Notes from the New Zealand SharePoint Community Conference

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Ah, lots of beers, staying out ‘til 3am, taking an aspirin at 7am, breaking my 3 week coffee embargo…

Oh yeah – and there is this SharePoint conference on as well! 😉


In case you have been living under a rock, a bunch of us have been at the New Zealand SharePoint Community Conference for the last two days. This has been a fantastic experience for me for several reasons:

  1. I come from Perth, an isolated city of around 1.8 million people. New Zealand cities are a bit smaller than this, but nevertheless, the sort of scale of what is “enterprise” versus small to medium is much closer here to my reality. When I talk to people, I have a real affinity for the challenges they face and the resources that they have available.
  2. Many of the speakers were locals, from local organisations that have put SharePoint in. They had the opportunity to present via the “voice of the customer” session track. This was terrific and important because this was SharePoint reality TV. While I pontificate about concepts like “Wicked problems”, you get to see detailed case studies on the challenges faced by organisations, successes, missteps and lessons learned. I absolutely love these sessions, because it’s wonderful to see the various methods used to drive buy-in and success and how varied they were. As I said in my recent governance post, provided you drive buy-in and help your organisation get from a present state to a desirable future state, you are “governing”.
  3. Being Australian, my laptop plugs into the power outlets with no adapters
  4. My travel time was much less than Joel (A leisurely 11 hour transit versus 25+).

This event has been brilliantly organised and Chan, Mark and Debbie have put in a monumental effort and my heartfelt congratulations to them for its success. The turnout has been terrific as well. The mix of attendees was nice and varied too. Many, many business oriented people and many more who were technically inclined.

My talk was on the concept of wicked problems, why SharePoint falls victim and the approaches that have worked for me to manage them. Feedback was great, hugely appreciated, and it was immensely gratifying to find people saying things like “You know, I had always felt this way and could never put my finger on it until your session”. That was exactly my intent and I’m glad that some attendees liked it.

It was brilliant to find like minded people who had travelled a similar path too. Erica Toelle – remember her name. Her bright future in the SharePoint community is assured. Lulu Pachuau – reads the same sort of books as me and had a really engaging conversation at the speakers dinner. She was a revelation in her presentation and I hope that her angle on design methods and information architecture gains traction around the world. We need more like her.

Joel was in excellent form with his keynote, and gets better and better. Brilliant slide deck, wonderful metaphors and expertly presented (and my project manager baby made an appearance! Wohoo!)

I participated in an experts panel and dodged some smelly sea urchin juice that Joel spilled when they made him eat one. (Two seconds later and he would have dripped it all over me – ewwww). But the reality of the expert panel is that I’d rather have the people who presented the case-studies up there and me sit in the audience. As I said before, I sat in on almost all of the “voice of the customer” sessions. I love to listen to the real life, down in the trenches, grass-roots implementation strategies and I learnt a tremendous amount from them and find so many areas that I can do much better on. I was super impressed by Pete Sayers at the South Taranaki District Council tackle the minefield of collaboration and records management, and the standout was the “Key success factors for implementing MOSS2007 as an ECM – Telecom’s solution” by Helen Rayner, Ruth Miles and Nadine Burnett.

The conference highlight for me was Erica’s session. “SharePoint User Adoption: Fostering Shared Understanding throughout your Company”. Comprehensive, yet simple. Full of practical steps and templates to use and above all, thought provoking, practical and very wise. Erica has identified a big gap in the SharePoint realm of competencies and has some great answers to fill it.

On a more cultural note, the Te Papa Museum was great fun, and Wellington is a great city with a wonderful vibe about it. Tomorrow its a full-day “Lord of the Rings” tour and then I am homeward bound.

Overall this was a brilliant event, and I look forward to coming back – potentially to some user group sessions if can be pulled off!

Thanks for reading


Paul Culmsee

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