Attending SharePoint Conference 2011

I recently attended the SharePoint 2011 conference held in Anaheim, CA. The event hosted about 7,500 attendees with broad ranging backgrounds. The topics covered were targeted to business executives, business users, IT executives, SharePoint Admins, FAST Search Admins and SharePoint Developers. A whole conference dedicated to one product? This is a testament to the size and complexity of SharePoint, for sure.

Here are just a few metrics about the current state of SharePoint from the keynote:

  • 125 million licenses;
  • 65,000 customers (compared to Interwoven at roughly 20,000)
  • 67% of customers report rolling out SharePoint to the entire organization
  • 80% of Fortune 500 firms report having deployed SharePoint (somewhere internally)

Interesting tidbits from sessions:

  • Microsoft’s acquisition of FAST is being fully integrated into SharePoint search (will require additional licensing) replacing most underlying systems with Microsoft technologies. The configuration of FAST is supposed to be streamlined within SharePoint. FAST is still available as a search indexer outside of SharePoint, however, you will need to install SharePoint on one server to manage the FAST configurations.
  • When migrating from SharePoint 2007 to 2010, migrate search first
  • Use a taxonomy add-on to allow content authors to set limited roles and permissions within SharePoint by using taxonomies
  • SharePoint 2010 custom UIs are much better than 2007 but still very cumbersome
  • Microsoft sees the opportunity in cloud very well but they also emphasized possibility of deploying hybrid solutions where SharePoint server is hosted by them and database is hosted on premises for those companies that have to keep data on premises.
  • SharePoint Online will be available to Business Connectivity Services to allow communication between cloud and on-prem data source.
  • Frustration with the vast complexity of SharePoint was a comic undertone… no one person is an expert in all things SharePoint, it requires a specialized team
  • Business Intelligence tools are getting very rich in experience and features… dashboards like this are easily assembled with Business Intelligence Tools:

Decomposition Tree, PivotViewer Control

Interesting tidbits from attendees:

  • Common Problems (assuming complex customization)
    • Underestimating the timeline
    • Underestimating the overall cost
    • Underestimating the requisite skills required
    • Hiring the wrong resources, not finding the right resources
    • Implementation/development costs are sky high, somewhat reversing cost advantages

Recognizing the difficulty businesses have in identifying the right skills for SharePoint, the keynote introduced a new certification track called “SharePoint Architect”. Microsoft has routinely reiterated that a complex SharePoint implementation would ideally consist of the following core roles:

SharePoint Architect (Hands-on),

SharePoint Admin,

Sr. Software Developer,

Jr. Software / SharePoint Developer combo

Front-End Designer

  • Sound advice
    • Most attendees acknowledged they cannot staff this internally, which makes the cloud offering a little more compelling for them – they can outsource the management details.
    • Large development lead time for Sr. Software developers is necessary to get the infrastructure in place and configured, otherwise large bottlenecks will occur when the development team joins
    • Cloud-based solutions require an IT admin and SharePoint admin to collaborate very closely with the Architect(s)
    • Disable all SharePoint features/services and only add them as needed, otherwise, you’ll find dependencies that will need to be broken

All in all, it was interesting getting the market perspective of the attendees and seeing a very clear pattern between the ones we spoke with. Unlike more technology focused conferences, this one was like seeing a cross section of the business world in a tech setting – all figuring out how to best leverage SharePoint. One specific thing that attracted us to the conference was in leveraging the new FAST configuration through SharePoint – since we at Roundarch are very familiar with FAST as a pre-Microsoft search engine. A little aggravating that we need to maintain a separate SharePoint instance to configure FAST in a non-SharePoint architecture, but the FAST integration with SharePoint Admin tools does make the overall configuration more efficient – something Microsoft is good at doing.