SharePoint Down Under in 2012

G’day from “down under!” This week, I’m writing to you from Australia—

Holme 3-21-12 sunglasses wi opera

[Catching the reflection of Sydney's renowned Opera House]

or, more accurately, while flying from the Australian SharePoint Conference (AUSPC) to distant Tokyo for the SharePoint Users Conference Japan.

It’s a crazy, jet-setting month, as I’ll then fly from Tokyo to Vegas for SharePoint Connections. For those of you keeping track (and I know that some readers do), yes, I’ve now hit six continents already in 2012. Working on finding a reason to work in Africa after the Olympics to round out the intercontinental SharePoint extravaganza.

A few of the speakers at the AUSPC—even-crazier-traveler Michael Noel, for example—are on similar Australia-to-Vegas itineraries, but the vast majority of speakers and vendors are heading to New Zealand to repeat the event’s goodness next week at the NZSPC.

So whether you’re in the USA and can get to Vegas, in NZ and can get to Auckland, or in Tokyo and can join us on Friday, there are great events this month!

I arrived in Sydney late Wednesday. On Friday, we delivered a SharePoint Governance MasterClass at the Microsoft offices in the north of town, where we were fortunate enough to meet Jon Barrett, the Productivity SSP for Microsoft, who is responsible for Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync in the region and nationally in the mid-market public sector.

The day was jam packed with learning, guidance, and lots of discussion for dozens of attendees from major governmental, commercial, and academic enterprises. One of the more interesting themes raised by the attendees centered around the governance of “social” in SharePoint.

I’ll flesh out a full column on the topic later, but let me put this key point out there now: Social in SharePoint is not an all-or-nothing thing. There are good reasons to consider implementing the User Profile Service early in your SharePoint journey, but that doesn’t mean you have to allow users to store personal or shared documents on My Sites, or that you have to worry about synchronizing profile data from multiple sources—yet.

You can pick and choose among a set of functionality to roll out related to social, so it can be nuanced. I have clients who see the value in My Sites and profiles, but aren’t ready to deal with the governance challenges around personal and shared documents (“My Content”). That’s OK! Do them as two separate projects, when the time is right for each!

On Sunday, I flew from Sydney to Melbourne for the Australian SharePoint Conference, organized by Debbie Ireland and the talented team at EnvisionIT. I’ve been looking forward to participate in one of their events for a long time, and sure enough, the event delivered a first-rate experience to the huge crowd of folks spanning IT, development, and business audiences.

The event opened with a keynote featuring Mike Fitzmaurice (Nintex) and Chris Johnson (Provoke, formerly of Microsoft) discussing the pros and cons of major trends that affect SharePoint, including the cloud, mobile, Office 15, bring-your-own-device, and build-versus-buy.

The keynote on Day 2 was presented by yours truly, who laid out a “12-step program” for end-to-end SharePoint governance that explored the realities of governance from the strategic, project, change, and operational perspectives. 

Another highlight was the SharePoint Idol presentations. I have to give Debbie huge props for coming up with a way for vendors and sponsors to showcase their products in a manner that's both valuable and interesting for attendees. After each keynote, four ISVs had a five-minute period—strictly enforced—to show off one or more of their products. After the demonstrations, a panel of judges asked some intelligent and hard-hitting questions. Then the audience voted—with applause measured by Mark Rhodes’s iPhone (yes, there’s an app for that!)—for the winner.

Familiar, big vendors such as Quest, Nintex, K2, and NewsGator did a great job of demonstrating their wares—migration, forms, workflow, and social, respectively—and Jeremy Thake and Garth Luke of AvePoint gave a sneak peek of their upcoming Governance Automation product. But I particularly enjoyed some of the smaller ISVs such as Pingar, and Extelligent Design, which demonstrated several of KWizCom’s tool, and Webparts360.

Each proved that the SharePoint ecosystem is rich with opportunity for ISVs to add value, both at the infrastructure and business levels, and that you don’t have to be a big player to provide big wins. And it was, in fact, the smaller ISVs that won the audience’s praises: Extelligent Design/KWizCom on Day 1 and Pingar on Day 2. If you’re not familiar with one or more of these vendors, check them out! They’re doing very interesting stuff!

The SharePoint market in Australia is like a crystal ball into the future for the rest of the world. Australia is ever so slightly more mature in many—but not all—aspects of the “SharePoint Journey.” Some of the key trends you can take away from examining the Australian market are these:

• It’s true: SharePoint solves business problems. I know we say that all the time, and we see it to some extent everywhere. But whereas in much of the world collaboration workloads are still a heavy focus, many enterprises in Australia have moved up the “business value” chain and are building very targeted solutions on SharePoint: business process automation, business intelligence, and custom solutions. What people are doing with SharePoint pushes its boundaries, and requires significant expertise.

• It’s expensive: Finding that expertise is not at all cheap in Australia, where SharePoint skills are in very high demand. The salaries for SharePoint peeps are jaw-droppingly high.

• It’s cloudy: The “cloud” is an interesting beast in Australia, as I wrote in an earlier column. Internet connectivity is also extremely expensive and somewhat dodgy (to borrow an Aussie colloquialism), and Microsoft’s Office 365 data centers for the region are in Singapore and Hong Kong. These factors combine to make a move to a public cloud quite a challenging proposition for many Australian enterprises. But what I do see is a trend towards onsite, private clouds, and clouds hosted by other providers.

• It’s universal: Governance—and lack thereof—is a super hot topic. Everyone’s feeling the pain, in every corner of the planet. Job security for me, I guess.

• It’s a team effort: Perhaps because talent is tough to come by and because enterprises are moving up the business-value chain, systems integrators, consulting firms, and other service providers have a lot of work. It appears to me that enterprises in Australia have an easier time coming to a decision to bring in outside expertise rather than waiting for internal resources.

• It’s a long journey: There’s no end in sight to the interest in SharePoint, and to the solutions that businesses want to leverage SharePoint to provide. The market may be saturated with SharePoint server licenses in Australia, but enterprises here have big plans for its future!

To close with a personal note: I love Australia. Let me say that another way: I LOVE Australia. In the cities I’ve visited, the people are great, the lifestyle is healthy, the cities are vibrant, and the SharePoint community is exceptionally active and productive. Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brissy are first-class, beautiful cities, and it would take very little nudging to get me to move to any one of them or to Sydney, particularly. I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with one of my best friends from my grad school days. And, along the way, several friends popped up whom I didn’t even know lived in Sydney. The joy of Facebook—with a single post, people find out I’m there and the social agenda fills. “Ta, Australia!”

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