Explaining the new book in 3 minutes…

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The power of video as a means to convey a message and engage an audience cannot be under-estimated. For my new book, The Heretics Guide to Management, we decided to record a video after Kailash had played around with VideoScribe for some of his blog articles. My daughter, Ashlee is a talented artist and she and I fleshed out a basic script to explain the book with some imagery ideas.

The net result is the video below. The narrator is my son Liam, and I think the theme of “teddies for grown ups” really works when narrated by a child.

Both Ashlee and Liam did an amazing job and we were absolutely stoked with the result. For the record, the tools used were Camtasia for the recording, VideoScribe for the visuals and Ashlee’s Intuous Comic touch tablet.

Hope you enjoy the video… Let me know what you think Smile

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More classes planned and clearing the air…

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Hi all

I have a couple of important community service type announcements to make.

How do I know I’m attending a legitimate Seven Sigma Class?

Sometimes the training marketplace can be confusing with various organisations offering various courses. Ask any attendee of the SPGov+IA class and they will attest to the uniqueness of our course. Both myself, and some of my trusted local partners have been contacted by people about other SharePoint courses in the Information Architecture space, wondering if we endorse or are in any way associated with them. This has happened again recently, so it’s probably worth clearing the air here and now.


Seven Sigma has a number of relationships with like-minded organisations around the world. In the UK, we have a terrific relationship with Andrew and Ant at 21apps. In New Zealand, we work with Chan at 3Grow and Debbie at EnvisionIT. In the US we work with Erica Toelle at FPWeb, as well as Ruven Gotz and in Brisbane recently we worked with Alpesh Nakar from Just SharePoint.

Aside from myself, Ant Clay of 21apps is the only authorised trainer of our courseware. Essentially if Ant or I are not running the class, then it’s not my class!. Visit the trainer section of www.spgovia.com for our details.

Furthermore outside of Australia, if the course organiser is not Andrew Woodward or Ant Clay (Europe), Erica Toelle or Ruven Gotz (US), Chan or Debbie Ireland (New Zealand), then it is not the SPGov+IA class.

www.spgovia.com is the official site for the SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class. Here you can find out about the class, feedback from past attendees, schedules and registration information. This is the authoritative source for all information related to all classes. Each of the above partners will publish location specific information about classes that they plan to run.

More SPGov+IA classes for 2011 (and Issue Mapping Class is a go…)

I am proud to report that the first ever Issue Mapping Master Class, co-developed with CogNexus and run by Seven Sigma happened in my home town of Perth last month. This has been a long time coming, and the feedback from the first attendees was immensely gratifying.

Definitely one of the best courses I have ever attended…I have already recommended to many people that they should get on the next course if possible. Jon Gorton

This course was brilliant. The technique itself is a valuable tool for any business with multiple applications. Leisha Velterop

So now on top of the SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Class, we can offer a specialist course on the craft of Issue and Dialogue Mapping – something that regular readers of this blog may be familiar with. For all alumni of the SPGov+IA class who put their hand up for a dedicated IBIS class, you now have your wish. The Issue Mapping class will be taken onto the road for the first time too and the plan is to run both classes in each location.

To that end, we have classes locked in for Auckland and Wellington. But Melbourne and  the US East coast are also being earmarked in the latter part of 2011. Here are the planned classes so far.

We will publish more details of the new class as soon as we can.

Thanks for reading


Paul Culmsee


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Praise for SharePoint Governance and IA Masterclass

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I received this today and I had to post it. In New Zealand recently, Paul McTaggart of Gen-i stopped me and complimented the governance and information architecture course that some of his staff have attended. I am truly humbled by the feedback that he just sent through…

Practical, relevant and seriously funny: These attributes are seldom seen together in a training session.

However, Paul Culmsee has practical, real world experience having worked on complex (wicked) projects which provides him with the background and understanding of what works and why.

Discover the immutable f-laws of SharePoint projects. Cry and laugh when you identify the reality of you own organizational platitudes, but breathe a sigh of relief when you see that there is a way out and that SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture can be achieved with everyone sharing the same understanding of where you are now and where you are trying to get to.

Paul also supports you new found realization of what needs to be done by providing you with the guidance, tools and methods that you can take from the classroom and apply to your complex (wicked) problem projects to make them work.

Basically it is all about people (gaining shared understanding), process (knowing how to get from here to there) and then the technology (SharePoint).

My team now uses the concept of shared understanding and the tools that the Governance and Information Architecture Class has provided to get customers “on page” before we design and code in SharePoint land.

Paul McTaggart

ECM Business Manager

Gen-i a division of Telecom New Zealand

Thanks for reading

Paul Culmsee

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More SharePoint Governance, Information Architecture and *Sensemaking* Classes Planned

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imageHi all

A big chunk of last year had me off under a metaphorical mushroom, putting together several days of courseware on the topic of SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture. My take on these topics are influenced from some odd places, and the course drew on a lot of the non IT work that I do, that involves collaboration on some very complex problems indeed.

In November and December of 2010, we took this “on the road”, so to speak, firstly in Dublin, then London and Sydney. The courses were sold out and feedback was terrific. Here are a few choice quotes (check out the hyperlinks for full reviews)

“Did it meet my expectations? Well I’d have to say that it far exceeded them. There had obviously been a large amount of effort in preparing the courseware and modules. They covered the important missing links currently absent from the Microsoft and traditional training courses” – Wes Hackett.

“I’ve just finished the second day of the SharePoint 2010 Governance and Information Architecture Master Class presented by Paul Culmsee with the support of Andrew Woodward . I can wholeheartedly say it was one of the best courses I’ve attended both in content and presentation style and they deserve a lot of credit for putting together a fantastic course. Paul in particular has put a huge amount of effort into the slidedeck, sample documents and enormous manual (almost 500 pages worth!) let alone all the great additional insight he could provide in person over both days” – Brendan Newell

“Finally …. after 12 years in the IT industry a course which covers some of the fundamental issues governing project success.   This course is a real eye opener and a must for any IT professional involved in project planning and delivery” -  Stephen McWilliams

“I just came back from the best technology training I have had in years: a world-first Microsoft SharePoint Elite Information Architecture course designed and delivered by Paul Culmsee. It has taught me a great deal across ALL facets of the day-to-day work that I do as a SharePoint architect” – Jess Kim

Based on this and similar feedback, we are going to do it again. Locations confirmed so far are London (#SPIAUK), Sydney (#SPIAAU) and Wellington (#SPIANZ) in February and March 2011 and in the pipeline is The Netherlands (#SPIANL) and at least a couple of US cities!

In addition to the unique content on these classes, I am honoured to announce that I am now authorised to teach the official Cognexus Issue Mapping courseware – the only non Cognexus Dialogue Mapping practitioner authorised to do so. As such, we will be running the inaugural Issue Mapping class in London in late February as well (wohoo!)

So, here are the details for each location:

  • (Register now) February 21, 2011, London   #SPIAUK SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class (Download Flyer)
  • (Register now) February 23, 2011, London #IBISUK Issue Mapping Master Class (Download Flyer)
  • (Register now) March 10, 2011, Sydney  #SPIAAU SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class (Download Flyer)
  • (Register now)March 14, 2011, Wellington #SPIANZ SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class (Download Flyer)
  • (Register soon) May 9, 2011, Utrecht, Netherlands (watch this space)
  • Wondering what to expect in these classes? Read on!

     SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class. 2 full days of real world, examples knowledge and techniques

    Most people understand that deploying SharePoint is much more than getting it installed. Despite this, current SharePoint governance documentation abounds in service delivery aspects. However, just because your system is rock solid, stable, well documented and governed through good process, there is absolutely no guarantee of success. Similarly, if Information Architecture for SharePoint was as easy as putting together lists, libraries and metadata the right way, then why doesn’t Microsoft publish the obvious best practices?

    In fact, the secret to a successful SharePoint project is an area that the governance documentation barely touches.

    This master class pinpoints the critical success factors for SharePoint governance and Information Architecture and rectifies this blind spot. Paul‘s style takes an ironic and subversive take on how SharePoint governance really works within organisations, while presenting a model and the tools necessary get it right.

    Drawing on inspiration from many diverse sources, disciplines and case studies, Paul has distilled the “what” and “how” of governance down a simple and accessible, yet rigorous and comprehensive set of tools and methods that organisations large and small can utilise to achieve the level of commitment required to see SharePoint become successful.

    Master class aims:

    • Present SharePoint governance and Information Architecture in a new light – focus on the “blind spots” where the current published material is inadequate
    • Cover lessons learned from Paul’s non IT work as a facilitator and sensemaker in complex large scale projects
    • Examine the latest trends in the information landscape for industry and government and review studies that inform governance and Information Architecture efforts
    • Present an alternative approach to business-as-usual SharePoint governance planning that focuses on real collaboration
    • Provide quality information that is rigorous yet accessible, entertaining and interesting

    Master class outcomes:

    • Understand the SharePoint governance lens beyond an IT service delivery focus
    • Develop your ‘wicked problem’ radar and apply appropriate governance practices, tools and techniques accordingly
    • Learn how to align SharePoint projects to broad organisational goals, avoid chasing platitudes and ensure that the problem being solved is the right problem
    • Learn how to account for cognitive bias and utilise tools and techniques that help stakeholders align to a common vision
    • Understand the relationship between governance and assurance, why both are needed and how they affect innovation and user engagement
    • Understand the underlying, often hidden forces of organisational chaos that underpins projects like SharePoint
    • Understand the key challenges and opportunities that SharePoint presents for Information Architecture
    • Learn how to document your information architecture
    • Practical knowledge: Add lots more tools to your governance and IA toolkit!

    Course Structure: The course is split into 7 modules, run across the two days.

    Module 1: SharePoint Governance f-Laws 1-17:

    Module 1 is all about setting context in the form of clearing some misconceptions about the often muddy topic of SharePoint governance. This module sheds some light onto these less visible SharePoint governance factors in the form of Governance f-Laws, which will also help to provide the context for the rest of this course

    • Why users don’t know what they want
    • The danger of platitudes
    • Why IT doesn’t get it
    • The adaptive challenge – how to govern SharePoint for the hidden organisation
    • The true forces of organisational chaos
    • Wicked problems and how to spot them
    • The myth of best practices and how to determine when a “practice” is really best

    Module 2: The Shared Understanding Toolkit – part 1:

    Module 2 pinpoints the SharePoint governance blind spot and introduces the Seven Sigma Shared Understanding Toolkit to counter it. The toolkit is a suite of tools, patterns and practices that can be used to improve SharePoint outcomes. This module builds upon the f-laws of module 1 and specifically examines the “what” and “why” questions of SharePoint Governance. Areas covered include how to identify particular types of problems, how to align the diverse goals of stakeholders, leverage problem structuring methods and constructing a solid business case.

    Module 3: The Shared Understanding Toolkit – part 2:

    Module 3 continues the Seven Sigma Shared Understanding Toolkit, and focuses on the foundation of “what” and “why” by examining the “who” and “how”. Areas covered include aligning stakeholder expectations, priorities and focus areas and building this alignment into a governance structure and written governance plan that actually make sense and that people will read. We round off by examining user engagement/stakeholder communication and training strategy.

    Module 4: Information Architecture trends, lessons learned and key SharePoint challenges

    Module 4 examines the hidden costs of poor information management practices, as well as some of the trends that are impacting on Information Architecture and the strategic direction of Microsoft as it develops the SharePoint road map. We will also examine the results from what other organisations have attempted and their lessons learned. We then distil those lessons learned into some the fundamental tenants of modern information architecture and finish off by examining the key SharePoint challenges from a technical, strategic and organisational viewpoint.

    Module 5: Information organisation and facets of collaboration

    Module 5 dives deeper into the core Information Architecture topics of information structure and organisation. We explore the various facets of enterprise collaboration and identify common Information Architecture mistakes and the strategies to avoid making them.

    Module 6: Information Seeking, Search and metadata.

    Module 6 examines the factors that affect how users seek information and how they manifest in terms of patterns of use. Building upon the facets of collaboration of module 5, we examine several strategies to improving SharePoint search and navigation. We then turn our attention to taxonomy and metadata, and what SharePoint 2010 has to offer in terms of managed metadata

    Module 7: Shared understanding and visual representation – documenting your Information Architecture

    Module 7 returns to the theme of governance in the sense of communicating your information architecture through visual or written form. To achieve shared understanding among participants, we need to document our designs in various forms for various audiences.

    Putting it all together: From vision to execution

    As a take home, we will also supply a USB stick for attendees with a sample performance framework, governance plan, SharePoint ROI calculator (Spreadsheet), sample mind maps of Information Architecture. These tools are the result of years of continual development and refinement “out in the field” and until now have never been released to the public.

    Note: The workshop sessions will be hands on, we provide all of the tools and samples needed but please bring your own laptop.

    Issue Mapping Master Class. Your path towards shared understanding and shared commitment

    “Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.” Laurence J. Peter

    Presented by: Paul Culmsee

    Courseware by: Cognexus Institute and Seven Sigma

    “Not another $#%@*$ meeting!”

    All of us have felt the frustration of walking from yet another unproductive meeting, wondering where the agenda went. Yet, as problems become more complex, meetings are still the place where critical strategic decisions are made.


    What is Issue Mapping?

    Issue-Based Information Systems (IBIS) is a sense-making framework used to support group discussions to assist all involved to come to a shared understanding. It visually maps participants’ points of views, problems voiced, the rationale and reasons leading up to decision(s). The maps can be easily read and understood by everyone, even by those not part of the discussion group.

    Why Issue Mapping?

    • Maps detailed rationale behind decision-making as well as the decision; maps the thinking process of the group
    • Concentrates on pros and cons to an idea, encourages and explores all views, taking the sting out of differences
    • Represents and clarifies diverse points of views, conflicting interpretations and goals, inconsistent information and other forms of complexity
    • Everyone gets a chance to speak, if they want. People are heard and contributions are acknowledged. Interruptions, repetition and dominance of the loudest decreases
    • Keeps participants on topic because they can visually see the progress of the discussion
    • Keeps everyone’s attention
    • Meeting progress/result can be seen
    • Map helps participants come up with ideas/arguments
    • Visual display of progress to review summary if need so the brain can absorb the bigger picture and appreciate the validity and value of a larger perspective
    • Avoids jumping to easy answers or superficial conclusions
    • Promotes deeper reasoning, rigor and even wisdom
    • Everyone can visually see everything discussed- leaves no room for misunderstandings
    • Documents can easily be attached to map to back up ideas
    • Participants can see effectiveness of mapping and genuine will try to make it more productive

    About Seven Sigma

    Issue Mapping is a life skill that can be applied to many different problem domains and scenarios. Participants will gain proficiency in a craft that can be applied long into the future, to help them and others bring clarity and convergence to the management of complex problems. At Seven Sigma, we practice Issue and Dialogue Mapping routinely and this has brought us many satisfied clients. The Mapping in itself is part of the ‘secret sauce’ that makes Seven Sigma’s reputation renowned.

    Seven Sigma Business Solutions is the only recognised designated partner of Cognexus Institute, founder of the art of Issue Mapping, in the world. We recognise that without reaching shared understanding, you will find yourself at yet another meeting, rehashing the same unresolved problems, listening to the same arguments month after month. Or, if a decision has been made, it has not been followed up to fruition due to lack of commitment/buy-in.

    We are proud to be part of your journey towards shared understanding and shared commitment.

    Master Class aims and outcomes:

    • Be able to create great maps – issue maps that are clear, coherent, and inviting
    • Immediately start using Issue Mapping effectively in your work and life; the class will focus on practical experience and map building
    • Command a rich range of options for publishing and sharing maps
    • Lead with maps: create direction, momentum, and energy with issue maps
    • Quickly and effectively do critical analysis in dynamic situations
    • Organize unstructured information and discover patterns and connections within it
    • Make critical thinking visible for inspection and analysis
    • Recognise early, the symptoms of wicked problems and the forces behind group divergence
    • Recognise the importance of capturing the rationale behind decisions, as well as the decisions themselves
    • Rethink the traditional approach to meetings and decision making
    • Start capturing the rationale leading up to the decisions by using IBIS and Compendium software

    It will also give you a deeper understanding of:

    • The fundamentals of IBIS and Compendium
    • The structural patterns that give clarity and power to issue maps
    • How decision rationale is represented in a map

    This master class will be hands on – please bring your own laptop with Compendium software (freeware) installed.

    Duration: 2 days, with homework after the first day

    Audience: For both IT and non-IT audience; those involved in highly complex projects including leaders, consultants, facilitators, organisational development professionals, change agents, managers and engineers.

    Prerequisite: An open mind geared for shared understanding and shared commitment

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    SharePoint book review – Seamless Teamwork by Michael Sampson

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    Hi all

    Some time back a publisher sent me a self-help SharePoint book pitched at end users. I figured that I don’t really represent an end user and the best way to review it would be to make Mrs Cleverworkarounds review the book. I mean, after all, getting the spouse to bring home the bacon is part of my quest to eventually be a kept man! However, my grand plan ran aground after a while – she got around halfway through the book and came back and said “It’s easy to follow and all, but I don’t understand *why* I am doing these things.”

    As a result, I never published the review of that particular book.

    If you are wondering what the point behind that little anecdote is, then read on. 

    “Seamless Teamwork” by Michael Sampson is a book that I knew I had to review – from when I first heard about it and read one of the chapters at its web site. Its subtitle is “Using Microsoft SharePoint Technologies to Collaborate, Innovate and Drive Business in New Ways” and as expected, this is a book that looks at SharePoint through a different lens to most of the technical books that I review (with the exception of Dux’s great project management book).

    In fact Dux’s book is actually a great frame of reference when reading this book because both authors have adopted a similar approach. Rather than focussing on the technology, both books focus on a specific problem domain and explain how to leverage the technology through the exploration of that problem. In doing so, they avoid the pitfalls of “end user” SharePoint books that lack coherence like the one that my wife was dissatisfied with. Why? Because there is a clear outcome to achieve by the end of the book.

    Here is the funny thing, though. Both authors approach the subject matter from the perspective of a new project that needs to be successfully implemented, yet Michael actually uses SharePoint in a very different manner to how Dux does in his book. Does that mean one of them is wrong? Not at all. In fact it really hit home to me that if you can achieve *true* buy-in and shared commitment to a particular solution, then the technology aspects can be implemented in a number of different ways. Michael actually makes this very clear in his preface when he says

    In a book of this nature, it is impossible to cover every eventuality, every situation, and every approach. What I hope you get out of it is a vision of how you can apply the capabilities of SharePoint to the work of your team, rather than a prescription of what you need to do at each and every point of a teaming process. Embrace the ideas that work for you and ignore the ones that don’t.

    This book explores SharePoint through the “fly on the wall” view of “Project Delta” where an up and coming MBA holding brown-noser named Roger has kissed enough butts to be handed a high profile project to drive growth in the overseas market for his company. (Okay, so I am embellishing the back-story just a teensy bit). Through Roger’s eyes, we discover why email based collaboration is not sufficient for project collaboration, along with some teamwork theory, cleverly interwoven around the storyline. "Project collaboration” is broken down into more specific outcomes and explored individually, illustrating what capabilities of SharePoint are suited to these outcomes.

    • Collaborating
    • Finding
    • Accessing
    • Using for decision making
    • Enforcing structure
    • Publishing and managing

    .. and that was just chapter 1!

    Chapter 2 introduces the project management model used by Roger and the intrepid heroes of Project Delta. I like this chapter because he offers enough meat to theory nuts like me, while balancing useful and relevant SharePoint content. First up, five project phases are defined and explained, namely:

    • Creating a shared vision
    • Understanding the options
    • Analysing the options
    • Making a decision
    • Concluding the project

    This particular choice of wording has no references or footnotes and googling the exact terms leads me straight to Michael’s book so I presume that he is applying his own world view here. Next, we focus on getting the right people involved in the project. Roger has to identify the people with the right mix of skills, background and experiences to participate and this provides a nice dovetail to introduce SharePoint user profiles and “My sites”. As well as explaining the concepts and workings of this SharePoint feature, practical tips are offered to get the best out of it as well. The chapter concludes with a project team identified, assembled and ready to rock and roll.

    Chapter 3 now focuses on the different audiences involved in a project, namely the project team, the project sponsors and stakeholders and “everyone else”. SharePoint team sites are introduced by examining the information needs of each of these groups and illustrating that one size does not fit all. The chapter walks through creating a site for each of these groups using a site and subsite hierarchy and the permissions required. Blank site templates are used (something I also tend to start with) and then some “projecty type” out of the box lists are created, as well as the ubiquitous wiki library and a blog site. Finally, some out of the box web parts are added to the mix.

    All in all, a great example of a practical project oriented site that one could use or build upon.

    Chapter 4 expands on these sites by switching focus from creation to actual use of the site. Michael writes about the “Seamless Teamwork Approach” to project collaboration and then uses this as a platform to explain alerting, RSS, basic usage of the lists, wiki and blog. The key theme of this chapter is the section about “teamworking protocol” – in other words, team members need to agree on the general approach to how they will work together. The most important point  in this chapter deserves its own entire chapter.

    It is expected – and absolutely beneficial – that people have disagreements and differences of opinion about key matters in the project. If everyone thinks the same, a team would not be necessary. However the key is that we will not allow disagreements to derail the progress of the project, because we agree to listen carefully and resolve our disagreements through candid dialogue and debate.

    Chapter 5 through 9 now examines each of the five project phases  that were outlined in chapter 2.

    Chapter 5 is all about creating a shared vision. We examine the different types of vision (again from my research this view of vision seems to be Michael’s ideas and not based on any of the methodologies or academic stuff that I have read). We cover planning for engagement with stakeholders using a wiki, before the actual engagement process itself. Once again, this chapter is a deft mix of the product, the process and the rationale behind the approach. This chapter does not stick strictly with SharePoint either as we have the scenario of a PowerPoint presentation being viewed over a live meeting session for geographically dispersed stakeholders.

    Chapter 5 also delves a little into some of the factors that cause the “chaos” that derails projects. The importance of timely notification of changing constraints or circumstances is covered by reviewing how the RSS and email notifications (tasks list connected to Outlook) are used. Finally, for some odd reason, Michael devotes two pages to placating those annoying mac users who, no matter that the problem is, has already tried to convince everyone that buying a mac is the solution…hehehe!

    Chapter 6 is all about identifying options and starts out by examining how to effectively brainstorm using the SharePoint wiki (and confluence gets a mention also). OneNote is also covered and I found the shared OneNote notebook idea quite interesting as I have not tried that myself. This chapter is heavy on guidance and decorum around how brainstorming should be approached to get the most out of it. The chapter concludes with consolidating and synthesising the ideas.

    Chapter 7 is all about analysing the options from the collated list. The key question here is “what could we realistically do?” This chapter is the first one to introduce the notion of a custom list. In the example, a custom list is used to track further analysis on each option. I loved the little governance interlude here, where Roger, being the angel user that he is, contacts Gareth, the ever friendly and helpful SharePoint support person to get advice on the best way to structure the custom list. (What sort of utopian fantasy world are you painting here Michael? :-D). Seriously though, this is actually quite an advanced chapter in terms of SharePoint conceptual stuff, given that document based content types are also introduced here too and various permutations of mixing and matching document libraries, wikis and the perennial folder vs metadata debate. Thankfully, Michael did not poo-poo folders outright and instead gives one of the best write-ups I’ve seen on the pros and cons of folders vs metadata. He also covers site columns and how they can be scoped. This is great stuff.

    The final section from this chapter is on meetings, with participants are either in the same location or separate locations. There are different types of meetings for different purposes and advice is offered on how best to run these meetings and when and what technology is appropriate to augment them. Microsoft’s free conferencing tool, “SharedView” is covered (something I never knew existed until I read this book – duh, Paul!) SharePoint meeting workspaces and Groove 2007 are covered also. The technology detail covered in this section is matched by great, practical advice on how best to use the tools, given the circumstances.

    Chapter 8 is entitled “Making a decision.” Now our intrepid Roger has come to the crunch and gets a recommendation made, circulated and signed off. Here we use SharePoint surveys to do the task, but in reality, this chapter is not about SharePoint at all. The meat of this chapter is around the processes needed and advice on decorum in particular situations. There is a smattering of wiki and a good section introducing workflows in context of the feedback process, but fundamentally, the value of this chapter is in the non SharePoint material.

    Chapter 9 is all about concluding the project. Roger’s butt kissing and pandering to stakeholders’ whims are finally at an end with confirmation that the final recommendation on project Delta has been accepted by senior management. Tasks include updating participants “My sites” with the project details as well as any skills learned, a blog post about the project in my-site, and the essential, but unpopular task of cleaning up all the loose ends of the projects from a compliance, archival and retention point of view. Some final housekeeping and we are done!

    My favourite chapter of the book is actually not in the book at all. It is a separate chapter available from the Seamless Teamwork website and is all about SharePoint governance. I highly recommend this chapter, as it one of the best write-ups that I have seen on the topic so far. 

    Overall this is a terrific book, yet there are sections where advice is given that I would personally not take. Some things I flat out disagree with. But I need to fair here. I am currently surrounded by a dozen books on team dynamics, facilitation, soft systems methodology and risk management so I am not the intended audience for this book. Just because I have different philosophical approaches to some aspects does not detract from this book at all. In fact, it comes with the territory of a book like this and this is why I think it is such a great read. I personally find it quite easy to write technically oriented articles, but to delve into ‘soft’ topics like team dynamics, project chaos, developing shared vision and the like is actually much more subjective and I think, ambitious and difficult to write well.

    If I was to make a broad comparison with Dux’s book, which is about the closest thing to a comparison out there, I would say that Dux covered more SharePoint feature areas than Michael and stuck fairly close to the project management body of knowledge. Michael on the other hand, delved deeper into some of the softer topics around how teams can deliver great projects. Apples and oranges really, and I think that both books compliment each-other exceptionally well.

    The other commonality with Dux’s book is that readers with a technical audience who skip the preface will probably not like this book or consider it too light on in terms of low level SharePoint coverage. Michael is very clear in his preface here. This book is for users, information workers and project team members who want to make the best use of SharePoint for their team. To this end, Michael has completely nailed what he set out to do and should be commended for delivering the goods.

    It is great to see SharePoint books coming out that delve deeper into the mechanics of team collaboration, before diving straight into product features and capabilities. Previous books have tended to gloss over the non technical side of team collaboration and this book fills the gap nicely.


    Thanks for reading


    Paul Culmsee


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    New book preview – SharePoint 2007 Developers Guide to the Business Data Catalog

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    I’ve been busy on a number of fronts and some of the fruits of that work will appear soon enough, but I thought that I would pop up to let you know about a forthcoming book written by Brett Lonsdale and Nick Swan on a SharePoint component that has until now, been seriously under-represented in the plethora of SharePoint books out there in the marketplace.

    The Business Data Catalog is one of those SharePoint components that is easy enough to understand conceptually, but then will scare the utter crap out of you when you delve into the guts of its XML based complexity.  At least that was my experience the first time I toyed with it in early 2007. Luckily for me, my ass was saved by a tool that had just been released as a public beta called BDC MetaMan. I downloaded this tool and within around 15 minutes I used it to set up a BDC connection to Microsoft’s Systems Management Server v4 to pull software package details into a SharePoint list and felt very proud of myself indeed. 

    Fast forward to mid 2009 and BDC MetaMan has come a hell of a long way, as have its creators. Nick and Brett are about as world-authoritative as you can possibly get on the BDC and if you wish to become a Jedi in the dark arts of the BDC “force” then you now have your official bible. This book is absolutely crammed with detail and the expertise of the authors in this feature shines throughout.

    The book is split up across 11 chapters and although it is not explicitly stated by the authors, seems to be made of 3 broad parts. Chapter 1 introduces the BDC, how it is architected (web parts, BDC column, BDC Search, and integration with User Profile import and the SDK). Also covered is the range of data sources, an introduction to Application Definition Files (ADF) and how it all integrates into the Shared Service Provider model.

    Once the intro chapter is done with, Brett and Nick don’t waste too much time in diving deep. 

    Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the structure of BDC Application Definition (ADF) files, and follows up with the complex world of how authentication plays out with the BDC. Chapter 2 delves far more into the ADF files than I ever wished to tread, but Nick and Brett somehow manage to describe a long, boring XML file in a logical, easy to follow manner and there was a lot of stuff that I learned here that I had simply missed from trawling MSDN articles. The authentication chapter is covered in excellent detail in Chapter 3 and goes way beyond the usual NTLM/Kerberos double-hop stuff. Authentication in the Microsoft world has become very complex these days, and there are various options and trade-offs. This chapter covers all of this and more, brilliant stuff.

    After the deep dive of ADF and authentication, we surface a little from the previous two chapters into what I think really, is part 2 of this book. That is, several chapters that deal with how you leverage the BDC once you have connected to a line of business application. Chapter 4 introduces the built-in web parts that come with the BDC, shows how they are used and how they can be modified either using SharePoint Designer or tweaking XSL styles directly. Chapter 5 explores the BDC column type, how it can be used in the Office document information panel, in SharePoint Designer workflows, as well as its limitations. Chapter 6 explains how to leverage the BDC for allowing SharePoint to crawl your back-end line of business data and present it in search results. In addition to this, chapter 6 has a lot to offer just from the point of view of customising the search experience, whether using BDC or not. Finally, Chapter 7 examines how the BDC can be utilised to add data into user profiles that is leveraged via audience targeting.

    Next we dive back into “real programmer” territory and what I think makes part 3 of this book. Chapter 8 delves deep into the BDC object model, for those times when the out of the box stuff just won’t quite cut it for you. The example used to demonstrate this object model is a web service that exposes BDC data via several methods. Chapter 9 then covers the creation of a custom web part that is in effect, an Ajax version of the out of the box “Business Data List web part” that refreshes data every few seconds without requiring a page load. Chapter 10 is particularly interesting because it examines how the BDC is used in conjunction with another oft overlooked suite of technologies known as “Office Business Applications”. The combination of BDC and OBA offer many interesting capabilities and among the examples, there are examples of Excel and Word leveraging the BDC as well as creating custom task panes, custom ribbons and the like. Finally, chapter 11 deals with using the BDC to write data back to the line of business applications and finishes with a great example of using InfoPath to submit data to a line of business application via a webservice that calls the BDC. That is hellishly cool in a nerdy developer kind of a way.

    Phew! First up, *man* these guys are smart! I have to say this is the hardest SharePoint book that I have reviewed. It is obviously aimed at developers but it has so much to offer beyond the BDC. The content is very technical at times and obviously low-level. That, itself, is not the problem. Conversely, complex topics are handled really well and everything is extremely logically organised and flows well. The book is simply very, very comprehensive! There is plenty of meat for developers to sink their teeth into and this book will keep you going for a long time.

    The preface of the book states that it has been written for an audience of “Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Information Workers and Developers who need to learn how to use, customize and create solutions using the Business Data Catalog”. I would agree with this, but I hope that information workers do not get put off by chapter 2 (and to some extent, chapter 3). This book dives deep straight off the bat and it is actually the middle chapters that offer the sort of insights that information workers will find the most useful.

    So, if you think that the BDC deserves more than one single chapter towards the back of a SharePoint book, then this is your answer. As well as becoming an expert on the BDC, It will open your eyes to many possibilities beyond it.

    Thanks for reading

    Paul Culmsee

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    Review – Balsamiq Mockup Tool (for SharePoint)

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    It’s review week here at CleverworkArounds, and the next one on my list that I have been meaning to speak about is an application called Balsamiq Mockups. Mr Mindmapper himself, Ruven Gotz first turned me onto this application some time back, and I have found it very useful in taming RBO (rampant branding obsession).

    Although I have written various posts on SharePoint branding, most of the time I find it a tiresome task that for many sites, is pushed way too far up the priority list to the point that much more critical success factors are overlooked or given lip service. Now in saying that, I will admit straight up that although I know how branding *should* be done from a sustainable governance point of view, I suck royally at making a site look good myself and I compensate by relentlessly pummelling SharePoint branding governance best-practices onto completely unsuspecting web designers.

    Such fun 🙂

    Balsamiq Mockups has adopted a visual based site wireframing approach that takes the opposite approach to the “Photoshop” approach to site design. A web designer using a tool like Photoshop will attempt to create an accurate visual representation of a site based on a stakeholder’s tastes (or lack thereof). The risk here with SharePoint is that the branding vision that is created using Photoshop can often be quite tricky to achieve in SharePoint without being “governance naughty”, particularly for collaborative sites that make extensive use of web parts, application pages and document libraries.

    Some of the most difficult SharePoint recovery jobs that I have had to do were a direct result of seemingly innocent “customisations” that came from branding requirements.

    So, how can Balsamiq help?

    For a start, a complete design-challenged person like me can actually produce something useful :-).

    More importantly, however, it is designed on a completely different premise than the Photoshop style approach to design. This tool works on a principle of emulating hand-drawn designs, supplying you with a bunch of drag-and-drop widgets and interface elements which allow you to construct the basic structure of a site in minutes. Out of the box, there are around 70 elements that can be used to construct a web site and you can see the results of my 5 minute effort in the image at the start of this article.

    Want to see how easy it is? Then check the video below (assuming your IT department has not blocked Youtube).

    Although the video shows how easy it is to create a mock up, you may be wondering if there are any SharePoint specific design elements. Out of the box there are not. But fear not, there is a flourishing community around this product that creates additional elements for you to use. SharePoint is well represented here.

    Want to drop a SharePoint document library onto the page? Too easy.


    Did someone say calendar, tasks or search?

    image image image

    This application does not take much of an investment in learning. One can pretty much learn the product just by watching the Youtube video and learning how to import other design elements is just a matter of clicking the help menu and choosing the “Download More Controls” option.


    Would hard-core web designers may find the application cramps their artistic style? Maybe – I can only speculate. But for me, I spend most of my time in a PM, training, architect or advisory role. As a result, Balsamiq Mockups is perfect for me because, it above all else, it is quick to produce results. I can flesh out a SharePoint basic site design without having to fiddle around with master pages, SharePoint designer or CSS files (and for that I am eternally grateful!)

    I can then export the mockup to a PNG file and use that in documentation, presentations, and best of all, my issue and dialogue maps which makes great strides in achieving the all-important goal of shared understanding among project participants.


    Try Balsamiq Mockups out. It’s a great tool to add to your armoury.

    Thanks for reading

    Paul Culmsee


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    Book Review – Essential SharePoint 2007

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    One SharePoint book on my bookshelf is "Essential SharePoint 2007 – Delivering High Impact Collaboration", by Scott Jamison, Mauro Cardarelli and Susan Hanley.

    Time moves fast in the SharePoint world. Having been involved with MOSS2007 since around August 2006, it is amazing just how far things have come. Here we are in August 2008 and I simply cannot keep up! We have a staggering myriad of blogs, books, magazines, products, training and everything in between, competing for the hearts and minds of confused and frustrated user base, all around this powerful yet maddening product known as SharePoint.

    I’m not too worried about the pace of new developments happening at an ever increasing rate, because if I struggle to keep up, what hope do my clients have? 

    I’ve read a few SharePoint books over the last couple of years (particularly in the early days where like everyone else, I was trying to make sense of it all). I found most of them to offer a background to the product, then go through the extensive feature-set of the product, but are weak on practical guidance.

    Continue reading

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