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NZ SharePoint Community Conference - a recap

Somehow it’s nearly a month since over three hundred people from around the world gathered in Wellington for the first New Zealand SharePoint Community Conference. Organised by a small committee including myself, Chandima Kulathilake and Debbie Ireland (two fellow Microsoft SharePoint MVPs), I’m proud to say the event was a huge success largely thanks to the support of the community – through both their presenting and their attendance. We had attendees from New Zealand and Australia, and presenters paid their own way to the conference from as far abroad as the UK and Seattle.

What made the event so successful is something it shared with the SharePoint platform: Diversity. More traditional IT conferences, particularly for SharePoint, are focused on the technical side of the story, and are therefore more suitable for developers and network engineers. But SharePoint is different: it’s used by a diverse range of people for a diverse range of solutions and this was a key focus for the committee when putting together the conference.

To represent this diversity of people the presentations were grouped into three tracks; Business, Technical and Voice of the Customer. This range of tracks provided a ‘something for everyone’ model that from attendees feedback worked very well. The mix of theory, how to and real world case studies from both New Zealand and Australia gave people a chance to get ideas about what they could do and some insight into how they might do it.

The overriding theme of the conference – that was entirely unplanned but come through quite clearly – was that SharePoint needs to be approached in a controlled and disciplined manner. The colourful analogy used by Joel Oleson in the opening keynote was that of a mother (IT Department), a baby (business) and paints (SharePoint). The essential message was that organisations using SharePoint need to walk before running and put some control and support around their SharePoint platform from day one. For more on the keynote read Stephen Bell’s article in Computerworld.

I was able to attend a few sessions, other than those I presented, and I have to say the session by Paul Culmsee from Perth was a standout for me. Titled “Wicked Problems and SharePoint – Rethinking the Approach,” the session introduced a whole new way of facilitating and documenting the engagement and design process around a product such as SharePoint. It introduced a new concept to me around “Wicked Problems” which are a particular class of problem characteristic of SharePoint. I can’t go into any detail but if you’re interested I have to plug his blog at www.cleverworkarounds.com.

For me, it was very interesting being a conference organiser, host, speaker, attendee, and have Intergen be a Gold Sponsor. I now know how much work goes into these types of events and how critical the support of sponsors and speakers is to make them a success. The exciting thing is Debbie, Chan and I have not been scared off by the experience and we’ve already discussed early ideas for next year’s community SharePoint conference which will be even bigger with the upcoming release of SharePoint 2010.

Finally, my closing note has to again thank the international speakers that gifted so much to our New Zealand SharePoint community to attend and present their valuable knowledge. I hope we were good hosts and can convince you to return next year!

Posted by: Mark Orange, Practice Principal for Portals, Content & Collaboration | 29 July 2009

Tags: NZ Community SharePoint Conference

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