePoint at enterprises large and small, and we were lucky to be joined by many of the local MVPs and experts, including Fabian Imaz, Gabriel Lopez, Fernando Hunth, Mauricio Grimberg, and Ricardo Muñoz, who did an extraordinary job organizing the logistics and outreach for the entire tour.

Microsoft is also passionately supporting the communities, with great folks like Ariel García Sobrino, Ricardo Szyfer, Christian Vicencio, and Paula Contreras.

Second, the market here is in fact very different than the market in the USA. Enterprises are, on the whole, lagging several months behind other markets on the move to SharePoint 2010 from SharePoint 2007.

Part of that is, I believe, due to the unique economic considerations here. Not only is SharePoint “expensive,” but the third-party tools so often needed to meet requirements, and even the minimal 64-bit hardware, cause organizations to stretch the capabilities of SharePoint 2007 and WSSv3.

Not surprisingly, organizations are trying to build—on WSSv3 and MOSS 2007—functionality that is now native to SharePoint 2010, including document sets, social networking enhancements, and infrastructural/service solutions.

Those that are migrating to or deploying new SharePoint 2010 implementations are far less likely, at this time, to look at multi-farm approaches to meeting their needs; and will tend to stretch the performance of farm hardware. Many of the folks with whom I talked are really making the most of what they have, rather than just throwing money at apparent solutions. They’re being smart and creative, and I like that a lot!

Connectivity is also more of a concern here than in some parts of the world. As I found and reported from Australia in "Cloudless Skies for Australia" for SharePoint Pro, connectivity costs and limitations hinder efforts to bridge geographic distances, and to move solutions to the cloud.

The vendors and services that are and will be successful here are those that really listen to the market and provide targeted, cost-effective solutions. In my estimation, language is the least of concerns (except for functional, end-user facing solutions of course)—there are more significant requirements for success here.

There is without doubt a world of opportunity for SharePoint to provide value to enterprises in South America. The needs of the enterprises are universal—shared across the globe—for improved productivity, collaboration, compliance, insight, and social networking among others. And there’s a hunger for solutions that meet those needs. Luckily, the pool of talent, and the passion, are significant here.

Oh, and one more thing happened on this tour: We fell in love with all three cities. Each is a glorious capital city in its own way, with its own character and vibe.

While our visits were sadly very short, measured more effectively in hours than in days, each of us squeezed the most we could out of the cities, and I know we all look forward to coming back—both to revisit our new friends in the SharePoint communities there, and to dive deeper into the vibrant life of the cities.

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