Asif Rehmani to Present on SharePoint Adoption at SharePoint Fest Denver

Asif Rehmani, founder and CEO of SharePoint-Videos, is one of the scheduled presenters for SharePoint Fest, Denver, which will be held between September 22-24, 2014. Asif will present on two topics: no-code development options for SharePoint 2013 power users, and SharePoint Adoption. SharePoint-Videos will also be an exhibitor at this conference — booth G9.

On the topic of adoption, Asif will speak about “sustainable adoption”. Anyone who has read some of the recent posts to this blog should remember our comments on an hour long webcast recording of Dux Raymond Sy and Cyrielle Simeone’s presentation on the topic of SharePoint adoption during this year’s TechEd conference. They also spoke to the need for a “sustainable adoption” solution, one which would go far beyond the typical “3 day power user training class” to provide a truly firm foundation for SharePoint users to continue to use the platform, over time.

Of course, a successful effort to provide users with a sustainable rationale for adopting SharePoint also promises to ensure meaning return on investment for platform stakeholders. Any investment in SharePoint is, simply by nature of its scope, and position as a computing platform capable of supporting a wide range of applications running on top of it, is likely to be a significant cost to the organization implementing it. Ensuring user satisfaction with SharePoint, over time, creates a much more favorable opportunity for the organization to not only recoup its implementation costs, but also profit from it.

Finally, implementing a truly useful plan to hasten user adoption of SharePoint provides a lot of the impetus behind our customers’ decision to choose one of our solutions, either a subscription to our online repository of in excess of 800 video tutorials, or to acquire our VisualSP in-context method of exposing training content directly to users for consumption on-demand.

So we are very enthused about the opportunity we have, with Asif’s presentation at SharePoint Fest Denver, to get our message out a bit further. Readers planning on attending SharePoint Fest Denver this year are encouraged to contact us to set up a meeting at the conference.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

Project Siena, a New No-Code Solution for Building Apps for Office 365 and SharePoint 2013

Anyone paying a recent visit to the Business and Productivity homepage of Microsoft’s MSDN content site will notice a mention of Project Siena, a mobile app builder for enterprise class organizations. This development tool can be downloaded as an app to any computer running Windows 8.0 or 8.1. Best of all, it appears to be a no-code solution.

Back on December 19, 2013, this project appears to have received its first public exposure via post to Technet authored by a Corporate Vice President and Microsoft, S. Somagar. The blog post, titled Project Siena: Enabling Business Users to Create Mobile Apps for the Enterprise describes a no-code development tool designed to help Office power users (Somagar mentions PowerPoint and Excel) build media rich apps specifically designed for touch screens and mobile devices. The content provides readers with the assurance Apps built with Project Siena will run fine on Windows Phone 8.0.

Project Siena is reported to also work fine with SharePoint Lists (presumably for SharePoint Online, Office 365, and, perhaps, SharePoint 2013 on premises). The intelligence powering these solutions is built on “Excel expressions” (meaning cell level formulae) rather than the workflow logic of Visio and SharePoint Designer. The promotional information is designed to appeal to enterprise IT organizations with specific pointers to the comparative harmlessness of the HTML and JavaScript code at the foundation of Project Siena.

Is Project Siena a harbinger of a renewed interest, on Microsoft’s part, to empower Gartner’s Citizen Developers with more methods to produce more customization? It is likely to early to tell, but one would think so.

SharePoint-Videos has a deep commitment to supporting the efforts of SharePoint power users (and these same Citizen Developers) to use no-code tools to build applications capable of supporting highly customized requirements for Line of Business (LoB) units within enterprise business and comparably sized organizations in the public and not-for-profit sectors. So we will be sure to follow Project Siena as it receives greater attention from the SharePoint community of users.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

A Transformed IT Organization Can Contribute Positively to an Adoption Plan for Office 365

Does a successful campaign to persuade enterprise users to adopt Office 365 depend on a new type of internal IT organization? Industry experts like Dux Raymond Sy, a SharePoint MVP, and Cyrielle Simeone, a Product Manager at Microsoft believe this transformation is a necessary, highly positive step.

Dux and Cyrielle present a case for why any enterprise IT organization should consider re-inventing itself to better meet the needs of the community of computing users it serves in a webcast recording titled Beyond Deployment: How IT Can Inspire, Motivate, and Drive Sustainable Adoption. A couple of recent, previous posts to this blog commented on this webcast, but the content is rich enough to support this post, and, perhaps, more.

As an aside, many of the points Dux and Cyrielle make in a 10-20 minute segment of this hour long webcast are suitable for inclusion in a business-case proposal for implementing Office 365, so, if for no other reason, readers should make an effort to carve out the time to listen to this segment of the webcast.

Dux opens with a portrayal of the backdrop behind what he refers to as a “typical” rationale for implementing Office 365:

A Line of Business (LoB) unit would like to improve collaboration, so a decision is made to implement Office 365. Cyrielle and Dux proceed to illustrate how the old model of how to implement a solution for the stated objective, which would include building a computing system, on premises, would actually consume over 80% of the typical budget for this type of project.

The problem with an on premises system consuming this portion of the budget is not enough funds are left to pay for the cost of what Dux and Cyrielle refer to as a “sustainable” plan for persuading users to adopt the new collaboration system, and to keep working with it, long enough, to ensure pay back on the funds paid to build it.

He also speaks to the consumerization of IT, which is, in 2014, a fact of enterprise computing and no longer a hypothetical occurrence. For better or worse, a solution is required which users will be able to access when they are in transit between locations, working from home offices, etc. So, his argument goes, a cloud SaaS like Office 365 is the preferred solution.

The final step in this portrayal of how enterprise IT can better meet its mandates and, thereby ensure its own long term viability as an essential organizational component of a winning team, is his description of the “new” IT organization as a “business enabler”, meaning a group committed to facilitating successful attainment of the objectives LoBs within an enterprise may possess, which meet the criteria required of a supported effort.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

SharePoint-Videos to Exhibit at SPTechCon Boston September 16 to 19, 2014

SharePoint-Videos will exhibit at SPTechCon Boston, which will be held between September 16th and the 19th in Boston, Massachusetts. Asif Rehmani, CEO will present two seminars at the conference. Both of Asif’s seminars will focus on no-code development opportunities. Anyone with an interest in learning further about Asif’s seminars should visit SPTechCon Boston Classes.

Michael Blonder, Vice President, Business Development at SharePoint-Videos will attend the conference, along with Asif Rehmani. So any customers of SharePoint-Videos in search of an opportunity to engage, face-to-face with us may want to consider sending someone to attend the conference.

We will be equipped to demonstrate VisualSP, our Help System for SharePoint 2010, 2013 and Online at our booth, including each of our 4 versions — VisualSP-Lite (free), Express, Standard and Enterprise. We also encourage anyone with an interest in any of our online subscription offers for organizations to visit us, as well. We see an increasing level of interest in these offers and would welcome an opportunity to meet face to face and learn more about what users are looking for when they research group training subscription offers to online resources.

Our Exhibit Hall booth will provide us with an opportunity to spend some time learning more about the challenges facing our customers as they address the need to persuade users to adopt SharePoint for daily computing requirements. Coincidentally, Asif’s seminar topics also promise to equip anyone attending one, or both of them, with some important foundation blocks. The no-code techniques he will present can be used by SharePoint stakeholders to empower SharePoint power users (also known as Gartner’s “Citizen Developers”) with the tools they require to be successful as they attempt to build the solutions Line of Business (LoB) groups typically require to operate in a satisfactory manner in a SharePoint computing environment. A side benefit, of course, is a likely lower cost of development, since the users, themselves, are likely to play a big role in the creation of the processes they will consume.

If readers are planning to attend SPTechCon, and would like to schedule an appointment at our booth, please contact us to shedule.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

Office 365 Includes a Lengthy List of Collaboration Features Organizations May Want to Use Once They are Ready for Them

Many organizations new to Office 365 may not be aware of the depth of collaboration features included in the platform. But Microsoft has certainly equipped this cloud, SaaS platform with capabilities beyond the traditional enterprise document and/or content management capabilities of SharePoint. Jared Spataro, General Manager of Microsoft’s Office Division attempted to set expectations about Office 365 as a strong foundation for collaboration during the Keynote for SharePoint Conference 2014, when he recommended his audience learn to “work like a network”.

On August 7, 2014, CMS Wire published an article by Tom Petrocelli on a related topic. The Barriers to Working like a Network in Office 365 presents a few of the features built into Office 365 to support collaboration efforts within an organization. Petrocelli’s intent, however, is not simply to present these features. Rather, he explains how these features overlap, which poses a challenge to users who may not be very familiar with them, in the first place, but are forced by the sheer number of them, to choose a “best method” of accomplishing specific tasks in the Office 365 computing environment.

If readers are intimidated when asked to choose whether to share a document via the Word web app, or to attach it to a status update via a Yammer newsfeed, they may want to attend an online class SharePoint-Videos will offer on August 21, 2014. SharePoint Social and Yammer – Online Class will provide SharePoint 2010, 2013, and SharePoint Online, Office 365 users with some of the background information they will require to make some of the decisions Petrocelli points out as required for at least the user segment committed to Office 365 (in the opinion of this writer, users of any of the on premises platforms will want to address these decisions as well, although any decision to use Yammer should be accompanied with a decision to subscribe to SharePoint Online, Office 365. After all, Yammer is only available online).

In fact, “SharePoint Social or Yammer, Which One Should I Choose?” is one of the topics on the course syllabus. The course will be led by Naomi Moneypenny, who is the CTO of Synxi, a Microsoft “mission critical” partner with a solution for the enterprise search market.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

Microsoft Debuts Server to Server Integration for Dynamics CRM and SharePoint Online Office 365

On August 4, 2014, Scott Durow, a Microsoft Dynamics MVP posted the first of 2 articles on integrating Dynamics CRM (as Durow notes, CRM2013 SP1 Online is required for the integration method to work) with SharePoint Online. This article is titled SharePoint Integration Reloaded – Part 1 and is published on the Develop 1 Limited blog site. The intended audience for both of these articles are Dynamics CRM and SharePoint Developers who are comfortable writing applications.

On August 9, 2014, the second of these articles, which is titled SharePoint Integration Reloaded – Part 2 was posted to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Community blog.

From the volume of material available on topics related to integrating these two applications, it is clear there is a large amount of consumer appetite for a truly integrated solution for these two packages. Back in 2011 and 2012 a lot of material was published on the topic of integrating SharePoint 2010 with Dynamics CRM.

So, with the integrated solution Durow comments upon in his two article, has Microsoft finally provided users with a completely seamless application incorporating the high demand features of both SharePoint Online and Dynamics CRM? Not if users are running one, or both Dynamics CRM and/or SharePoint on premises. Durow explains this ” . . . server to server integration online works with CRM Online/SharePoint Online combinations that are in the same tenant due to the nature of the server to server authentication . . .” (quoted from the first of Durow’s articles, which is published on the Develop 1 Limited Blog).

Even public cloud subscribers to SharePoint Online, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM will be limited to simply connecting documents (and, one would presume, document libraries) to entries in Dynamics CRM. There is no mention in either of the articles of how to connect these two applications from SharePoint Online.

The advantages of using the method Durow describes (which appears to conform to the methods described in Integrating SharePoint with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, despite mention in the MSDN article of SharePoint 2013 on premises) amount to seamless authentication, and more control over how content is branded (to conform to CRM 2013 SP1 Online, or to SharePoint Online) when it is displayed for a specific Dynamics CRM record.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

Structure SharePoint Capabilities to Provide Users with a Platform they can Adopt

SharePoint, one can argue, falls into the category of a feature-rich office automation computing platform. Perhaps feature-rich is an understatement when one considers the panoramic range of functionality SharePoint is capable of supporting. But this expansive range of capabilities can, and often does run counter to stakeholder efforts to hasten user adoption, and with good reason. The following example should provide some of the rationale behind this conclusion:

We recently had a series of conversations with one of our customers, a non profit organization with a group annual subscription to all of the content on SharePoint-Videos. Our customer expressed an interest in limiting the exposure of training content on “higher level” SharePoint functionality (SharePoint Designer, SharePoint Administration, even Workflows) to personnel using the group subscription. Their help desk had experienced a higher level of support requests from SharePoint users looking to learn more about how to use these tools to accomplish work in SharePoint. But these users are not authorized to undertake the work, and, therefore, both the user’s time, and the comparatively scant time of the support team expended in a discussion about these procedures amounted to a complete loss.

Our customer had, in fact, successfully implemented a highly structured iteration of SharePoint, but the very rich set of training content we offer, exclusively on SharePoint, on SharePoint-Videos opened up too much opportunity for end users to explore the boundaries of the structure, and beyond.

We ended up recommending our customer acquire a set of training content for local exposure on premises, namely our VisualSP Help System, which includes content appropriate for our client’s community of SharePoint users, and an in-context method of exposing it to users within their SharePoint computing environment.

Two of the broad benefits of this solution are worth a comment: 1) By implementing training content locally, an opportunity exists to provide users not only with simply the training content they need to be successful with tasks at hand, but also in-context, meaning within the SharePoint work space and 2) the demands on user support will migrate up to the type of “break/fix” call, and away from the “how to” call, which produced the time drain, and higher support costs in the first place.

Our customer did express an interest in retaining their Group Subscription, which offers precisely the rich set of training content their SharePoint Administrators, developers, designers and architects require.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

A Method of Measuring Performance of an Adoption Plan is also an Essential Component of the Plan Itself

For readers generally unfamiliar with IT project planning, it may seem curious to learn the role played by a method of measuring performance of the plan, itself. Performance measurement is actually a core component of the plan itself. Cyrielle Simeone, a Product Manager at Microsoft and Dux Raymond Sy include “Measure and Grow” as the last of four pillars of a plan to build, support, and sustain user adoption of computing on a SharePoint Online, Office 365 computing platform.

This plan architecture is included in a webcast titled Beyond Deployment: How IT Can Inspire, Motivate, and Drive Sustainable Adoption. The other three pillars of this adoption plan are titled:

  1. Listen & Plan
  2. Envision & Design
  3. Drive & Engage

The slogan or tagline for pillar 4, “Measure and Grow”, sums up the rationale for including these procedures as core components of the plan itself: “A benchmark, KPIs and success stories to help demonstrate success internally, improve and expand” (quoted from one of the slides accompanying the above mentioned audio webcast recorded at TechEd North America, 2014). So, it may be safe to say an adoption plan without a method of measuring actual plan performance against intended objectives is, in fact, not a plan at all.

This fourth plan pillar is of particular importance to our own VisualSP Help System. The Enterprise Edition of this product (which is currently only available for SharePoint 2010 or 2013, on premises) empowers users to collect statistics on how our Help System is being consumed by SharePoint users. So we fully subscribe to the same notion of how an optimized implementation plan for our product should take shape.

If plan performance has not been measured, how else might stakeholders demonstrate success, or failure, or something in between? In fact there is no way to demonstrate plan performance without measurement. We think our readers should look at any other method purporting to deliver the same benefit as unrealistic and with limited, if any value. What makes sense for the Office 365 Adoption Plan presented in the TechEd North America, 2014 webcast, makes sense for our product, as well. The good news is VisualSP is, we think, a high value feature of any Office 365, or SharePoint on premises adoption plan, as well.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

Setting Reasonable Expectations on What will be Required to Successfully Drive User Adoption of Office 365

IT organizations with a commitment to Office 365, and an expectation of a successful campaign to drive users to adopt the computing platform, will need to plan on a gradual process. Further, they will need to orient themselves around an expectation of making more of an effort than just training users to successfully complete technical tasks.

These points surface, loud and clear, in a webcast recording of a presentation titled Beyond Deployment: How IT Can Inspire, Motivate, and Drive Sustainable Adoption, which was recorded at the TechEd North America Conference, 2014. Dux Raymond Sy, a SharePoint MVP and Cyrielle Simeone, a Product Manager at Microsoft led the presentation. The webcast is a little over an hour in length. The content can be looked at as a set of best practices enterprise IT organizations should consider including in their efforts to persuade users to adopt Office 365 computing. One of the first slides included in the slide deck for the webcast clearly states the urgency of addressing the adoption challenge: “Your success is measured by long term user adoption”.

In light of this webcast and the effort its presenters make to differentiate what may be called a conventional approach to providing users with the technical training they need to be successful with Office 365 — Dux mentions a 3 day Power User course — with a truly useful method of accomplishing the same goal (meaning one which delivers over the long term) a substantial gap exists and many enterprise IT organizations struggle with it.

We think our collection of video tutorials at SharePoint-Videos, and our VisualSP help system should be considered as components of a plan to drive adoption with a high likelihood of success over the long term. Our solution combines a method of providing SharePoint Online users with access to training content directly within the SharePoint Online work space (meaning “in-context”), along with video recordings of short (repeatable), right-to-the-point, technical training delivered by an acknowledged subject matter expert.

In fact, the unique branding of our technical training content, which is comprised of a direct presentation of computer procedures with neither any reference to conceptual abstractions, nor any potential threat of distracting users via the presentation of the personality of a trainer, should be seen, we hope, as clearly the kind of features required of a new type of technical training content, one designed to be useful over the long term. The objective of including this type of content in an adoption campaign, of course, would be to ensure its success.

We will continue to explore this webcast over the next post or two to this blog.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

Microsoft Begins to Expand the Features of Enterprise Search for SharePoint Online, and for Office 365

Organizations with a SharePoint Online, Office 365 subscription may have noticed a new, amber colored query symbol on the top left of the pages served with results from a SharePoint search. This writer found this icon when he ran a search with the SharePoint Online query box. When he clicked on this new query symbol he landed on a Google-like blank page with a centered search box, in Office 365.

Is Microsoft starting to role out some of the new features Satya Nadella referred to, when he mentioned Microsoft would soon “stand Enterprise Search on its head”? (to be precise, Satya mentioned this in the context of presenting Delve during Microsoft’s most recent quarterly earnings report)

From the looks of this new search feature, a safe answer would be a qualified “yes”. A search for the keyword “SharePoint” produced a vertical list of qualifiers on the left hand side of the results page. “Results type” amounted to a list of possible file types — including Blog, Excel, Image, OneNote, PDF, PowerPoint, Task, Team Site, Web Page, Word, Zip. In other words, an amalgam of SharePoint Online components (Tasks, and Team Site) and document types (Excel for spreadsheets, OneNote for notebooks, Powerpoint for slide decks, Word) as separate qualifiers.

One might ask, why not include the document types as assets stored in SharePoint libraries and lists? Since the results are presented in Office 365, perhaps the rationale is to treat Office Pro Plus as an entirely separate data “realm”.

At the top of the left hand vertical list of search qualifiers, in a larger font and a different type color one finds a hot link titled “Search on Yammer.” This writer clicked on the link, but was brought to the Yammer home page, where he would need to authenticate and, presumably, run the same search, once again, albeit this time across the set of relational artifacts to be found there. This last step should be (and most likely will be) enhanced as this feature gains form and momentum.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved