Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Third Salem Practitioner Announced as Microsoft MVP

mvp3 Microsoft has announced this week that Vlad Catrinescu, a recently accredited Certified Salem™ Practitioner has now been awarded the elite distinction of MVP (Most Valuable Professional) status for SharePoint. Vlad is the founder of the new online SharePoint community ( which currently has achieved over 4000 members. This brings the MVP total for Salem™ Practitioners in recent months to three with Vlad Catrinescu joining Geoff Evelyn and Ayman El-Hattab as both Certified Salem™ Practitioner and SharePoint MVP. The Morgan & Wolfe team would like to congratulate Vlad on his well deserved achievement.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Salem Practitioner Blogs About Her Course Experience

It is always fantastic when Salem™ students write about their experience of certifying with us. This week we found a very useful blog from Disha who accredited as a Certified Salem™ Practitioner earlier this year. Here is a link to her blog and if you are as yet undecided, here is her completely independent view of taking the online certification course:

From the Salem™ team at Morgan & Wolfe, thank you Disha for taking the time to write about the course.

Dell Corporation SharePoint Architect Discusses Salem Benefits

Simon Farquharson, SharePoint Architect at Dell Corporation has recently taken part in an audio interview discussing his personal experiences of studying the Salem™ framework and the benefits this has brought him. We have added the audio interview to the website for your benefit to gain some clear & independent feedback. Simon has this year successfully completed both his Certified Salem™ Practitioner and Certified Salem™ Master accreditations. In this interview his views are expressly his own.

Microsoft Finance Working Lunch Series Welcomes Salem™

Morgan & Wolfe is proud to be featured as the September guest contributor for Microsoft Finance for their excellent and exciting Working Lunch series. An MP4 of the session and interview with the Salem™ author and the Microsoft Working Lunch presenters is available on the official Microsoft blog website. More information is now available here. You can also now listen in to the full Microsoft broadcast recording including the full conversation with the Salem author by downloading the Microsoft audio recording here.

Friday, 26 July 2013

How to Create Your Own Hobby Website Using WordPress

At the moment I am watching far too many people struggle with building their websites for their hobbies and in particular being ripped off by some of the less responsible web designers and coders and therefore I thought I would offer some simple tips and advice to anyone with an interest or hobby if you want to do it yourself. There are some fantastic, hand-crafted hobby websites and I admire the time, patience, skill and effort that has gone into them. However for the curious, ambitious, un-initiated or the ill-informed you may want to heed some of the following advice.

What You will Need to Build Your Site

A computer, internet connection, a domain name, a template, host package, FTP software and some photo software. You will need a YouTube account if you want to add a published video to your site. Everything you need to know to get started is explained below.

Purchasing a Template

You do NOT need someone to design you a website and you do not need to be very technical or skilled. Unless you are a large commercial firm with a specific brand image it is a complete waste of time and money so forget it. You can purchase a professional template package with all the design work done and download it for around £40 ($75). Don't worry if the design of the template includes photos of other subjects as you are going to replace those with your own. Just choose a design that includes the services, structure and style that you want. Changing the background colours in a pre-built template however is not simple so be careful. A white background template works best of all. Use a website such as and look at all the professional templates that can simply be adapted by replacing the words and images and have your own text and photos and logo added by doing it yourself using an easy admin web console (like a big form where you fill in the options) .

Choosing a Template Type

What kind of website template should you choose? Some require specialist skills so go for one you have a chance of using easily. My advice is to choose WordPress as it is easy to manage and update and work with and caters for almost all the needs of someone building a bottle or pot lid site with galleries and widgets and contact forms and anything you can possibly need. Also consider buying a WordPress template that automatically expands to work with iPads and smartphones so that you cater for more visitor types (same price). Although WordPress was originally designed for blogs you can now use it for anything. By the way, unlike other websites, if later you get tired of your WordPress template you can install another one and change the look without losing any of your custom content and photos which is great for when you want a fresh new look sometime. By the way, never buy a template with music unless you want to drive everyone way!

Choosing a Domain Name

How will people find your website? Search engines rank websites primarily on relevance so you will need a domain name (e.g. that will get you listed so people can find you. There is absolutely no point in buying a domain such as as no one will ever find you. But if you buy you will do far better. You can then buy a second domain name and make it point at your website for advertising purposes. So when someone types in it takes you to if you get my drift. A domain name costs around £5 a year and you buy it from a host company such as You never actually own any domain name, you simply rent it for a period of time (1, 2, 5 or 10 years) but can always renew each year.

Choosing a Host Company

A host gives you your own secure place on a web server to put all the files that make up your website. You need to do this for your website to be accessible by others. You have a template and a domain name so now you need somewhere to put your new bottle website even if you haven't built it yet. So back to or similar and buy an annual hosting package on Linux which costs about £6 a month or about £60 annually. You can buy your domain name and hosting at the same time and then it is a case of uploading your WordPress template that your purchased and downloaded earlier. You generally need a host package for each website you have as some people have many websites for different things.

Installing WordPress

You need the original (free and downloadable) WordPress software to make your new template work. Once you have your hosting sorted you should use the host option to create a new database (no skills needed) with an easy to remember name such as mybottles and then download the WordPress software for free and copy the files to your host. If this all sounds like too much of a problem do not worry as your host provider should provide you with a one-click service to install WordPress for you for free ! It takes about 10 minutes or less. Then you can install your template...

Installing your Website Template

You bought a template so now you need to install and activate it. You usually need to copy the files of your template to the host and you will use an FTP (File Transfer client). I use Core FTP LE as its really great to use but you also get one free from your host company. Once you have done this you simply activate your template and bingo there is your website ! For many templates it is even easier than that. Once you have installed WordPress you simply use the admin console to install and activate your template in a couple of clicks and follow the steps.

At this stage your website will be up and running but without your own custom content and photos.

Building and Customizing Your Website

This will depend what type of template you choose. (If you chose an HTML template then you need a web page designer and I would recommend that you download PageBreeze as its completely free and you simply download it off the web). If you need a photo editing software package then you can get this free too by looking for which I have used for many years. Yes completely free.

However if you choose WordPress like I have recommended then you don't need anything as it is all built in for you (except maybe for messing with photos). When you install WordPress on your host it also installs your secure admin console for you to manage your site with. It is accessed by typing something like and then you login and you have a nice interface to change everything instantly with. The console is pretty easy to use and the more you use it of course the more you will change your website to meet your exact needs.

You will be able to update your template with an easy to use interface by changing everything from the logo to the menus to the photos and news and anything else you want to add. Keep things simple and do not be overly ambitious as the websites that fail are the ones that are not updated and quickly go out of date.

When adding photos of bottles try and keep the size relatively small as a GIF, JPG or PNG as this will affect the website performance for your visitors. Use Paint.Net to open then save each photo image and it will make it smaller in file size.

Adding a Payment Engine

If you want to sell something do it with PayPal unless you are willing to go through an entire process of gaining a merchant bank account. Unless you are a major trader then you can run a global business with PayPal and they even give you the code to copy in for your custom buttons. For PayPal make sure that you get your monthly limit raised by requesting verification which takes a week. You can get a monthly seller limit of £3,500 with almost no effort. People buying from you using PayPal do not need to have a PayPal account to make a purchase. If you want to be ambitious and build a web shop then you will need to look at something like OSCommerce which requires a far greater degree of knowledge and patience.

Adding Video to Your Website

You can create a video with our cell phone, a DSLR, a Flip camera or other digital device. Download it to your computer. If you want to edit it into a short presentation then you can use the free Windows MovieMaker software, add titles and music and save as a MP4 etc. but if you want to do some fancy editing and effects you might want to invest in something like Corel Video Studio and learn to use it (its not difficult). Once you have created your video you should then add it to YouTube. To do this you will need a Google Mail (Gmail) account and you can then upload your video to YouTube. If you don't want people commenting on the video then you can turn that off in the Advanced YouTube menu option. You can actually set your video to 'unlisted' so that it is only visible on your website and not in YouTube directly. Once your video is on YouTube you can then click Share and then Embed in the menu under your video and this allows you to copy a short amount of code and paste it into your WordPress page and there you are, your video is on your website !

Creating a Website Email Address

You will need to set one up for your website to stop receiving spam directly or if you want an address such as or if you want to set up a website contact form. When you buy a domain name you will automatically get a service to set up email addresses and an online inbox. So if I buy I can set up

Testing Your Website

There appear to be some strange glitches with Internet Explorer 10 right now . You should also download Google Chrome and maybe Firefox and see what your website looks like when using different browsers. I use Google Chrome as my benchmark at the moment.

Getting Listed in the Search Engines

If you choose a good domain name that is relevant and descriptive then Google and Bing and Yahoo will do it for you within around 6 weeks as they update their indexes. No one and I repeat NO ONE except the managers of these search engines can guarantee ANY form of listing but you will help yourself by getting someone else's website to add a link to your website. the more relevant websites that point to yours the better and the more relevant it will be seen.

How Much Does it All Cost?

There is no such thing as a free website but if we add everything together then we have a template that costs £40, a domain name at around £6, a host that £60 a year, the software is free so the rest of the cost is your time. Therefore a professional website will cost you around £110 in the first year and about £65 per year subsequently. Anything more than that and in my opinion unless you have a very good reason then you have been stung.

How Long Does it all Take?

For me to build a WordPress custom site is around a day start to finish with custom content and all custom photos working, custom menus etc. Sometimes 2 days if I am messing about. I can have a general WordPress website up and running in 30 minutes however. For someone who hasn't done it, take your time and learn to play with the WordPress content management centre but you can have a site up in a weekend for sure.


I have decided to build a website to show my bottles so I go to and register and then search for and buy it for the number of years I want. I add a hosting account on Linux. Once this is done I use to set up my FTP account so I can copy files and I create a database called mybottles. I also use one click service to install WordPress (it will ask for the name of my database). I then go to and search for an appropriate WordPress template which I purchase and I download as a ZIP file. I then go to and I use the website console to install my template, following the necessary steps (each template comes with a step by step help file). Once this is done I then use the website admin console again to change the words and pictures and build the contents of my website. I may have to edit some of my photos using which I downloaded for free. Once finished I get a friend to create a link on their website to so that the search engines will find my site. I then tell the world about my website and wait for Google to list it in their search engine. Job done.  


So if you are considering creating a website for your hobby or collection, displaying some hobby photos, adding some news and updating your friends then this is one way of how you can do it quite easily and without getting ripped off whilst learning something enjoyable and without the technical headache. Of course there are always other technologies to choose from but this is the one of the simplest for many people who want professional results and by building at home.

Oh and finally, if you end up building a WordPress website for yourself, don't be surprised if you also then start making lots of others too because your family and friends are your perfect customers, even as a hobby

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Salem Noted in Latest Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Book

This week sees the latest Microsoft publication hot off the press published as ever by O'Reilly. We are proud to say that Salem is referenced in the book and we must thank the author and MVP for drawing on his understanding of the Salem principles. Take control of user adoption and governance processes in your next SharePoint 2013 deployment, whether it’s a specific site or complete farm solution. Led by a SharePoint expert, you’ll learn proven techniques and methods that will help you better manage the entire project lifecycle.

In particular, we enjoyed the author's writing style, extensive knowledge of the subject and informed views.

Discover how to:
  • Align organizational goals and requirements
  • Define the full scope of the project
  • Set up a team to deliver a SharePoint solution
  • Effectively communicate with and include your stakeholders
  • Prepare for user feedback and adoption
  • Establish and maintain governance through the entire project
  • Use analytics to provide substance to governance
  • Confirm readiness for delivery to the organization
You can order this excellent book directly by clicking this link.


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Risual – Salem Practitioners – Awarded UK Partner of the Year Finalist 2013

Morgan & Wolfe would like to congratulate Risual, accredited Salem Practitioners and Certified Master Practitioners who were this week awarded UK Partner of the Year Finalist in advance of the Microsoft World Partner Conference 2013 in Houston, Texas. This demonstrates Risual’s leading profile as one of the new generation of strategic partners in the global industry. Congratulations to the entire team!

For any organisation large or small seeking to grow their SharePoint business and build a successful consulting practice like Risual in the UK get in touch with us to discuss the Salem Engagement Matrix at

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Salem™ in 90 Seconds

Social Lessons Learned Yesterday for the Businesses of Tomorrow

Whilst the ‘yammerization’ of the business enterprise continues unabated in the corporate sphere, promoted hard by new social enterprise software and services, one perhaps should take a little time to step back and contemplate some outcomes and lessons learned from the last decade and a half spent using social networks (I was using CompuServe back in 1995) online and how these could and may very well manifest themselves in the corporate environment of tomorrow. This isn't a technology issue, it is  more a human issue.

In no particular order:

1. The Rise and Fall of Social Volume: Many start out rapidly collecting personal connections to demonstrate esteem, appeal, importance and popularity (an audience) both to themselves and to others.  This provides early involvement of course. Inevitably, just like at college, people eventually also spent an awful lot of time filtering and ‘defriending’ people they really had no desire to be connected to until they end with a smaller (higher-connection-value) number of connections they (hopefully) actually share a positive connection with.

2. The Rise of Social Status: Didn’t we compare our own connection numbers (she has 2000 friends, 1500 twitter followers and 1200 connections) with those who had thousands and accept that some people have used their personal audience number as a basis for a value judgement about both us and them? Likewise haven't people actively seeked to share specific connections with others because some names became synonymous with inclusion, acceptance, quality, one-upmanship and status. Getting a high-value connection tells everyone something about you no? (said with much irony of course).

3. The Collapse of Consequence: The process of the ‘disconnect’ has taught people how to mistreat social connections with a general lack of consequence. This can apply to anything from upsetting and annoying someone at a distance due to accidental or deliberately provocative comments and contents through to an active removal from a group or personal connection list. With almost no direct consequence at all  there is typically no face-to-face contact and no reason at all to explain. People have learned not only to disconnect but then to block to ensure the risk of consequence is removed. 

4. The Rise of Selective Use: Over time most people have discovered a specific value-proposition for a social network that they find most comfortable engaging with. For some it is to contact relatives, for others it is to build an active social circle and for others it is to build an audience for their products, agenda, opinions and views. However where two people who are connected do share different value propositions for the same shared social service, so the risk of aggravation and potential disconnection can ensue due to lack of shared goals.

5. The Growth of the Social Bully: The school yard all too often descends on a social network, promoting those with the loudest voices and most aggressive opinions who therefore rise to the fore ('social bullies' perhaps) whilst the novice, the shy, the less-opinionated, the weak, the bullied and the ‘quiet ones’ either watch from the side lines or quietly melt away into the background. Social network groups can rapidly become the voice for the few and aggression can come into play, particularly due to the perceived lack of consequence. This leads to two outcomes, 1. gossiping & voyeurism, and 2. disenfranchisement and drop-out (to be added and then to be ignored or wise, picked on) neither of which are typically constructive

6. The Rise of the Social Celebrity: Self-glorification, self-promotion and the rise of the social celebrity becomes aligned with the social bully where someone is either included in the ‘club’ by way of connection (inclusion) or they are not. Note how often a thumb-up feature is included to allow someone to ask to be included, through demonstrable agreement but without a similar thumb-down feature to demonstrate disapproval. The day Facebook allowed the concept of sub grouping is also the very moment its universal democratic foundations died because everyone being an equal within a group was conceptually removed. Social networks can and do create the self-defined super hero and by their very nature, as a result they can and do also create outcasts and accentuate the feeling of being a misfit due to not belonging.

7. The Promotion of the Myth: People have witnessed how to sell the lie, also known as the myth. Social networks have been fast educators in the process of self-aggrandizement at the behest of the fact and truth, where everyone could self-market, adjust and modify facts and be famous for 15 minutes or longer if they can sustain brand-x. Why tell the truth when a person could visibly manipulate it to define a new self-image if not re-invent themselves completely. Self-branding has become an almost de facto social state for many to the extent that the basis of fact appears to be almost irrelevant when self-profiling. Inevitably therefore some will actively choose to reject social networks where the volume of artificial branding of individuals appears high.

8. The Rise of Statement & Filtration: Twitter is mostly a series of short statements and announcements rather than a conversation. Social has showed people how to push information rather than collaborate like a constant PR machine. People have learned to post (share) photos, comments, statements, advertisements, infomercials, humor and anything else they wanted to. However people have also learned to filter responses in case others were watching who they seek to influence. People have learned to  govern who can reply, what can be said, when it can be said and which inconvenient replies will be removed. If are person's responses are filtered they are highly unlikely to contribute again.

9. The Use of Collaboration as Self-Promotion: It’s not what you say, it’s the fact that you said it at all. Social has demonstrated collaboration not in terms of two-way communication but often in terms of one-way self-promotion. People have learned to comment on other people’s posts not because it has raised the level of the conversation but because it promoted the contributor by association. "I liked a post because people can see it is me and I am now aligned with the topic and its point." This  one-way PR tactic can also be said of those opening a conversational topic. This is why it can be noted that conversational replies receive little actual direct feedback because the reply itself is irrelevant and often means “hi, I’m here promoting my self-brand and positioning myself. Remember me?”

10. The Rise of Communication Without Rules: Social has appeared to define new rules of engagement in communication without anything actually being written down.  Social/cultural rules are often set through evolving social group leadership defining what is and isn't acceptable (do you always post on their wall or do they come to you?) where the few who communicate the most, or are the most popular or deemed of the highest social value and status have set the agenda and rules and everyone else has chosen to follow whilst copying that style of engagement. Without knowing the rules people have learned it is easy to break the rules in a social network and then be castigated or ignored for accidental breach of etiquette which may lead them to retire from it altogether.

11. The Rise of Variable Exclusion without Reason: In the context of a social network people have learned to ignore and can be ignored and be disenfranchised instantly. This affects behaviour and the style of communication and approach to dialogue. One day a person may be popular, the next they are not, without reason. A person thought they were being funny, rebellious, controversial, happy and collaborative only to discover their most recent involvement or collaborative effort was not welcome as there was a hidden agenda and the subject was meant for certain individuals, observers or a sub-audience in particular that did not actually include the person doing the responding.

12. The Growth of Instant Judgement & Sentence: As above people have learned it is possible to judge and be judged and criticised in  a public arena and often be judged by a silent majority with very few facts made available. By contributing to a thread the person may be unwittingly setting themselves up for silent comment and judgement from an unseen audience with an associated sentence which itself may have longer-term, unforeseen consequences.

13. The Decrease in the Desire to Share: A great irony is that social networks have demonstrated a long term reduction in the desire to share. By over-sharing early, people have frequently later rejected sharing altogether due to the abuse by others in the power-play or balance of sharing. However much some people want to know everything, people have also eventually learned to dislike revealing too much about who they are and what they know to a general audience who have themselves failed to reciprocate in kind.

14. The Growth of Voyeurism: For many, social networks have decreased bi-directional communication rather than increased it. This may have occurred because after an initial peak of interactivity people could read enough about an individual and their associated current situation so as not to need to 'catch up' in person which in turn has increased the time between actual positive, social human contact and often by a long period. For anyone who has managed a collaborative group they will know that the challenge is to keep a group going with only one or two long-term contributors whilst everyone else receives rather than gives.

One of the primary reasons why older groups of social network users have increasingly cut down their use of some social networks is simply that people have started to feel that their connections were beginning to know too much about their daily life without sharing anything in return or communicating (yes I knew you had been to Singapore, I read it on Facebook 6 months ago). Social networks are often therefore seen as becoming too voyeuristic to be comfortable over time which in turn decreases the desire to share.

15. The Harsh Impact on Time: For some people social networks have started taking up far too much of their valuable time, partly die to its speed and dynamism as well as instant gratification. People have found themselves being far too distracted from real life activities and tasks to read and observe what is largely mundane posts about what others are doing, often with little actual positive outcome or relevancy. For some people social networks have become more of an addiction than is positive.

16. The Rise of Misinterpretation: Human communication is a complex strata of facial, body and vocal inflection. Let us not forget that over 80% of communication is non verbal! However in the world of technological communication if one needs to keep to a small number of words then explanations will inevitably suffer and inflection and body language will simply be non-existent. Whatever did happen to video conferencing anyway? Social networks have demonstrated people’s ability to misinterpret thoughts, actions and deeds to new levels that could in some instances be the difference between life and death. Short text statements without deeper explanations have too frequently been taken as fact and interpreted in ways that were not meant to be (the time, the inference, the words used, the punctuation or lack of etc.). Text-based misinterpretation can and does lead to conflict, annoyance, anger and further disconnection, often needlessly. Evidence for this is widespread through almost two decades of SMS misinterpretation.

17. The Sharing of Information without Permission: Many people have discovered, particularly with regards to the sharing of information (e.g. via photo-tagging), that information that was not meant to be shared, has been shared, often too easily, too quickly and without the informant understanding the repercussions of their rather instant actions or without the permission of the person the post has affected most. Worse still, information that has now been shared cannot easily be redacted, if at all. 

18. The Rise of Opinion as Fact: Social networks have showed people new ways of taking personal viewpoints, thoughts and ideas and presenting them as definitive facts, which they frequently are not. By gaining some degree of collusion from collaborative connections through alliances (e.g. thumbed-up likes), others may be driven to believe or accept that posted viewpoints presented as definitive facts are indeed facts which could easily mislead others.

19. The Rise of Crowd Opinion: The old saying goes that the worst vice is advice. Social networks have for some created dependencies on group opinions which offer little actual value and could even prove divisive or harmful. Remember the phrase - the courage of one's convictions. Rather than getting on with life, some people have started to seek the voice of the group to make their decisions for them. In turn group or crowd opinion could be used to affect and alter individual thought, actions and moods. This process could start to undermine the sense of the individual by creating a dependency of the collective viewpoint which itself may include hidden agendas and detract from the franchisement of the individual, particularly where the group expects to make the final decision. Many will argue that social networks drive creativity but with crowd approval required, the opposite can and does occur and creativity can be stifled just as much.

20. The Rise of the Anti-Social Hero: Social networks may have unwittingly started to demonstrate two parallel worlds; those who have joined in and those who have now actively chosen to step off. Increasingly those who have actively opted-out of a social network are seen to be the ones who have taken control and ownership of their own real personas by demonstrating they don’t need social and have better things to do. This inevitably starts a trend in others and can polarise opinion that may end up at its worst as a kind of gang mentality.

21. The Inadequacy of Social in All Things: As social is seen to be unstructured so it follows that it knows no boundaries. People have started to learn that social networks at times do not have all the answers to all aspects of the human condition. Sometimes, quite awkwardly, we have not yet evolved with social tools to know what even remains unresolved. For example, when someone dies, do people in the same social group ‘defriend’ that person, ‘disconnect’ them or would their profile be memorialized and then what?

22. The Rise of the Taker and Self-Educator: Many social networks have become increasingly unbalanced over time, with the most active contributors consistently providing the most content whilst the silent majority taking away the most information for the purposes of their own information-gathering and self-education agendas. Whilst this is frequently dressed as a 'community-approach' people have seen time and time again that the greatest contributors frequently drop away eventually due to gradual resentment that they have gained little overall from their contributions. Whilst it is certainly the case that communities can be powerful ways of gathering knowledge through unhindered contribution, indicators show there is a parallel risk that posted-opinion is viewed by bystanders as a quick route or short-cut to self-education without formal investment in time, effort and structured learning which can itself prove inadequate in the long term and gradually undermines the purpose of the social network itself.


These are just some of the more obvious lessons many have taken from the last decade or more. in using social networks. As new versions of what we think of as ‘social networks’ are released, so we are faced with numerous new dilemmas which we have to find corresponding answers to depending on the services they provide people with. Importantly, outside of work the way we choose to interact with social networks is a personal choice because, after all, these are services we personally choose to be involved with and there is probably something personally in it for us.

Once someone takes a decision to place a social network (or social tools) within a business context the subjects may change but the issues listed above do not go away at all. The issues may indeed become exacerbated due to the fact that the social enterprise is no longer a wholly personal choice with a personal value-proposition. Whilst there are an increasing number of interesting drivers for social technologies and techniques in business environments to assist in collaborative activities, human behavior and the lessons learned to date really must be taken on board and incorporated into a larger strategy at the earliest convenience. Simply instructing people to share their thoughts and ideas by using social tools in a business context is highly unlikely to succeed in isolation in the long term and inevitably people may simply choose to drop out.

Perhaps it is the human condition to be interested in something new, be excited then get involved and then inevitably drop out, all in a cyclical way. If this is the case, the longevity of social technology in business is far from guaranteed. However by heeding the lessons learned above and by anticipating them, embracing them and by acknowledging the way people actually do behave when using social technologies outside of work  so an organisation may have a far greater chance of social success inside of work.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

SharePoint Explained Using Salem™

You might plausibly expect this to be an easy question to answer but in fact it is one of the hardest questions to resolve in the last twelve years of business technology development. Perhaps almost as hard as defining the term 'cloud'! During the Microsoft SharePoint™ Conference keynote in October 2009 in Las Vegas, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft Corporation endeavoured to answer this tricky question and you can watch his worthy attempt here:

Interestingly this was Steve’s first SharePoint keynote. Now what Steve rightly stresses is that SharePoint™ is unique and this is extremely important for being able to describe what it might actually be. It comes as no surprise that almost everyone has tried to describe SharePoint by its technical attributes, components and features which is exactly why for as long as one can remember, Microsoft has described SharePoint via the famous segmented ‘pie’ which groups together categories of features. Various graphically-enterprising Microsoft Partners over the years have endeavoured to re-create the ‘pie’ to try and make it easier to understand by business audiences, but the real issue is that this problem exists exactly because SharePoint is being described by its technological features.

It is worth noting that further problems ensue when one tries to describe SharePoint by comparing it with other ‘competitive’ products in the market. The issue is that there is currently no truly ‘like-for-like’ comparison out there, and consequently comparing apples with pears becomes a futile task. For example why compare SharePoint Online or Office 365 with Google cloud offerings?

The comparison only really becomes valid when SharePoint is removed from Office 365 and the comparison with Google made again – then there is a closer feature set to compare – apples with apples if you like. Similarly how can one truly describe SharePoint by comparisons with Oracle Beehive or IBM Lotus Notes. They simply do not square up.

With the incorporation of Yammer™ into the Microsoft stack, confusion reigns supreme. Should a client define its strategy by choosing the social features of Yammer or the social features of SharePoint 2013 or seek to identify its plan via the integration roadmap of features into Office 365? What happened to business defining business requirements and then requesting a blend of technologies to facilitate?

Okay so back to describing SharePoint (or for that matter Yammer) for what it is, without comparative equal and required to be explained in isolation. Take a different view for one second. Let’s not describe SharePoint through its technological features at all, but instead through its business potential. The Salem (Sequenced & Logical Enterprise Methodology) Process business framework for SharePoint describes it as a sequential and logical group of modular, inter-related business services that describe any organisational ambitions with information, publication and collaboration. Image therefore that a business modular framework is used to describe SharePoint without ever referring to its technical capabilities and feature sets – what would be the benefits?

* Business understanding and interpretation of value
* Strategy beyond an ever changing technical feature set
* Strategy translates to a blend of both cloud and on-premise services
* Business program rather than IT project approach
* Business sponsorship that drives business adoption
* Sell Office 365 benefits through SharePoint business services

It was Mark Zuckerberg who noted that every new enterprise platform appears to be defined almost solely by its latest technical feature set and SharePoint is certainly no exception. In the 2007 release of MOSS much was made of new features such as blogs and presence via OCS integration. By 2010 it was the ribbon and easier user interface changes as well as FAST search. By 2013 it was unified search and community sites as well as social features. The SharePoint Business Strategist understands these features and comprehends the value they may bring, but only within the context of a wider business framework. In technological terms, SharePoint is increasingly an eclectic kit-bag of publication and collaborative tools, services and features that can be used somewhat like a Lego set to build technology solutions driven by business need.

Receiving SharePoint for the uninitiated is rather like being given a toolkit as a gift. The first question would be: what do I do with this? Build something is the answer. Build what? Whatever you want or need to build. I’m not sure what I want, is there a blueprint or plan? No. Can we build what someone else has built? Sure. Can you help us build something the same as someone else has? Sure yes. How much will it cost? It depends what you want, we will need to discover what your specific needs are. Yes but how much will it cost as a ball-park figure? It depends on what you want. I want what everyone else has! Ah but everyone else is different so we cannot tell you how much it will cost and how long it will take until we have defined your exact requirements. And so it continues… In other words, the SharePoint toolkit is powerful but without a logical, progressive business plan, blueprint or roadmap alongside SharePoint is extremely difficult for a business audience to imagine in terms of a future, valuable whole.

Business stakeholders have a requirement to describe SharePoint to their own internal audiences and this is frequently where initial problems occur. They call in a Partner to demonstrate the value of SharePoint in an hour. What is all too often described is a technical demonstration of a team site, or a workflow, or a form, or version control etc. SharePoint is being described both by some isolated features, and in isolation of a fuller business context. This issue regarding describing SharePoint is often anticipated by Partner Sales Managers prior to a client presentation by requesting some specific problems the business may be prioritizing and basing a pitch and demonstration regarding how SharePoint can solve these specific problems.

Therefore SharePoint, as an enterprise platform, is all too often described in these situations primarily as a project-specific technological solution. What happens when that problem is solved – where does the client go then, what does the business do next, what else can they build? And so we come back to the same dialogue as before. What other problems do you have? What other priorities can we assist you with? How much budget do you have? It is because of this scenario, played out hundreds of thousands of times globally that a number of things have occurred that have assisted in defining SharePoint in a specific way.

The first is the flexibility of solution design and delivery. This has led to SharePoint rather frequently being described as a ‘development platform’. ‘Tell us what you want and we will build it’. Ah, says the client, but we don’t know what we want. ‘It’s okay’ says the platform developer, SharePoint can be used to develop and provide you with anything and everything you want. Within a short space of time of the introduction of SharePoint solutions are being built without any form of business plan.

Another way of defining SharePoint has been through the project-centric approach of IT divisions as the primary purchasers of SharePoint. The software has become available as part of an Enterprise Agreement or other licensing service, been adopted by the IT department as it is software that has been bought, paid for and is otherwise sitting going to waste. IT uses it to create a demo, proof of concept or test platform for a business issue that lacks budget, that quickly moves from demo to business critical solution, often unwittingly and often in an unplanned or unintended way. Too late, SharePoint is therefore described in such circumstances as a project-centric solution platform driven and justified through organic growth. This description has in fact occurred because SharePoint was not understood as anything more, has no business roadmap or progressive blueprint and was not budgeted for as anything more than available software that could be deployed to provide rapid, disconnected solutions.

For many, SharePoint will be understood and described as software for building intranets. This description is frequent because of SharePoint’s presentation of services through a web browser and through its excellent ability for custom and fairly easily-provided custom user interface design. Similarly this has occurred due to ageing incumbent technologies such as HTML intranets that have long since been abandoned by the business or have fallen into disuse or decay for a wide variety of reasons and which can be migrated to SharePoint as a starting point. Indeed migrations from legacy systems which have run their course is often the basis for a business understanding of what SharePoint is. SharePoint can all too often be described as the ‘replacement’ for something else. You can spot evidence of this for yourself through the (often unnecessary) branding of things. For example, an intranet is called CorpWeb and the contents have been moved to SharePoint so now SharePoint is described to business audiences as CorpWeb 2. What happens when a different service is introduced onto the SharePoint platform? Does the business user describe SharePoint by multiple brand names or are they simply confused? Perhaps if a business user states that they have placed something on SharePoint that we are getting closer to being able to describe SharePoint as a business-ubiquitous set of eclectic services.

For many, SharePoint is understood and described as a document management system. We would need to break down the last decade or more to see what this is the case in some many instances but in part it was because the earlier free versions such as WSS and later SharePoint Foundation offered document management through team sites at no cost, fairly easily deployed and once again adopted by business users through various types of organic growth. Let’s take the issue of the cloud and Office 365. Is Office 365 SharePoint? No it is a collection of services including Lync and Exchange, Office and SharePoint (depending on the chosen licensing plan). Would we choose to describe SharePoint as Office 365? Perhaps not! Is Office 365 described by SharePoint? Generally no: So irrespective of cloud hosted services, SharePoint whether online or on-premise still needs a rational business-orientation description of what it is. If SharePoint should not be defined by its technological feature-set composition then what is SharePoint? On the one hand we may argue that it is whatever we want it to be, that is the raw beauty and power of such a flexible and richly extensive technology platform. However choice costs money and we currently live in a global economy where choice, though desirable is seen as increasingly expensive, if not out of reach.

 The ‘app’ approach to commoditized technology is prime evidence to business seeking quick solutions that meet 80% rather than 100% of needs and that speed of access is more valuable than being truly fit for purpose. Let’s try to clear our minds and think of SharePoint not as one or more as its technical features past or present. In fact, let us not describe SharePoint through technology at all. Instead let us think of all the common things that organisations are trying to achieve, all the common things that businesses want to do with their information and all the common ways in which information is produced, stored and typically shared.

Let’s embrace how human beings work, what they like to do and what they avoid. Let’s remove technology words and replace them with business language. Let’s then take all these things and place them into a blueprint that has a logic and a sequence but which can be adapted to almost any eventuality. Is this possible – can SharePoint really be described this way? The answer is yes it can and not only that it is extremely sensible to do so. If you are to be successful in describing SharePoint then you must engage the minds of your audience and provide empathy and you can achieve that through common perceptions and understanding. You must describe SharePoint using business terms and business services and your description must show not only a flexible blueprint but also a roadmap. In doing so, the features and technical services of SharePoint will naturally slot into place.

Think of SharePoint as a comprehensible, modular set of business services that are themselves composed of business sub services. Think of these business services has having a logical sequence of release, of having a relationship with each other that determines the most effective business adoption sequence. Think of SharePoint as a set of business services that encapsulate anything the business may be aiming to achieve and which can adapt to cope with new and future business challenges. Place all these business services within a framework which visually describes the entire business enterprise within minutes. Use such a business framework to provide a cohesive vision of the entire business enterprise to the extent that other technologies are aligned with SharePoint in context so that SharePoint, as the business framework, provides both a business and an IT roadmap. Does this mean that SharePoint, through its definition as the enterprise business framework sits at the centre of the business vision? The answer has to be ‘yes’.

Applied to Office 365 in future SharePoint Online as a progressive enterprise business framework will be critical in defining cloud strategy, rather than simply via Exchange and Lync as things have stood to date, just as the same framework is critical to onsite strategy. Those who wish to rally against describing SharePoint from a business context may simply be those who are working in a haphazard, unplanned way for a wide variety of reasons, or are fearful that they do not have the business backing and budget to progress successfully but hope to gain it through stealth.

Alternatively it may simply be a question of strategic training and learning, which is one of the purposes of the WASBS. You may have encountered those who are vehement that unstructured or organic growth are the best mechanisms for business adoption or that business frameworks are too ‘inflexible’. If so, consider for yourself why some make these cases and whether in fact there is something else really underpinning this viewpoint. It is true that most have not yet been trained in a SharePoint business framework but in most cases it is a complete revelation when the business framework approach is described fully.

So is SharePoint best described as an ECM and EDRMS platform with social and community and search functionality or is it better to describe SharePoint as a progressive business program of inter-related and inter-linked business services (and composite business sub services) which may be sequenced to fit specific organizational priorities and yet ultimately achieve the same enterprise goals as a different organisation following the same blueprint that has been sequenced for them? The role of the formally-trained SharePoint Business Strategist is to describe and sequence the business blueprint and roadmap for SharePoint for any organisation by using a framework, methodology approach. In turn this will describe what SharePoint really is, through its business value and its progressive logic.

The primary reason the business strategist role is able to achieve this task whether it be cloud or in-premise is because part of the strategist training is to understand why this approach is achievable, how it is achieved and what are the outcomes and next steps that naturally follow. As we saw at the beginning with Steve’s keynote in 2009, SharePoint is difficult to describe through technology features alone and anyone who has really tried will accept this as fact. SharePoint can be many things to many people but it is certainly not all things to all people. Its diversity can also be its undoing at times and all too often its description through technical features leaves many business audiences cold and many others detached or dis-engaged. Yet business needs often remain the same decade after decade. Consider for yourself the entire concept of describing SharePoint or comparative and companion platforms not as technology at all but instead as a structured business framework with Salem™ and you will be far better placed to succeed in describing what SharePoint is to anyone you encounter along the way.

The Salem Framework & Social

Social may well underpin (if not entirely define) the next generation of enterprise collaboration solutions for many organisations. Indeed social includes a plethora of new and exciting features, services and possibilities which may be harnessed and adopted quickly and organically by any business audience. It is great to learn that the Salem™ framework applies perfectly to the latest business-social technology stack. Microsoft purchased Yammer™ in the summer of 2012 and is the perfect platform for building a private business-social network. Microsoft is currently applying a dynamic cycle of integration with the latest version of SharePoint and Office 365. Organisations which have already embraced the social enterprise or are now thinking of doing so may well be expecting some big business ‘wins’. However it is important to remember that the critical, strategic business issues remain the same – how to align chosen technologies with the organisation to deliver a defined roadmap of logical, inter-related, sequential, well-adopted business services whilst applying effective, over-arching business governance?

There are many current debates regarding whether to take a SharePoint-social route which includes its own social tools or the Yammer-social route due to the overlap in features and functionality but be careful of defining the business strategy through technology function alone. The Salem™ framework is the perfect strategic companion and overlay to any business strategy program that seeks to integrate social and therefore assists in defining and aligning a cohesive strategic approach with both the social enterprise and the more formal, traditional ECM and EDRMS environments. For those seeking a truly cohesive strategic business approach that can encompass, transcend and yet combine the benefits of the social enterprise with the power of the SharePoint enterprise platform, Salem™ is the business framework for the professional strategist.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Why Branding an Intranet as SharePoint May Prove Worthwhile

What is your intranet called - has it got a name? I fully understand the validity of the argument that it is better to brand an intranet with a cool and funky name than use the ubiquitous word 'SharePoint' though I am going to disagree that one should. Let me explain why. First of all, the word 'intranet' itself is a major problem and fundamentally it depends how one even attempts to define what an intranet is, what services it includes and what it does not. Not everyone agrees. The word 'intranet' often sets in stone the views of a frequently disenfranchised business audience who all too often view their intranet as historically out of date, static, lacking in up to date content, dull,. sprawling, untrusted and chaotic.

Add to the mix the problems of mixing collaborative services with published content and an audience is all too often confused as to the services it provides as much as they are negative to the connotations of the word 'intranet' and any brand name associated with it. (a name all too often forced on an audience through a 'competition' filtered through executive governance).

What the word 'SharePoint' can powerfully do is act as a unifier as one pulls disparate technologies gradually together onto the same unified platform. It also allows you to distance yourself from the negative connotations of earlier legacy platforms and services that defined the historical intranet and that were seen to have failed. If an aging intranet is replaced with a new intranet, it doesn't matter about the power of SharePoint as the audience has already started to think its more of the same due to the name connotations.

Now lets expand the problem in the direction you suggest. So its not a SharePoint intranet, its AcmeWeb with a new shiny brand name. Cool. But as you expand out the platform and scale to other related services what do you start to call them? So do we brand search as AcmeFind and User profiles(AcME) and My Sites (AcmeMyWeb) and Knowledge communities and extranets and what happens if we have 200 brand retail sites like I have seen in a single global company. Lets add in the huge numbers of collaborative communities with thousands of team sites in hundreds of site collections, do we brand them all separately too? And then scale out to 15 languages and regional content centres and more names?

That's an extreme example but the point to be made is that once you start to brand content areas it may never end (how do you manage the brand name governance and who owns it?) and soon it is more confusing than had you never tried to brand the intranet as a starting point. "Where did you put that file? It's on AcmeExtraWeb". Large corporations can have huge information superstructures and to brand each element may simply become unmanageable, particularly when each business area names their own and we suddenly gain brand wars (which I have witnessed).

Having worked with SharePoint implementations in global corporations what I have seen is the positive step where people state that their information is now on 'SharePoint' and whereabouts in SharePoint is more to do with the logical placement of information using business-centric structures rather than un-related branding. In some ways what the name 'SharePoint' achieves is not just act as a unifier but also as a corporate political pacifier.

Features and functions span brand names as its the same platform. So do we train people to use the intranet or do we train them to use the features and functions of SharePoint that may crop up repeatedly within other business service areas?

One can (and should) separate 'SharePoint' as a business program split into related business services (i.e. Salem™), from SharePoint as a technology. Its a conceptual point which makes it easier to gain heavy adoption using the 'SharePoint' brand name rather than the variety of corporate names. Business audiences seek and crave cohesion & simplicity and the singular name 'SharePoint' can frequently offer this at the enterprise level. Branding may perpetuate the problems seen previously with lots of technologies mixed together, simply too many things to remember for the info worker.                                          

SharePoint Product Marketing & Adoption: The Appliance of the First Follower Principle

Do you know who Lady Gaga spends all her time supporting? She actively supports her most loyal 1% of followers. You will find that many successful musicians and bands have supported their most loyal followers and fan club owners and members over the decades. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why?

It is based intentionally or otherwise on the First Follower principle which I will explain in a minute. When people create something new, they see the value in their creation, they develop it, they give it a name and an identity and then they bravely release their child to the world to let others adore it, and no one comes.

So it is in the world of SharePoint creativity. In these days of packaged, commoditized applications, solutions and packages the trend is to define a new product for SharePoint, define its value, give it a name, build a website and then offer it for sale. And no one comes.

So the question arises, what do we need to do to sell our SharePoint products in a global market? How do we get people to see what we have got, what we have made, how they will benefit? So we package and brand and market and market some more. And no one comes.

We have built it, we know its value, we know how great it is and we have paid our money and told our world that we exist so why does no one come and buy? In defining the problem we return to the First Follower principle. You see far too many creators sell directly to a global audience and we are all very aware that no one likes being sold to. Well we do really, in a subtle way, but not in an overt way. We want to be left to make the choice ourselves after becoming informed.

Here is the issue. We tend not to buy from a seller. We tend to buy the value of something from the people who have already bought and can vouch independently that the product is actually pretty good. Think about it, you see three flat screen TVs in a shop but are not sure which to buy but one of your friends has one of them and you have seen it in action in their house and it sways you that that is the one for you. Or you meet someone who has been to a particular place on holiday and confirms it is a great place to relax. Or you know someone who works in a company and provides great feedback that it is a good place to work.

Intrinsically we trust our friends, workmates, family and colleagues more than we trust a stranger. It is a natural human condition. We mistrust sales jargon because it does not sound real, it has slogans, it sounds far too unreal, too artificial, it is trying too hard. We tend not to buy from people who try too hard. Yet when we are selling something we do try too hard because we think we must try harder and harder to convince people how great our creation is.

If we accept this is true, or even partly true then as the creators we also have to accept a certain truth. People do not buy from the creator/leader/market leader directly; they buy from the people who first bought, the first follower. If you go to a dating website you will find lots of pretty pictures of people providing testimonials as to how great the site is. If they are too pretty it’s too good to be true right? Yes that’s usually the case. Yet if your average friend has used the dating site to meet their Mr or Miss average/perfect then wow maybe this site is okay. In other words we have a local and real reference point. So we do not buy from the seller, we buy from a buyer.

When you create something new in SharePoint, your task is to create an audience of first followers. In many religions you will find reference to apostles, disciples, followers, believers; the people who become the evangelists for a belief. So it is with product marketing, it is your first followers, your product disciples who will go and spread the good work and word. They will speak on your behalf, they will sell your product to the wider community. So it is for this very reason that when marketing your own SharePoint product or application or package or service, the key to your success lays not in selling to your end client audience but to those who first come to endorse your product.

Think of it this way. You create a SharePoint application and you know it is brilliant and you know it really fills a business need. Now you need to spend your time on finding your first follower, your first follower will eventually attract other first followers and these first followers are the people you will look after, cherish, support, take in and encourage. How many you need will depend on how good they are at spreading the great word about your product. Therefore bloggers and speakers are naturally your first port of call as they are trusted in the community. If you become a speaker yourself great, but you become the direct seller again you see and are less trusted.

So over time your first followers will attract second followers who will buy not from you but from them and then more will join the second followers until a crowd starts to emerge. There will be a lot of bystanders at this stage observing and watching. They want to buy but they seek affirmation and confirmation that it is alright, it’s the right thing to do; it’s about wanting to be part of something new but unable to take the lead until someone else you look up to shows you the way. You will find as 'follower-packs' start to emerge that new leaders within the followers-pack (2nd generation evangelists if you like) will emerge who are the leaders of the second generation of followers of your product. But you must still look after and support your first followers.

People talk about a tipping point. A tipping point occurs when it becomes uncomfortable not to join in and use a product because so many have already. So consequently a product becomes a norm or a viral sensation when more people have bought into something (or appear to have had) than not, and by sitting it out you may think you are perceived as an oddball, missing out in some way. Just think what happened with the iPhone. You don’t need to sell millions of a product to become a standard, you simply need your product to be seen as the de facto for that subject matter though your first followers.

So in marketing a new SharePoint product what you should be concerned about is not selling your product to everyone on day one, but building momentum through those who first value your product and who are capable, willing and able to tell the world, hand on heart, as independently, honestly and truthfully as possible whether they think your product is valuable to their own audiences and why. If you do that and do it well, your product stands a chance.

For those of you who are heavily involved in SharePoint service implementation and adoption the exact same principles apply. People adopt (buy in) through their peers the people sat at the next desk, the people who are real, who are using something that seems great. Consequently as an implementer, people will not buy in from you, they will buy in from their own, the people who were the first followers, the first adopters. The ones they can and will trust. This is exactly why you must identify your business champions, the most effective ones, the most positive and vocal ones early in the delivery cycle and the ones you must support and tend to the most.

There is a video of a man dancing on a hill which describes the entire principle of the first follower in just a few minutes and I firmly recommend it to everyone who seeks to take their SharePoint product to market whether it be an app a product or a service. It may not sell as many songs as Lady Gaga but you never know!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Profession or Community: What's Best for the SharePoint Industry?

It seems to me that the SharePoint industry can't have it both ways. On the one hand we have an admirable, creditable but largely unverified, uncertified, freestyler community of self-learning individuals who choose to do their own thing and share what they want to share, when they want to share it with who ever they choose. Nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, we have a well-established global eco-system of accredited technology partners, varied in size, scope, bias, viewpoint, method, technique, ambition and price-point. This is what defines global capitalism, supply and demand. Let the buyer decide and set the market.

Make no mistake however, other industries have learned over decades, if not centuries, that if they are to survive intact they must establish their Guilds, independent trade bodies, professional trade associations and professional certification tracks with membership requirements (professional indemnity and charters and ethics) to protect the integrity of their industries from the ever-present charlatans, rogue traders and 'have-a-go' merchants. The results is that these bodies give newcomer-clients a starting point, benchmark, reference point and the industry its cohesive voice to the market. Protectionism? Of course, that's how established professions work.

There will always be the backstreet body-shops in any industry, together with the bandwagon-jumpers and opportunists and sadly there will always be those who choose to cut corners and take the risks that come with it. Yet there will be the many more who choose the old, trusted professionals, or those they believe to be professionals.. However, if the industry makes it far too hard to spot the real professionals and understand their true value then you can't blame the buyers for being confused as to where to turn and who or what to avoid.

So the SharePoint industry and indeed the larger IT industry in general needs to make up its mind (fast) after decades of accelerated growth whether it wishes to become more professional, accredited, certified and trusted. If it does, it needs to prove its credentials. In turn we should ask the industry whether it wishes to be viewed like other very established and skilled professions with extensive, mature training and association membership across a wider landscape and portfolio of associated skillsets? The very nature of what we do often has a major effect on the businesses we engage with, just like an attorney, accountant or financier does.

Or perhaps we need to ask instead whether the industry wishes to align itself with a more open, freestyle community of 'anyone can have a go and join in' approach, because you certainly cannot have both and solve the problems of diversity. We either support the progressive 'professionalization' of our industry or we remain in the wild west and live with the creative consequences.

A final thought. In the 17th century rich people had black teeth due to eating a new thing called sugar. Sugar, and therefore black teeth became an aspiration of the poor and they subsequently blackened their own teeth with coal as a fashion. People don't necessarily choose to go to a backstreet dentist to get their teeth fixed or indeed cleaned. They do it largely out of simple necessity where the larger, more established profession has become too exclusive, too out of reach, too slow and simply too expensive for a rapidly expanding market. Whilst the professionalism of the SharePoint industry seriously matters to us all, established delivery firms (onshore or otherwise) now do need to reassess how they are approaching the competitive marketplace and therefore what their true market-differentiation propositions are. Otherwise everyone has black teeth.                                          

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Evolving the Role of the Strategic SharePoint Framework

Back in 2003 when I first encountered Microsoft SharePoint (SPS 2003) as a Director of IT, after a decade designing international Novell Directory Services, it was clear to me that no one really knew what SharePoint was and how to make best use of it. Some said it was a document management system, some said it was a content management system for portals, some said it was whatever I wanted it to be as there were so many features available. I wanted someone to tell me what to do with it. Just like a CIO would, I treated it like an application and had it installed as an application by a technology team. Then what? No one knew what to do with it, Microsoft had no business blueprint and the solution integrators were reliant on us telling them what we wanted to do with it – to be honest we had no idea really, although the features were truly revolutionary from what we witnessed. So commenced the long process of learning how to approach the subject of SharePoint, and indeed enterprise collaborative systems in general.

From the beginning it was apparent that with an enterprise platform that was as diverse and powerful as Microsoft SharePoint™ that it was not the responsibility of Microsoft to develop a business blueprint as the platform could do many things in a thousand different ways. It was for the product to evolve across the global corporate landscape and find its niche. In fact it would later transpire that though many treated SharePoint as a development platform, it was indeed being used for exactly the same solutions the world over, time and time again, due to what it was most capable of delivering aligned with what organisations shared as common priorities, goals and ambitions. What would happen if all these common solutions were brought together in a single, uniform and cohesive plan I wondered and if so was there a logical sequence to deliver these aspirational services whilst avoiding all-too-common pitfalls?

It was similarly clear back then that SharePoint was always pitched by technology staff using technology language to technology audiences. Where were all the business users and business engagement? Where was the use of comprehensible business language? Where was the interpretation of technical features as plausible business services? Where were the business-focused presentations? It was down to me as a business-focused director to fulfil that role myself to my own business stakeholders and do the translating. Evidently then no one had thought that there was a requirement for a business driven engagement role, a role for someone to bridge the gap between the business and technology. This is the origin of where the role of the SharePoint business strategist started to evolve in my mind.

By 2005 I had delivered SharePoint in a structured format to 22,000 users and by late 2006 had moved as a Microsoft early adopter (RDP & TAP) to the next version of SharePoint (MOSS 2007) with Microsoft case studies and interviews to match. By now it was clear that without a logical business framework or roadmap to work against SharePoint could be too confusing to any client. I was already advising numerous major organisations by then who wanted to know “how I had got it right’ and I gave them the benefit of my advice in my straight-speaking (I was even presenting for Microsoft on the subject) but there was still no diagrammatic method on the market.

By early 2007 I had taken my early thoughts about common services and designed a uniquely structured modular framework that I named Sequenced and Logical Enterprise Methodology (Salem™). Salem relies on a specific framework diagram, with a unique business service module structure, using original logic, service release inter-relationships, sequencing and business language – the opposite we find from so many ubiquitous, feature-focused technology-focused SharePoint presentations. If you want to engage with a business audience successfully, then you have to be able to explain SharePoint in plain English, quickly and in a visual way that is clear for everyone. Salem was more than that as I had determined that the Salem framework had to contain a range of common business services but also be extremely flexible to meet any unique business requirement. Therefore Salem had to be as flexible and adaptable as possible whilst still retaining the same logical structure. As importantly, the framework also had to meet the needs of software updates, new versions and even the cloud.

This was basis of the Salem™ framework that was later to develop into the Salem Practitioner certification program now made available to you today. Before this was possible I had to apply the business framework methodology in as many different types of enterprise client scenarios as possible, the bigger and more complex the better. I was able to apply the Salem framework to clients that were national and then international, spanning between 28 and 72 countries. At this stage I knew that because the Salem framework was working so well in so many different business scenarios with so many happy clients that I had the answer. Quite simply, it worked.

The next stage was to then take the Salem framework to the international SharePoint partner community and demonstrate that others could do what I had been doing successfully for so many years. Some had stated that it was my presentation style, not the framework itself – they were very wrong. Salem in the hands of others was even more powerful than before. By 2011 and in the hands of trained Practitioners in multiple countries, the results were speaking for themselves. Clients were turning their backs on other technologies and moving to SharePoint and renewing their Enterprise Licence Agreements, with CIOs citing the Salem blueprint as the roadmap they were looking for. Each Practitioner had their own original presentation style but the framework remained exactly the same, with the same modules, services logic and unique terminology.

Microsoft staff asked how we could scale the Salem framework out to the world so that we could assist as many clients as possible and reach as many people as possible and it was at this stage that we decided to develop a new, comprehensive Practitioner framework through Genius! (owned by Morgan & Wolfe) so that as many people as possible could benefit for learning to become a strategist, either independently or within the Microsoft partner ecosystem. We wanted anyone who wanted to progress their career to be able to benefit from our own learning, understanding and intellectual property as Salem is proven, tested and completely original as well as highly successful.

As the author of the Salem™ framework, I found myself at the forefront of developing the term ‘SharePoint business strategist’ in the industry because it was through my early work that I fought hard to get my audiences to understand that SharePoint is a business program far more than being a technology platform. Indeed for most of my life I have placed great emphasis on jargon-free plain-English communication. Gradually, over the last decade I have been successful in getting people to understand that the business path to SharePoint engagement is absolutely critical. For too many years, the successes of SharePoint projects have been reliant on the intermediate role of the business-language-speaking project manager and business analysts who tried to bridge the gap between IT and business stakeholders.

This gap is now filled by the formal certified Salem Practitioner, a true business strategist who is formally trained and certified in the process of both IT and business engagement for SharePoint, bringing logic, structure, sequence, rational, process and controls to any SharePoint engagement. Better still the process of becoming a Salem Practitioner for SharePoint is that it can be quick and easy to achieve through the learning structure that Genius! has put together. Salem isn’t just about Microsoft SharePoint and on-premise technology. The same logical framework can be applied to blended technology environments or even non-SharePoint environments and works as well with the cloud and Office 365 as it does with on-site implementations, a truly flexible framework approach.

Today the Certified Salem™ Practitioner(CSP) is a business strategist who may also be a project manager who has decided to step up their skills; a business analyst opening their horizons to new approaches, a solution architect wanted to hone their skills with business audiences, a developer wishing to progress their career into a more front-of-house role; an academic seeking new ways of teaching their students new business and technology approaches or a home-based self-learner looking to advance their own knowledge. Some Practitioners go on to lead client workshops and define SharePoint programs, others use the Genius! courses, masterclasses and workshops as their inspiration to look at SharePoint in a new way or indeed as a way of understanding SharePoint without ever needing to be technical.

Development companies use the Salem framework as a conceptual structure for developing new apps and original to market. CIOs find the Salem framework workshop the basis on which they can plan their future business-aligned IT strategy program and development companies use the Salem framework whilst assisting in defining future budget requirements. No longer do you need to be an IT technical guru to enter the world of enterprise collaborative systems when the logic of Salem is plain-speaking.

With the future of technology increasingly becoming cloud-driven, the role of the business strategist is becoming ever more important. Cloud services such as Microsoft Office 365 are opening up enterprise level software to companies large and small at a speed never thought possible only a few years ago. We now have Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, everything is becoming an on-demand service. Technology is becoming far more commoditized, now bought off-the-shelf, driven by dynamic business requirements, where software simply does the job it is intended to do without months or years of costly development. The entire concept of Apple’s app store has had a dramatic influence on the corporate software market. But with all these services the client can end up being more confused than ever.

Today there is an increasing trend for far less emphasis (and desire) for bespoke development solutions by companies, and far more emphasis on “what do we do with all this technology – how do we put it all together”? And who is going to bring all of this together? The framework-trained Certified Salem™ Practitioner, the person who is trained and certified in the Salem strategic business consulting framework that provides the answers and standards the client is looking for.

Take a look at some of our testimonials to see how others have found great value in the Salem framework. To train as a Salem strategist you must use the official Genius! website as our training and certification program is currently available by no other route.

Copyright Morgan & Wolfe All Rights Reserved 2013


Monday, 22 April 2013

Eleven Ubiquitous Words & Phrases that Hold Back the SharePoint™ Industry

There are lots of words that insidiously creep into our psyche and become fashionable from time to time and when used in context or in isolation do no harm at all and may inform, enlighten and indeed enliven any appropriate conversation. All industries tend to develop their own vocabulary for a variety of reasons, from exclusivity through to a need to narrate and describe. Due to the nature of the tech industry it is no surprise that new words and phrases develop regularly, some take hold and some do not.  However, some words and phrases unwittingly hold back an industry from its own potential growth and care is therefore well advised.

The following words and phrases are ubiquitous in their use not only in the SharePoint industry itself but beyond and all in some way can be said to be hindering rather than advancing the progression of the platform and its services to a wider market. Here is my rationale for some of the more obvious ones:

1. Intranet

What does the word ‘intranet’ say to you? Now what does it really say to you? For many business users ‘intranet’ speaks of a confused, out of date, badly constructed, impossible to navigate, out of touch, irrelevant, arcane, archaic, legacy investment which today cannot be trusted as authoritative. Therefore when you come to introduce a new intranet on SharePoint, for many, you are simply using the latest technology to replace something unpopular and repeat the problems of yesteryear. Intranet is not an obligatory term and neither does it adequately describe the power of SharePoint, so why use it at all?

2. T&M

T&M, more accurately termed Time and Materials describe the all-too-common approach by solution integrators to costing SharePoint solutions. More importantly T&M describes the frequent unwillingness by Partners to commit to a fixed price for a solution based primarily on the one-way argument that the client may change their mind and scope may vary. Worse is the argument that detailed requirements are unknown and therefore a fixed price is not plausible.

If one applied the same rationale to SAP or similar, one would be writing a blank cheque that could end up costing tens of millions of dollars and it comes as no surprise in the current global economic climate that client organisations are increasingly wary and weary of the constant surprise regarding SharePoint costs. After a decade of SharePoint installations and solution development, a large proportion of the more common solutions are well known in terms of cost and T&M is far less appropriate than ten years ago in many cases.

The future of packaged applications and cloud, SaaS services may well see the demise of wholesale use of the T&M model. If we cannot be clear to a global client market what things cost, or that services are expensive and not easy to budget for then be assured that engagements may be limited or difficult to attract.

3. Point solution

Point solutions have supported a global SharePoint industry for years. A point solution is a solution developed in isolation for a specific requirement and not linked to any other relational service. More commonly put, ‘tell us what you want and we will build it’. In part this occurred through a common misconception that SharePoint is best sold as a development platform. In turn single solutions required single disconnected projects and most corporate IT departments are based on a project-centric model.

Single projects largely fail to employ an economy of scale, budget or resource and are packaged as single entities that live for their own selfish reasons. Multiple disconnected projects on the same platform using one or (worse still) multiple vendors on the same platform quickly start to trip each other up and place a budget burden not on a business stakeholder group but on multiple single project sponsors.

It is the failure to take a business program approach to the platform that has meant that SharePoint to date has squandered an intrinsically valuable opportunity to establish itself at the heart of organisations for a wide range of interconnected enterprise services that themselves are mapped out using a business roadmap and blueprint like Salem™.

Ultimately the project centric approach has left SharePoint as being seen as unnecessarily  expensive, slow to develop, release and adopt and cumbersome. Far too many SharePoint implementations have run out of steam due to a lack of long term program budget planning, resource and role planning and business program alignment.

4. Developer

Let’s make it clear, I believe that SharePoint’s versatility is an extremely strong value proposition and the ability to develop an eternal number of business solutions makes SharePoint extremely valuable to every organisation. Consequently I am not against ‘development’ in any way, when warranted. The term ‘developer’ however has increasingly become equated to unmanageable expense, slow delivery, and bespoke services that are difficult to maintain, particularly with version upgrades.

Microsoft has demonstrated the issue clearly with its new SharePoint 2013 model where code does not interfere with the kernel and remains separate thus un-hindering clients from future core SharePoint platform upgrades.

For far too long the recruitment industry, together with portions of the SharePoint industry have been guilty of perpetuating the myth that if you are implementing SharePoint you must begin by employing a team of developers. Therefore from the very outset clients have taken a view that it is impossible to make any headway with SharePoint without developing using skilled developers.

You can imagine their surprise therefore when client organisations have later discovered out-of-the box services they had not been shown previously and therefore realised that there were many less costly opportunities to make early headway. Therefore whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with the role of the SharePoint developer it has largely been the misuse of the role of the developer in the overall SharePoint strategic program that has upset many clients and made them wary of further development investment. 

5. Extranet

Similar to Intranet but leading to even more confusion, 'extranet' is largely a technology term that has little obvious business meaning behind it as it is not one of common parlance. Essentially people in an organisation wish to collaborate and share with people outside the organisation identified by name, that’s not so hard to explain and is common in terms of requirement. The word extranet is symbolic more than anything else of the major problem still facing organisations. 
In many respects the word 'extranet' represents the larger techno-centric argument that nothing can be explained in plain English when it can instead have a term that no one finds easy to comprehend. It is as if technology is buried deep in the psyche of science fiction where abstraction is a necessity and deliberate through choice to the exclusion of the masses.

6. Social

'Social' is the word du jour and a word that is increasingly being over-used and misinterpreted as well as being incorporated into phraseology such as the even more diverse ‘enterprise social’, ‘social enterprise’ or even ‘social collaboration’. Let’s make a bold statement here, in the context of business there is nothing truly social about social technology in the workplace, but instead and far more importantly what social really means is ‘applied social networking techniques’. This means that rather than using software to announce how much beer you drank last night, you are using the services found in the common social network platforms reassigned for business subjects. Gartner backs up the issue by demonstrating that only 10% of 'social collaboration' scenarios achieve a degree of success.

Be in no doubt that many business directors request that social tools are switched off, that they distract workers from daily tasks and offer difficult governance for overstretched HR departments. This is no different to the slow embrace of instant messaging a decade or more ago. 'Social' for them is something that happens after work, not during work hours. Therefore the tech industry needs to decide and agree what ‘social’ actually means in the context of business and work. Rather than scaring organisations, use appropriate terminology that attracts and enhances an organisation instead of presenting technology that may not be, in many instances, interpreted as business appropriate.

 7. Partner

The word ‘partner’ is extremely common in the Microsoft ecosystem and something that is passed through to the end customer. Partnering is of course a very worthy objective and one that many aspire too.  Partnering with anyone is of course very difficult to achieve well whether with an individual or indeed a large corporation and therefore grand statements such as ‘our mission statement is to partner 110% with all our clients’ is largely meaningless. Most ‘partners’ are in fact effective deliverers of SharePoint solutions for which they get paid specifically for their time and effort and which is indeed exactly what most clients want.

Partnering takes the deliverer to an entirely different level of business relationship which requires sharing, including the sharing of risk, closeness and embrace of distinct corporate cultures which in practice most solution delivery companies find very difficult or costly to achieve. Therefore the word ‘partner’ comes to mean something akin to over-promising in a way that undermines the value proposition of the intrinsic relationship itself.

Due to the fact that many clients have failed to find true partnership from their solution integrators then it may be far more appropriate to make the statement that one is an expert SharePoint solution integrator than an expert SharePoint partner and not define a relationship that will never really materialise.

 8. Governance

Probably the most misused and much-maligned term in the SharePoint industry and one that continues to cause debate to rage to this day. Do you mean technical governance, business governance, administrative governance, product governance, what? Governance simply means the ‘act of governing’ and in which case the act of governing of SharePoint is performed by its stakeholders and business sponsor, beyond this there are many other ‘acts of governing’ required to be performed in various ways and to various degrees by various parties en route to SharePoint success.

However because the SharePoint industry continues to squabble as to what governance means and which software company owns the ‘right’ to the term governance, so the client audience is left cold, detached and disinterested. For many client organisations governance sounds like a complex turn off that in turn ensures that SharePoint itself appears difficult to embrace.

 9. SharePoint

This is probably the most difficult word of them all and one that causes the most issues. We have had SharePoint Portal Services, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, Windows SharePoint Services, SharePoint Foundation Services, SharePoint Online and finally SharePoint, phew!  So they finally agreed on the word SharePoint as a brand identity and just when it was safe to come out and face the music in point 11 its not SharePoint anymore, now its the cloud and Office 365. Are you thinking what I am thinking?!

The issue isn’t with the word 'SharePoint' as a brand name, though its  recent agreed naming convention does make things easier to progress its identity in the long term (see point 11 though). No the issue is with how one describes SharePoint, what is it? You can describe Excel as a spreadsheet you can describe PowerPoint as a presentation-maker and you could describe Word as a word processor to keep things simple. If you can’t describe something to your mother in 60 seconds what hope do we really have?

The issue with the word SharePoint is that it does not have a single identity and indeed has so many identities that it suffers from a form of extreme schizophrenia where it can be one thing to one person and something completely different to another. Yet at its core, SharePoint contains a set of common features and services that every organization can and should benefit from.

It is due to the fact that over  decade later, whilst the global SharePoint industry still refuses to agree on a simple way to describe its platform that it struggles to demonstrate real business value with ease and why other platforms and services continue to make ground. There may come a tipping point where, however great SharePoint is, client organisations simply start to move in a different direction.

 10. Requirements Gathering

‘Requirements gathering’ is a phrase that sends the fear of God into the heart of many potential clients and yet one used by the majority of solution integrators, it is a phrase that sets out a process of finding out in detail what the client wants incorporated into a specific solution. The problem is that many organisations simply aren’t sure what they want, or of the detail that must be defined within a solution.

The thought that clients need to undergo weeks of relatively expensive, business-impacting requirements-gathering workshops is off-putting to the extent that many organisations are now actively seeking shrink-wrapped solutions (latterly known as Apps) that take away the arduous process of discussing in fine detail the opinions and requirements that will lead to a final cost proposal. Ask a client if they will forego an exact service match for one that is fast to deliver, requires no requirements-gathering but only meets 70% of understood criteria and many will absolutely say yes please.

The world is quickly moving on and the inference that anything built on SharePoint requires a long-winded requirements-gathering process that can be costly, time-consuming, politically troublesome and difficult to finalise can lead to early disaffection by stakeholders that they then refuse to repeat. Many organisations have stated that their technology partners should provide clear thought-leadership by demonstrating what many other organisations have already achieved thus removing the requirements gathering hurdle.

 11. Office 365 (or 'Cloud')

An odd choice you might think and a topic that is currently flavour of the year, the SharePoint transition to the cloud. The problem is that the brand name Office 365 dilutes SharePoint, hides its presence and appears to suggest SharePoint is something far less than it really is, something slightly inconsequential, light and ad hoc. There is an inference that SharePoint Online requires far less thought, due diligence, structure, strategy and planning to adopt now that it is ready made but indeed the requirement for business aligned strategy for SharePoint does not change whether it be onsite or online. Office 365 does not take away much of the strategic requirements found with on premise SharePoint implementations. 

More worryingly still is the idea that this dilution of SharePoint may be deliberate to move by those who have never grasped what it actually is and have had no strategy for it. There have indeed been suggestions in some articles that Office 365 heralds the end of SharePoint and its parts will become independent services in the cloud.

Could you imagine SAP as being part of an Office suite or any other enterprise product for that matter? No, neither can I. As SharePoint is an extensive and powerful enterprise platform, placing it within a package offering and taking away its primary name thus taking away its independent identity is itself something that may stifle its long term growth. Add Yammer into the mix in Office 365 and one can see how the cloud branding can cause real issues for an increasingly bewildered corporate consumer market.

These are only some of the many words I could have chosen for this article but the tech industry continues to define itself largely by being distant and distinct from the businesses it services through its fashionable and all too often abstract use of vocabulary. In the time we now live in, the ability to be succinct, clear, and drive real business value quickly is a high priority for many organisations and it is for this reason that the words and phrases that the SharePoint industry chooses to engage with and define itself by, may well define whether it remains in the dictionary a decade from now.