Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting SharePoint MVP Bob Mixon and the San Francisco SharePoint User Group at our headquarters in San Francisco. Bob is a SharePoint information architect with 15+ years of experience solving business needs and guiding enterprises through successful SharePoint implementations.
During his visit, he was kind enough to speak with us about his experiences with SharePoint, his longstanding use of Mindjet, and the future of the industry.
How did you get started with SharePoint?
I am a former, 5-year, SharePoint MVP. In early 2002, I had a customer ask if I have ever heard of SharePoint. I had heard of Team Services but had no experience with it. I showed an interest so my customer asked me to implement it for them. I have never looked back!
SharePoint has over 125 million users, what makes it so successful?
Now in its 4th major generation, Microsoft SharePoint is a viable content management platform that works! In fact, it works fantastically. Microsoft has a very large marketing engine and they are smart with how they have made it available to virtually everyone. All you have to do today is install Windows Server, or one of many other server-based products, and you have SharePoint.
What’s the biggest tip that you give your customers to leverage SharePoint in their environments?
The keys to SharePoint success are deliberate planning, design, architecture, and governance. The technology platform works; as I said, it has matured to a point where it is solid and provides a wide variety of functionality. Where I see most organizations struggle is in the lack of planning, design, architecture and governance. Without these, most implementations will fail.
In your experience what are the biggest challenges for end users?
Lack of best practices and education. Moving a non-technical culture from file shares and collaboration via e-mail to a content and document management system is a huge shift and requires change. These business users have done things the same way for so long, this change is difficult and time consuming.
I think the administration of SharePoint itself is quite simple and straight-forward today. The biggest problems I see, from this perspective, is consistent governance and change management procedures. Implementing SharePoint and driving it from the bottom-up is typically where these problems start. Enterprise-class, business critical solutions, such as SharePoint must be aligned with the entire organization, driven from the top-down!
What’s the process that you use to overcome these obstacles?
Thoroughly understanding the intended purpose and the “real” business need. We are solving business problems, not technical problems. We have to engage and understand the business and its unique challenges, which is time consuming and expensive, but it’s absolutely essential to a successful SharePoint implementation.
There’s a lot of talk about cloud-based collaboration solutions today. How can they complement SharePoint?
I think cloud-based offerings are going to do nothing but grow. SharePoint is a development platform, so it has the ability to integrate with virtually any tool. Many of the big social platforms are already designed to integrate easily with SharePoint. With cloud-based collaboration solutions get more popular and cost effective, I expect to see this trend continue.
You’re a big Mindjet user, how do you use Mindjet in your consulting practice?
I use it every day, from working with customers; building business models, project scope, approach and task management to complete SharePoint logical and physical implementation design models. For example, I’ll go into a human resources or marketing department, and using Mindjet’s tools, we’ll document roles, responsibilities, requirements, approach, tasks and logical design model for a knowledge management solution. Once we’ve gathered all that information, I use Mindjet to design physical site, data and metadata taxonomy models. I have complete SharePoint design models that are extremely sophisticated. Complete Intranet, DMS and KMS designs all in MindManager. It’s a fantastic tool for documentation, design and modeling.
What’s the future of SharePoint?
Nothing but growth. Every desktop and server-based tool that’s coming out of Microsoft has a SharePoint element and point of integration. Microsoft is betting their entire future on these technologies, and they aren’t the only ones. Virtually every vendor in the world wants to integrate their products with SharePoint because the technology, I believe, is going to become the de facto standard content management and collaboration platform.