What’s a SharePoint Saturday like?

It’s 6am in London on a Saturday morning, completely dark, no sign of dawn, the only sound I hear is an owl hooting. I’m off to SharePoint Saturday UK, set in the historic town of Nottingham (famous for persecuting Robin Hood, the outlaw noble who stole from the rich to give to the poor).

Robin Hood and friends at SharePoint Saturday UK

SharePoint Saturdays are community events, free to attend, paid for by low-key sponsors.

What is a SharePoint Saturday like?

Well there were 300 attendees, mostly SharePoint users and administrators, but with a few SharePoint grandees like Mark Miller and Todd Klindt. And someone who looks awfully like Robin Hood with Maid Marian and Friar Tuck in tow was there giving his approval to the event <g>.

East Midlands Conference Centre

I arrived at the venue, a high quality University conference centre in Nottingham, just at the end of Todd Klindt’s keynote.

How does a SharePoint Saturday compare to a formal conference? In a way, it’s similar, lots of high quality speakers, but the atmosphere is different, less focused and less commercial. It was relaxed: no-one had to be there, the sponsors/exhibitors were informal, people were giving of their time and knowledge from goodwill. And it was a day off for everyone – so no conference calls to go to or emails to answer. A day to learn, but also to have fun. Hearty thanks to the team who organized it.

Here are some of the sessions I attended:

How we did it: Collaboration at a European Central Bank
A great story to start the day was how Symon Garfield (Twitter: @symon_garfield) of ICS helped a large Central Bank implement SharePoint for collaboration. They had 6 siloed divisions and installed SharePoint to allow teams across the divisions to collaborate. For instance one division had 75,000 spreadsheets previously only accessible from a file store. He gave useful advice on how to cross the adoption chasm, for instance make a sandpit area people can play in. For the first 6 months, adoption was a bit disappointing, but after people saw their peers being successful, adoption shot up after 9 months and it’s now hugely successful. The system also helps social learning.

SharePoint Application Showcase from the Salvation Army
From one of the richest organizations to one of the more needy, Chirag Patel (Twitter: @techchirag) talked about the SharePoint applications he’s helped the Salvation Army make. He tries to limits himself to 3 days work to get a site or application up and running, but has made some great-looking and valuable systems. One of those he showed was using SharePoint for course management within the Salvation Army – for sharing course documents, reducing emails and for managing submitted assignments using workflow. This application looks useful for others to know about, and I hope to describe it more in a follow-up piece.

To Host or Not to Host – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Decisions
Mark Miller (Twitter: @eusp) is the man behind the website www.nothingbutsharepoint.com where a few of this site’s interviews have been syndicated. He now works as Senior Storyteller (!) at fpweb.net, the SharePoint hosting providers and having just flown in from Hong Kong this morning gave an entertaining talk on SharePoint hosting options – the good, the bad and the ugly.

He made the point that nothing is ideal in all respects, but that On Premise deployment of SharePoint is very expensive in infrastructure and time. Moving SharePoint to the Cloud saves a lot of money. And ran through the advantages and disadvantages he saw of the various Cloud methods

  • Office 365 – good for up to 150-200 people, then he suggests expensive (see here for my review of SharePoint Online in Office 365)
  • Using generic cloud providers – good value and reliable for the infrastructure, but not expert in supporting SharePoint.
  • Specialist providers like fpweb.net – manage SharePoint well and a good choice for many, he suggests.

Mark Miller's presentation

Alan Richards on using SharePoint 2010 for efficiency in a school
A typical school uses 1.5 million sheets of paper a year, and Alan (Twitter: @arichards_Saruk) runs ICT for a consortium of schools in Essex and gave a great live demo of using SharePoint to make things more efficient using no-code solutions like forms and workflow.

The coolest thing he demonstrated was that all homework at his school is now managed via SharePoint. Students don’t have a homework diary, it’s all online. Students and parents can login and see what homework the student has got – all with standard SharePoint and workflow, no code. This is the most popular application he’s ever deployed, everyone likes it – students, parents and teachers. (I wish my kids schools had this!)

Alan has promised me an interview for this blog, so watch this space for more.

I also attended a good session by Matt Hughes (Twitter @mattmoo2) on branding SharePoint and met many people including actually meeting face to face Dave Coleman (Twitter: @davecoleman146) who I’ve interviewed for this blog but not met in person before – seems a real gentleman. And sorry to all I did not mention.

If you get a chance to go to a SharePoint Saturday, go! I learned a lot, met some great people and thoroughly enjoyed it.

And what would the real Robin Hood have thought? Perhaps in the knowledge age, we don’t need to steal from the rich; the rich can share information with the poor and we can all get richer?

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