A different kind of SharePoint Governance Master Class in London and Dublin

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The background

Over the last three years, my career trajectory had altered somewhat where I spent half my time as a SharePoint practitioner, doing all of the things that us SharePoint practitioners do, and the other half was spent in a role that I would call sensemaking. Essentially group facilitation work, on some highly complex, non IT problems. These ranged from areas such as city planning, (envisioning and community engagement) to infrastructure delivery (think freeways, schools and hospitals), to mental health, team and relationship building, performance management, board meetings and various other scenarios.

Imagine how much of a different world this is, where a group is coming together from often very different backgrounds and base positions, to come to grips with a complex set of interlocking problems and somehow try and align enough to move forward. We cannot simply throw a “SharePoint” at these problems and think it will all be better. By their very nature, we have to collaborate on them to move forward – true collaboration in all its messy, sometimes frustrating glory.

As a result of this experience, I’ve also learned many highly effective collaborative techniques and approaches that I have never seen used in my 20+ years of being an IT practitioner. Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to work with (and still do), some highly skilled people who I learned a huge amount from. This is “standing on the shoulders of giants” stuff. As you can imagine, this new learning has had a significant effect on how Seven Sigma now diagnoses and approaches SharePoint projects and has altered the lens through which I view problem solving with SharePoint.

It also provided me the means to pinpoint a giant blind spot in the SharePoint governance material that’s out there, and what to do about it.

The first catalyst – back injury

In January this year, my family and I went on a short holiday, down to the wine country of Western Australia called the Margaret River region. On the very first day of that trip, I was at the beach, watching my kids run amok, when I totally put my back out (*sigh* such an old man). Needless to say, I could barely move for the next week or two after. My family, ever concerned for my welfare, promptly left me behind at the chalet and took off each day to sample wines, food and generally do the things that tourists do.

Left to my own devices, and not overly mobile I had little to do but ponder – and ponder I did (even more than my usual pondering – so this was an Olympic class ponder). Reflecting on all of my learning and experiences from sensemaking work, my use of it within SharePoint projects, as well as the subsequent voracious reading in a variety of topics, I came to realise that SharePoint governance is looked through a lens that clouds some of the most critical success factors. I knew exactly how to lift that fog, and had a vision for a holistic view of SharePoint governance that at the same time, simplifies it and makes it easy for people to collectively understand.

So I set to work, distilling all of this learning and experience and put it into something coherent, rigorous and accessible. After all, SharePoint is a tool that is an enabler for “improved collaboration”, and I had spent half of my time on deeply collaborative non IT scenarios where to my knowledge, no other SharePoint practitioner has done so. Since sensemaking lies in all that ‘softer’ stuff that traditionally IT is a bit weaker on, I thought I could add some dimensions to SharePoint governance in a way that could be made accessible, practical and useful.

By the end of that week I still had a sore back, but I had the core of what I wanted to do worked out, and I knew that it would be a rather large undertaking to finish it (if it ever could be finished).

The second catalyst – Beyond Best Practices

I also commenced writing a non SharePoint book on this topic area with Kailash Awati from the Eight to Late blog, called Beyond Best Practices. This book examines why most best practices don’t work and what can be done about them. The plethora of tools, systems and best practices that are generally used to tackle organisational problems rarely help and when people apply these methods, they often end up solving the wrong problem. After all, if best practices were best, then we would all follow them and projects would be delivered on time, on budget and with deliriously happy stakeholders right?

The work and research that has gone into this book has been significant. We studied the work of many people who have recognised and written about this, as well as many case studies. The problem these authors had is that these works challenged many widely accepted views, patterns and practices of various managerial disciplines. As a result these ideas have been rejected, ignored or considered outright heretical, and thus languish (largely unread) in journals. The recent emergence of anything x2.0 and a renewed focus on collaboration might seem radical or new for some, but these early authors were espousing very similar things many years ago.

The third catalyst – 3grow

Some time later in the year, 3grow asked me to develop a 4 day SharePoint 2010 Governance and Information Architecture course for Microsoft NZ’s Elite program. I agreed and used my “core” material, as well as some Beyond Best Practice ideas to develop the course. Information Architecture is a bloody tough course to write. It would be easy to cheat and just do a feature dump of every building block that SharePoint has to offer and call that Information Architecture. But that’s the science and not the art – and the science is easy to write about. From my experience, IA is not that much different to the sensemaking work that I do, so I had a very different foundation to base the entire course from.

The IA course took 450 man hours to write and produced an 800 page manual (and just about killed me in the process), but the feedback from attendees surpassed all expectations.  This motivated me to complete the vision I originally had for a better approach to SharePoint governance and this has now been completed as well (with another 200 pages and a CD full of samples and other goodies).

The result

I have distilled all of this work into a master class format, which ranges from 1 to 5 days, suited to Business Analysts, Project and Program Managers, Enterprise and Information Architects, IT Managers and those in strategic roles who have to bridge the gap between organisational aspirations and the effective delivery of SharePoint solutions. I speak the way I write, so if the cleverworkarounds writing style works for you, then you will probably enjoy the manner in which the material is presented. I like rigour, but I also like to keep people awake! 🙂

One of my pet hates is when the course manual is just a printout of the slide deck with space for notes. In this master class, the manual is a book in itself and covers additional topic areas in a deeper level of detail from the class. So you will have some nice bedtime reading after attending.

Andrew Woodward has been a long time collaborator on this work, before we formalised this collaboration with the SamePage Alliance, we had discussed running a master class session in the UK on this material. At the same time, thanks to Michael Sampson, an opportunity arose to conduct a workshop in Ireland. As a result, you have an opportunity to be a part of these events.

Dublin

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The first event is terrific as it is a free event in Dublin on November 17, hosted by Storm Technology a Microsoft Gold Partner in Dublin. As a result of the event being free, it is by invitation only and numbers are limited. This is a one day event, focussing on the SharePoint Governance blind spots and what to do about them, but also wicked problems and Dialogue Mapping, as well as learning to look at SharePoint from outside the IT lens, and translate its benefits to a wider audience (ie “Learn to speak to your CFO”).

So if you are interested in learning how to view SharePoint governance in a new light, and are tired of the governance material that rehashes the same tired old approaches that give you a mountain of work to do that still doesn’t change results, then register your interest with Rosemary at the email address in the image above ASAP and she can reserve a spot for you. We will supply a 200 page manual, as well as a CD of sample material for attendees, including a detailed governance plan.

London

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In London on November 22 and 23, I will be running a two day master class along side Andrew Woodward on SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture. The first day is similar to the Ireland event, where we focus on governance holistically, shattering a few misconceptions and seeing things in a different light, before switching focus to various facets of Information Architecture for SharePoint. In essence, I have taken the detail of the 4 days of the New Zealand Elite course and created a single day version (no mean feat by the way).

Participants on this course will receive a 400 page manual, chock full of SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture goodness, as well as a CD/USB of sample material such as a SharePoint governance plan, as well as IA maps of various types. Unlike Ireland, this is an open event, available to anyone, and you can find more detail and register at the eventbrite site http://spiamasterclass.eventbrite.com/. In case you are wondering, this event is non technical. Whether you have little hands on experience with SharePoint or a deep knowledge, you will find a lot of value in this event for the very reason that the blind spots I focus on are kind of universally applicable irrespective of your role.

Much of what you will learn is applicable for many projects, beyond SharePoint and you will come away with a slew of new approaches to handle complex projects in general.

So if you are in the UK or somewhere in Europe, look us up. It will be a unique event, and Andrew and I are very much looking forward to seeing you there!

Thanks for reading

Paul Culmsee

www.sevensigma.com.au

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SharePoint ROI Slide Deck and Sample Scenario worksheet published

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Hot off the press (okay – well SlideShare magic),  I’ve just posted by Best Practices Conference slide deck for the "speak to your CFO" session, along with the ROI spreadsheet for the PMIS scenario that I used during the demonstration. Like the "wicked problems" slide deck, slideshare conversion isn’t quite there, so just contact me if you want a pptx version.

…and the spreadsheet. Just remember you scary MBA and finance types. I *know* this is a simple sheet and you can pick all sorts of holes in it. It is really for training and guidance purposes only. (Therefore see the obligatory "don’t come crying to me if this gets you into trouble" disclaimer below).

THIS CODE IS PROVIDED UNDER THIS LICENSE ON AN “AS IS” BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, WARRANTIES THAT THE COVERED CODE IS FREE OF DEFECTS, MERCHANTABLE, FIT FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR NON-INFRINGING. THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE COVERED CODE IS WITH YOU. SHOULD ANY COVERED CODE PROVE DEFECTIVE IN ANY RESPECT, YOU (NOT THE INITIAL DEVELOPER OR ANY OTHER CONTRIBUTOR) ASSUME THE COST OF ANY NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION. THIS DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY CONSTITUTES AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THIS LICENSE. NO USE OF ANY COVERED CODE IS AUTHORIZED HEREUNDER EXCEPT UNDER THIS DISCLAIMER

Use at your own risk!

 

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More on the Best Practice SharePoint Conference – Feb 2-4 2009 in San Diego!

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Hi all

I have been extremely quiet on the blogging front lately, because I have been extremely busy, splitting my time between working on my two presentations for the up-coming Best Practices SharePoint Conference, as well as wearing my undies on the outside (ala superman), deep in the bowels of some unhealthy SharePoint farms, nailing various technical and governance issues and helping organisations regain some lost assurance. On top of that, I’ve also been doing a lot of non IT related work in a group facilitation discipline.

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I thought it’s about time I emerged from this big mushroom I find myself under to let you know more about what I will be speaking about, as well as some of the other speakers and topics that I really looking forward to. Seriously, we are in the company of giants with this conference. The caliber and quality of the speakers has me wondering what the hell I am doing there!

I mean we have all the "A list" big kids of the SharePoint world there. Gary Lapointe is a freakin’ bona fide superstar! – via his STSADM extensions, he has saved the asses of more SharePoint admins and developers than even Joel has. Robert Bogue is an even better all-rounder than Andrew Symonds (sorry non cricketing countries you won’t get that analogy) and touches on a wider variety of topics than anyone else I have ever come across. Then there the likes of Andrew Woodward, Ben Curry, Bob Mixon, Eric Shupps, fellow metalhead Mike Watson, Ruven Gotz and Todd Bleeker just to name a few!

Somehow I have to squeeze in a beer with all of them yet stay sober enough to present. That’s a tough ask!

Anyway, both of my sessions are in the CIO stream and I think are rather topical given the current financial crisis crap that is happening around the world.

My first session is called "How to avoid SharePoint becoming a wicked problem". This is a pet topic of mine – something that I have spent a lot of time on, and developing new skills in (hence the aforementioned facilitation work). For the record, I didn’t make up the term "wicked problem" – its been a subject of academic research since the term was first coined in the early 1970’s. This session is going to cover a lot of what I have learned on this topic including how to spot SharePoint wickedness early, recognise it for what it is, and apply the *right* sort of tools and techniques to mitigate it.

I do worry that people will find some of my stuff a little too left field, but I do have the results to attest to the value and power of these techniques and I am really looking forward to sharing my methods and comparing with what has worked for other presenters and attendees.

The second topic is on the topic of good old SharePoint Return on Investment (ROI). I’m one of these people that believe most things can be measured or quantified. I’ve always wanted to return to my series on "How to Speak to your CFO" and continue down that road. Given we have entered once in a lifetime era of falling profit, plummeting asset prices, reduced budgets, costlier finance and great uncertainty, my quest for bringing a lasting peace to the cold war between managers and geeks moves to San Diego 🙂

My aim for this session is to allow non SharePoint people to understand where some of the hidden costs are SharePoint, as well as show SharePoint people the basic financial tools for ROI modelling and secondly, I will explain how to build an ROI decision model and provide a scenario that we will try out some different assumptions with.

As for the rest of the veritable *buffet* of topics – where do you start? First up, I am torn between Bill’s "Aligning your Information and Findability Architectures using SharePoint Server 2007 Technologies" and Yoda Bogue’s "Selling Governance in your Organization". If I go to Bill’s session, then I’ll definitely be attending Robert’s Governing Development in SharePoint session.

In the afternoon, it gets even harder! You have "Transform the My Site into an Information Hub" by Mark Eichenberger, Bob Mixon’s "Learn why Taxonomies are the Most Important Part of any Document or Information Asset Management System, How to Facilitate the Government out of Governance by Virgin Carrol and Nuts and Bolts Governance- Practical Application of the Concepts

.. and that’s just day one!

Seriously people, no matter that sort of SharePoint sub disciplines push your buttons, you are going to get extreme value for money here. You will come away with an amazing amount of material that will result in real and tangible cost savings across various areas of the SharePoint realm.

If you live in California or anywhere in the US – there is no excuse 🙂 If *I* have to spend 25+ hours cooped up in  plane just to get there and survive the jet-lag to present, then you should come on down and join the fun.

Hope to see you there!

Paul Culmsee

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Learn to talk to your CFO: Web Application Scenario – Part 5

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Welcome to the fifth article in my series on fostering mutual love and respect between those know-it-all smartarse technical geeks and the guys who do their taxes!  This is the final SharePoint scenario that I will cover in this series, but there will be some more articles coming later, as we further look at the financial side of things.

To recap, the first article introduced the financial concept of discount cash flow, net present value and internal rate of return. Next, we discussed how I came up with the three scenarios and the assumptions and methodology behind valuing the scenarios, which placed a specific emphasis on costing the holistic view of governance. The last two articles, here and here, covered the first two scenarios, where we showed the circumstances where the project had a good outcome, and a not so good outcome.

So, for the last time around, we are going to take on a difficult SharePoint scenario. This is the scenario where SharePoint is used as the platform to build a custom web application.

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Learn to talk to your CFO: WCM scenario – Part 4

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Welcome to the fourth article in my series that attempts to bridge the cultural divide between nerds and accountants. Unfortunately there are more differences to these two strange species than just fashion sense and whether a pocket calculator is in their possession. But despite being poles apart about what pushes their buttons, at the end of the day they are both trying to achieve a positive result.

The first article introduced the financial concept of discount cash flow, net present value and internal rate of return. Next, we discussed how I came up with the three scenarios and the assumptions and methodology behind valuing the scenarios, which placed a specific emphasis on costing the holistic view of governance. .

The previous article to this one was the first of these three identified scenarios, internal corporate collaboration. This time, we are going to take on a popular SharePoint scenario centered around web content management (WCM).

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Learn to talk to your CFO : Collaboration scenario – Part 3

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Hi. This is the third article in a series that attempts to explain some financial analysis techniques to non financial oriented IT people. My first two articles in this series were theory and background and this is the first of three scenarios that illustrates an example.

This first scenario is an example of SharePoint as a collaborative solution. It also happens to be the scenario that for my money, carries with it the most risk. But at the same time, SharePoint is well suited to this sort of solution if you follow my branding and document management wisdom 🙂

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Learn to talk to your CFO in their language – Part 2

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Hi, there.

It’s been a while since my last post but the whole issue of having a life and earning money kind of got in the way. In addition I have been procrastinating a little, because writing about technical and programming type issues for me are a lot easier to write, compared to governance, strategy and financial matters.

To recap on my last post, I wrote about a common technique used to assess the value of an investment. I discussed the time effect on money, the concept discount cash-flow and some of the related calculations like Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR). If you have not read that article, I strongly suggest that you do so before continuing.

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Learn to talk to your CFO in their language – Part 1

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Nerds and CFO’s. If there is ever a group of people who don’t know how to talk to each other, it would be those two. Perhaps, I should write a book and call it “Nerds are From Mars, CFO’s are from Venus” (ok for those of you who did not get that little joke go here).

Now, not so long ago, I was a serious nerd. Not in a ‘have the latest gadget and bash Microsoft ‘cos it’s cool’ sense, but I got very deeply involved in the guts of the technology. I was heavy into infrastructure and security. Got a few certs to make my business cards and CV look good, etc. In addition, I *thought* that I understood business. I wrote reports and memos that used all the right ‘business sounding’ cliches. In my security work I wrote lovely risk assessments, good security policies, etc. I wrote technical architectures in loving detail, outlining the technical vision and strategy for the company going forward.

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