The successful completion of another SPTechCon Boston is under our belt.
As I like to do after these events, I stop and think about the people I talked to in the industry, the problems, and challenges they are encountering with various aspects of Office 365 tools and their businesses, plus what they hoped to achieve by attending the conference.
One of my main goals at SPTechCon is to speak with attendees and understand why they came to the event. Most people come with some problems or ideas and hope to get more direct-human feedback on technology issues.
Here are the big takeaways, challenges, and trends that I uncovered from conversations throughout the week:
Takeaways and Trends from SPTechCon 2019
1. Collaboration and Automation Are The Future
Microsoft Teams, Flow, PowerApps are the big winners over the past year and continue to lead today into the future. The desperate need for a powerful workflow engine to replace classic SharePoint features has put us in the driver’s seat to create real-world applications in SharePoint Online.
Microsoft Teams has been such a needed addition to the toolset that it’s no surprise how quickly it has taken off. Users have switched over almost entirely to this tool for communication and collaboration, relying on classic SharePoint features for more process-based on document and information management.
2. Change is Constant in the Office 365 Ecosystem
Office 365 users have a difficult time making sure their team (often a team of one) can keep track of the features being updated and introduced by Microsoft.
From small changes that derail a training exercise to whole new applications becoming available to an entire organization, changes to the platform are constant and can have a huge impact on how teams do business.
We, collectively, haven’t fully converted from the classic installation, service pack, and major revision model of yesterday. In the past, users and admins could review the release notes, understand the changes, test the installation, and release several feature changes on our schedule. Now, enhancements come in an unsteady stream.
This is a scary proposition to those who try to build and maintain the confidence of business while offering cutting edge capabilities.
It’s one of the reasons I publish the Timlin Office 365 Monthly Buzz Newsletter every month with updates, trends, and goings-on related to Office 365 and SharePoint. If you’d like to receive it, sign up here.
3. Understanding the Longer Microsoft Roadmap is Challenging at Best
Microsoft has never done a great job at helping us build a 3-5-year technology plan based on their feature and release roadmap – the guidance just isn’t cohesive enough.
For example, if we knew that InfoPath and Workflow were going to be abandoned and replaced with PowerApps and Flow, we could have planned for it in advance. Also, the new versions of these tools don’t have feature parity, so they aren’t completely compatible as replacements.
This is a frustrating proposition for CIOs and technology leaders to recommend a plan, not knowing if the technology will be abandoned, what its possible replacement may be, and if something else will take its place within 2-3 years.
The strategy, training, and political clout required to correctly implement these tools are too high to guess and hope.
4. Using Strategy and Governance Helps Identify the Right Tool(s) for the Job
The features in the Office 365 Suite contain several overlapping and interconnected capabilities. Organizations struggle to understand how set the proper guidance, support, and train people down a path they are comfortable managing.
When there are too many ways to manage tasks, it becomes almost impossible to severely limit the choices, so many organizations turn to a “free for all” approach. This methodology can increase initial user adoption, but almost always creates major problems if the platform takes off.
Organizations should consider when to use which tools and how to set the stage to provide solutions to their internal business problems in a well-orchestrated capacity. Information architecture, business analysis, governance, training, and ongoing support are all crucial to the success of user adoption and achieving digital transformation.
5. Guaranteeing Proper User Adoption Isn’t Easy
Hopefully, you are noticing a theme here. Most of these issues stem from similar problems. Without the time or resources, you often have one of two paths to choose, or possibly both paths at the same time:
- Pick and choose high-value problems/solutions and solve for those.
- Open the spigot and let people use the tools in whatever way works for them.
Both approaches have their pros and cons, but I talked to a lot of frustrated business analysts and administrators that were expected to make these tools useful for thousands of people with no help beyond their knowledge of the platform. This is not a good recipe.
6. Limited Time and Resources for Management and Maintenance are Commonplace
The obvious final piece of the puzzle is there isn’t enough time to make the impact these professionals want to make on their businesses.
For example, if an organization decides it needs a new ticket tracking system, it will create a team, spin up the plan, work it through to completion, provide training, support, and ongoing resources for management. They will then require that all new tickets come through this system, thus ensuring its viability.
When organizations start using Office 365, they treat it much differently. They bought it for email, Microsoft Office, and possibly OneDrive, and go into it assuming these are essentially desktop/individual tools.
The mindset and business approach to implementation are entirely different. Unlike a mandated/required ticketing system, many of the capabilities and solutions within Office 365 are not a pure requirement to complete work.
Instead, they are optional tools designed to create efficiency and error reduction. You must think ahead, build solutions, and entice or require people to perform certain activities within these tools to solve specific problems.
The Roadmap Ahead In The Office 365 Industry
As you will note from these takeaways, the world, and the businesses that thrive within it, are changing.
Where we used to work so hard to create process, efficiency, and predictability, the new methods of succeeding are based on adaptability, flexibility, and some bravery to embrace and accept that the world around will be adjusting a pace that we’ve never seen before.
Information (and misinformation) is given to the entire world in seconds, ideas, concepts, and features show up without warning.
The classic IT mentality has been tested and appears to be failing in a world that needs something different.
In conclusion, Office 365 and SharePoint continue to help organizations harness the power of technology to improve operational efficiency. As with any technology that has numerous, regular updates, it can be challenging to keep up, though, but it’s worth it.
Reach out if you need any help as our team is very well versed in all of Office 365’s tools and capabilities.
Next week, the annual SPTechCon Boston Conference is returning for another exciting year of training, problem-solving, and networking.
SPTechCon will cover a wide range of SharePoint and Office 365 topic areas and attendees will walk away with practical knowledge that they can apply immediately within their organization We’re excited to be a Gold Sponsor of the conference again this year.
There’s a lot happening during the week so read through this guide to make sure you attend the most important sessions and meet the right people while you’re in Boston for SPTechCon. Get all the important details, dates, and insider tips below.
SPTechCon Schedule At A Glance
Sunday, August 25th: First day of the conference. Tutorials, Hands-on lab, happy hour.
Monday, August 26th: Technical sessions, sponsored sessions, Microsoft Keynote, networking breaks, round tables, reception in Exhibit Hall (at 5:45 pm).
Tuesday, August 27th: Technical sessions, general sessions, networking breaks, prize announcement in Exhibit Hall, SharePoint.
Wednesday, August 28th: Technical sessions & general sessions. Conference closes.
For a complete list of sessions and descriptions click here.
Don’t Miss These Exciting Events And Sessions
Office 365 Hands-On Kitchen
When: Sunday, August 25th — 9 am – 5 pm
Join a select group of “chefs” (speakers) as they create recipes for collaboration challenges with cooks (you!). There will be up to five teams led by two master chefs to guide them through the solution cooking process using all the ingredients available in Office 365!
Planning a Successful Migration to Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online
When: Monday, August 26th — 9:15 – 9:45 am
Senior Consultant of Timlin Enterprises, Nick Bisciotti, is sharing his top tips for executing a successful migration to Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online. During this presentation, you will develop a plan and identify tools to make your migrations a smooth and seamless process.
Microsoft Keynote on Monday Morning
When: Monday, August 26th — 10 am
Join Dan Holme, Director of Product Marketing, as he shares the latest innovations and solutions for content collaboration, security, teamwork, process transformation, employee engagement & communications, and knowledge sharing & discovery. Learn how the experiences in Microsoft 365–including SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer, Stream, PowerApps, Flow–integrate to power collaboration and the intelligent workplace across devices, on the web, in desktop and mobile apps, and in the hub for teamwork, Microsoft Teams.
Stump the Experts – Win a Microsoft Surface Go!
When: Tuesday, August 27th — 5 pm
Timlin is hosting this flagship SPTechCon event for the second year in a row! Ask clever, challenging questions of Microsoft experts. The person with the best question will win a Microsoft Surface Go!
This will be an open discussion where you can test your knowledge against some of the best, discover answers to troubling SharePoint and Office 265 topics, and take your turn at winning this awesome prize.
#TimlinTrivia — Join Us On Twitter
Join us every morning on Twitter from Monday to Wednesday for a round of #TimlinTrivia!
Before the morning keynote each day, we will tweet a tricky Office365 or SharePoint question. The first attendee to respond with the correct answer will win an Amazon gift card!
How To Get the Most Out Of Your SPTechCon 2019 Experience
- Preparation is key! Be sure to draft your conference schedule in advance and highlight the events that interest you the most.
Leave some free time during the day to recharge, grab a bite to eat, and network with others. Conferences are often jam-packed with back to back sessions and information, so it’s important to soak in as much information as you can without burning out by the end of each day.
- Find the right sessions for you with filters. Use the robust filtering system on the SPTechCon program agenda to identify the right sessions to add to your schedule. You can filter by topic, session type, session category, level, and date.
- Set goals for yourself and your experience. Decide on whether your priority is networking or building your skillset, and make that your priority during each day. Make a list of things you’d like to learn and people you’d like to connect with. Discover the complete list of this year’s speakers.
- Meet the many sponsors and companies in the industry who are changing and challenging the status quo with their Office 365 and SharePoint solutions. Meet the Timlin Enterprises team and learn more about our Center of Excellence approach by stopping by booth #209.
- Join in on the fun on social media. A great way to network and connect with the conference is by chatting on Twitter under the official conference hashtag #SPTechCon.
We’re excited to experience the 2019 SPTechCon with you! Let us know if you’d like to connect during the conference by sending us a message on Twitter at @TimlinEnt.
Boston’s SPTechCon for 2018 wrapped up after a flurry of activities over a 4-day event. I wanted to give a shout out to the folks that put on this event for the hard work that goes into planning and execution. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the excellent crop of speakers and vendors that put their experience, knowledge, and opinions into presentation form to help all of us in the community. Without these folks, the conference and this community would not be possible.
The Timlin Enterprises team and I had a great time at the conference this year. Here are some recurring themes and observations I would like to share based on my conversations with speakers and attendees.
SharePoint is Still Going Strong!
Although we all want to talk about Office 365 and the absolute abundance of features being offered, we cannot overlook the needs of a large number of organizations that are running SharePoint 2013.
The community and conference tailor a lot of presentations to Office 365 and cloud capabilities, however, many customers are unable to take advantage of these features since they haven’t made the investment yet.
— SPTechCon (@SPTechCon) August 28, 2018
Minimal Talk about SharePoint 2016
I didn’t talk to a single person about SharePoint 2016 during SPTechCon. This also coincides with our experience in our day-to-day consulting. It appears that organizations fall into several camps:
- Smaller, nimble, able to head to Office 365 without as much technical baggage to contend with. They moved to Office 365 quickly.
- Larger, cloud-first initiatives and chose not to upgrade on premises anymore. They’ve moved to Office 365.
- New players to the SharePoint world who are too small to even have SharePoint previously because of the costs. They chose to go directly to the cloud and not on-premise.
- Too large to migrate in all and are leveraging a slower methodology. They want to migrate. These organizations appear to be in the thick of trying it or have some elements in the cloud already.
- Cloud-timid organizations that are very cautious about moving their data to Office 365. These are organizations usually in Financial Services, Government, or similar industries. Their employees seem to be somewhat frustrated by falling behind in digital capabilities.
Even with a huge cloud focus, I still would have expected a couple more SharePoint 2016 or planned 2019 upgrades to show themselves. I truly hope these folks find a path forward; the features have really improved over the last six years and will continue to build upon a whole modern set of tools they have no access to use.
— Chrissy Geluk (@cmgeluk) August 29, 2018
The Third-Party Application Market Continues to Thrive
During the initial transition to Office 365, there was some trepidation and lack of direction for how the classic SharePoint product companies would react. A lot of small, independent products popped up to see what would stick, and the larger organizations needed to adapt or become obsolete, like the Blockbusters of the world.
I love times of major change, even when it negatively impacts us in the short term. It forces the market to think, retool, and make their offerings better. It also provides new opportunities for smaller players to get their ideas into the market. Some absolutely great products have emerged based on the massive use of Office 365, and they continue to gather momentum.
Big Demand and Challenges for Constant Feature Releases in Office 365
There are big demand and challenges for the constant features being announced and released in Office 365. Folks have a difficult time knowing which features are out there, when they are being released, and how to plan and provide them for their end users in a deliberate and supportive way.
We had a LOT of conversations about these topics. It should be a concern for organizational leadership because digital transformation efforts are very difficult to nurture when end users are unable to receive the support they need to understand and use these tools effectively.
Based on discussions with our customers, folks attending the conference, and constantly watching the landscape, I believe our community (and our business here at Timlin) will be spending most of its time over the next few years addressing these demands and challenges.
Organizations are Focused on User Adoption and Engagement
One theme throughout the conference was the focus on user adoption and employee engagement. We heard it directly from Naomi Moneypenny of Microsoft during her keynote on Tuesday. It was also the theme or subject of a number of the educational sessions. Microsoft has developed tools and features in Office 365 to a maturity level that the challenge is no longer technical in nature, but rather it is all about the user.
In a study provided by AIIM, 67 % of respondents indicated inadequate user training was the number one reason that their SharePoint deployment was not deemed a success. This completely coincides with what we are seeing from our customers, and why we have shifted from a technical-based approach to one entirely focused on the users. If you build it they will come is just not going to work. It is always good to get confirmation that what we are seeing in the Office 365 marketplace is the same as what others are now talking about.
Our team had an incredible time at #SPTechCon in Boston! Many thanks to everyone who attended our sessions, visited our booth, and participated in the Stump The Experts event. And a special thank you to the @SPTechCon team — this was the best year yet! pic.twitter.com/4A0wkKRZDb
— Timlin Enterprises (@TimlinEnt) August 29, 2018
Again, thank you to the SPTechCon event organizers for another great year. We had a great time chatting with the speakers and attendees during our sessions and on the floor at our booth. In case you missed it, you can download the slides from my and Ian Dicker’s sessions below.
- Digital Transformation and Employee Engagement — How to Make It Happen with Office 365
Download the presentation deck here
- Communication Sites in a Real-World Example
Download the presentation deck here
And if you’re interested in learning more about our Office 365 and SharePoint Center of Excellence approach, you can download our free white paper here.
It’s summertime and that means the annual SPTechCon Boston conference is happening in a few weeks. The Sharepoint & Office 365 conference will be in the Bay State from August 26 – 29, 2018. The conference is a training, problem-solving, and networking event for those who are working with SharePoint, OneDrive, and Office 365. Attendees will have access to users and companies to find solutions to their current environments. In addition, attendees will have many opportunities to collaborate with other users and to discover strategies to work smarter and increase productivity within their organizations.
If you’re planning to attend SPTechCon this year, we put together this ultimate guide so you know all the details, and information, and even a couple of strategies to make the most of your experience.
SPTechCon Key Dates
Now until August 10th: Registration open – get your ticket to SPTechCon Boston here. Register using our code TIM18 to receive a discount.
August 10th: Registration Ends
August 15th: Last day to make hotel reservations at Sheraton Boston Hotel
August 26th: First Day of Conference — Tutorials & Challenges, Exhibit Hall Open and Evening Reception with Lightning talks (at 5 pm)
August 27th: Second Day of Conference — Technical Classes, Keynote by Karuana Gatimu from Microsoft, Exhibit Hall Open, Networking Reception (at 5:30 pm)
August 28th: Third Day of Conference — Technical Classes, Naomi Moneypenny from Microsoft, Exhibit Hall Open, O365 User Group Meeting (at 5:30 pm)
August 29th: Last Day of Conference — Stump the Experts (at 10 am), Interactive Panel Discussion (at 10:45 am), Technical Classes
Exciting Programs Happening at SPTechCon Boston
Office 365 Hands-On Challenge
When: Sunday, August 26, 2018
Description: Join fellow members on August 26th of the collaborative Office 365 and SharePoint community in participating in a challenge to create digital collaborative solutions for Plymouth State University’s Music and Theater Department. There will be up to five teams each with a different Office 365 related challenge to solve, and each team will have an expert advisor from the SPTechCon Speakers to guide them through hurdles uncovered in the challenge. To learn more and to apply to participate in the challenge, visit the conference website.
Communication Sites as a Real-World Example
When: Monday, August 27 at 11:30 am
Description: Ian Dicker, Director of Architecture at Timlin Enterprises will provide a real-world example of an intranet built using Communication Sites, extensions, and web parts using the SharePoint Framework. He will discuss the design challenges and how they were addressed. Add this session to your agenda here.
Digital Transformation and Employee Engagement – How to Make It Happen with Office 365
When: Monday, August 27, 2018, at 3:15 pm
Description: In this session, Ryan Thomas, CEO of Timlin Enterprises, will provide specific ideas on what you can do to help your organization successfully implement features in Office 365 that result in increased user adoption and true employee engagement. User adoption is not a project and requires a disciplined, process-driven approach with the proper strategy, governance, architecture, and training components. This approach ensures you engage your employees and gain the business value of digital transformation using O365.
Ask SharePoint & Office 365 Experts Anything
When: Tuesday, August 28, 2018, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Description: This will be a 1:1 discussion with experts in the SharePoint community as we hold a combined SharePoint User Group meeting for the entire New England region. Speakers from the SPTechCon Conference as well as other Microsoft and MVP attendees will take your questions in an informal setting. For more details, visit the conference website.
Stump the Experts
When: Wednesday, August 29, 2018, at 10:00 am
Timlin Enterprises is excited to moderate this year’s Stump the Experts Panel happening on August 29th at 10 am. This will be an open discussion where you can test your knowledge or find out the answers to troubling SharePoint and Office 365 topics against some of the best. So come prepared to listen, learn some new things, and to have some fun.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your SPTechCon Experience
- To make the most of your attendance, you need to prepare. Build your conference schedule in advance, but make sure you leave some time open during the day to recharge and find some solitude. Conferences are jam packed with sessions and networking so you want to make sure you have time in your day to see everything you want to see, without burning out by the end of each day.
- Register for SPTechCon Boston before August 10th and use the Timlin discount code, TIM18.
- Set goals for networking and education. While you’re planning your schedule, make a list of the new things you want to learn while attending SPTechCon and who you want to meet.
- Speak to the companies in the Exhibit Hall. They want to chat with you and this is a great way to warm up to networking and conversing with those people on your list. While you’re in the Exhibit Hall, be sure to say hello to the Timlin team at booth #301.
- Join the conversation on social media. Connect with speakers and other Sharepoint and Office 365 users by chatting on Twitter under the official conference hashtag, #SPTechCon
We can’t wait to SPTechCon Boston and look forward to seeing you there! Let us know if you’ll be coming to the conference by following and sending us a message on Twitter, @TimlinEnt.