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SharePoint Conference 2012: Top 10 Observations

10. Running a Conference is Like Running SharePoint (well, it sounded like a good analogy for a moment there)
It starts with the basics—food and WiFi. It never fails to amaze me how quickly Microsoft makes sure its conference attendees get fed. You can stream in with thousands of SharePoint people and still not wait for long to sit down and start eating within minutes of arrival. 

hallway at SharePoint Conference
Hallway at SharePoint Conference-Click Image to Enlarge

WiFi, however, was another matter—touchy and irritable. A quick scan of "available" wireless networks revealed the two conference ones, the Press one (you'd think I'd have been able to get on that consistently, but no) and a wealth of ad hoc ones such as "Matt's iPhone" and "Joe's HP spot." Next year, I'm investing in a personal hotspot. We'll start a new trend: BYOHS.

9. SharePoint Vendors Are Smiling
I spoke to over a dozen SharePoint vendors at the conference, covering a range of areas, from governance to management to imaging to security, and everything in between. And lest you say "So? I stopped at EVERY booth, so 15 plus is nothing," MY goal had nothing to do with getting a badge scanned for a giveaway, so there. 

Metalogix blue guys
Metalogix blue guys

I see a lot of product demos in a given year, so it's nothing new, but what impressed me was the level of innovation and sheer enthusiasm for the SharePoint ecosystem that vendors at the conference displayed.

Three vendors typified common themes among SharePoint solutions I saw: 

Metalogix showed Content Matrix 6.0 for upgrading to SharePoint 2013, migrating from other ECMs, and getting control over content fidelity and organization. KnowledgeLake demoed KnowledgeLake Capture, which lets end users scan and index documents in batches, with Optical Character Recognition for indexing unstructured documents. AvePoint hammered home a message repeated throughout the conference: the importance of governance and the increasing need to be in compliance in regard to security; exemplified by DocAve Governance Automation and AvePoint Compliance Guardian, respectively, among other things.

sweatshirt SharePoint Conference
Best Sweatshirt at SharePoint Conference

When was the last time you saw so many vendors dedicated to just one product? It should make you feel some confidence, I think, in having hitched yourself to Microsoft's collaboration wagon.

8. It's Not Just IT or Dev Anymore
Time and again, when I spoke to people at lunch, in the hall, in the elevators, or at the concert, they weren't from what I think of as the traditional IT department. Whether they were a guy who used to work in IT but is now employed in a business unit of an organization, or a group of guys doing what one of them admitted was "an end run" around their huge organization's IT department, there were more people from the business side than in previous years. 

SharePoint Conference escalator
SharePoint Conference escalator- these aren't all IT guys, I checked. Well...

And I use the term "guy" loosely, as there were quite a few women attending—certainly up from the days when I used to go to Active Directory and Windows conferences. In fact, Microsoft had a woman, Michal Gideoni, a Microsoft director who runs the Product Management team for SharePoint workloads, demo, and speak during the keynote. 'Bout time.

7. Scott G. Speaks
It was considered by some a breakthrough to have Microsoft Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie speak at a SharePoint conference. Guthrie is tasked with delivering Windows Azure to the loving arms of the tech world. And of course, he spoke about SharePoint's new app model, where apps developers create using such "everyday" standards and languages as HTML, CSS, REST, and others reside on a web server and can be hosted with Windows Azure. 

But hey, was it cool of the business and IT folks to walk out during the developer part of the keynote? Well, about as cool as it was for the devs to call them on it via Twitter at the same time.

Twitter wall at SharePoint Conference 2012
Twitter wall at SharePoint Conference 2012--But no mean tweets about walking out.

6. And Then There Was Yammer
There was some head-scratching when it came to Yammer. Adam Pisoni, Yammer's CTO, did a nice presentation about Yammer during the keynote. 

Yammer head at SharePoint Conference keynote
Yammer's Adam Pisoni overhead at SharePoint Conference keynote

And Microsoft's Jeff Teper, trying to be helpful, wrapped it all up afterwards:

"What we're trying to do is give you Yammer inside SharePoint, and SharePoint inside Yammer, so we can really supercharge enterprise social networking to help your organization be a lot more effective in the years to come….

SharePoint Conference Keynote Jeff Teper 2
SharePoint Conference Keynote Jeff Teper 

"Every SharePoint Online customer will get Yammer for free. If you want to start with SharePoint alone, that's great; if you want to start with Yammer alone, that's great. We really know how within organizations this will just simplify decision-making and budgeting knowing that you can just get those capabilities. And obviously since SharePoint is in Yammer, I'm sorry, Yammer is included in the SharePoint license, Yammer will be included as part of all the Office 365 SKUs starting with E1 through E4, for those of you keeping track of our pricing scorecard."

No, it wasn't the Microsoft Yammer Conference, last time I checked. Stay tuned.

5. The Loosely Coupled Model
A limber Elle McPherson or Gisele Bundchen? A new chemical structure for resurrecting Hostess Twinkies? Since you're in SharePoint, you know that I'm talking about the execution model that lets you build apps that can run outside SharePoint's core service. 

This is supposed to make it easier for you—and you know who you are—"to deploy apps and avoid having to worry about breaking SharePoint or impacting the performance of SharePoint with those apps, or have to worry about compatibility issues when you upgrade," as Scott Guthrie said. 

4. Bon Jovi
Some people were excited that Bon Jovi was playing at the conference. Some were not. 

Bon Jovi concert at SharePoint Conference 2012
Bon Jovi concert at SharePoint Conference 2012-Click to See If You're There

I never turn down free food, free drink, or free music. I felt a moment of pity for the young lifeguards standing in ankle-deep water at the wave pool "guarding" the band from tech groupies. Or, more likely, waiting to "save" any really klutzy attendees. Because they had their padded lifeguard cushy-float-thing slings at the ready, you know. I'm sure they got time and a half. 

3. Gangnam-Style Flash Mob
Unofficial SharePoint ambassador and MVP Dux Raymond Sy proved that underneath every Computer Science or CIS major is a dancer just waiting for the right opportunity. Several videos out there document this amazing transformation—this YouTube video includes clips of Yammer execs giving it a try.  

I found everyone I spoke to at the conference was upbeat, interested in learning, and ready to try something new. It was exciting being around such energy.

 2. Speaking of Help Desk Technicians
And then my smartphone gave up the ghost. I know it was just an early morning slip-up when the Help desk guy called my office phone back in Colorado in response to my email--my email from Las Vegas telling him that my BlackBerry wasn't working and to please IM me because I had no phone. (Don't laugh at me for my company-issued BB--you were in my shoes just a few short years ago.)

BlackBerry stand-in and magic pen
BlackBerry stand-in and magic pen from Livescribe

1. Yin and Yang
So many contrasts are inherent in a tech conference. Look: a nametag that reveals your email and other info to a stranger with a tiny scanner! But also: you get a backpack! and a water bottle! 

Look: an audience of thousands in the southwestern US, watching a man run demos from a server in Amsterdam! But also: A bouncer turning people away from the Exhibit Hall door.

Look: People tweeting and conversing via Twitter during a session! But also look: People lining up to talk face-to-face to the presenter afterward. 

Look: Collaboration software, so you never have to speak face to face again! But also look: A conference where people come together to talk about collaboration software.

swans in las vegas
Swans in the desert. They're the little white blobs. 

Swans in a pond nestled beneath your hotel window; dusty gray desert beyond the parking lot fence. It's all part of the experience of attending SharePoint Conference 2012.

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