SUGUK–Cambridge Sept 20 2011

So my first trip to the East Anglian chapter of the SharePoint user group didn’t start quite as well as I’d have liked. Traffic mean’t I turned up with a minute to spare. Luckily Symon Garfield was waiting for a few more, so I was’t the last to arrive by any shakes.

Coffee and tea on tap is always a great start and Peter certainly hadn’t dissapointed with the arrangements. The room was smaller than I’ve been used to for user group events, but i have to say the smaller room and more compact seating arrangements encouraged more audience discussion and participation than you sometimes see at the London meetings. I guess in small groups people are more prepared to put their hand up and speak out.

The audience themselves were a nice spread of Devs and ITPros with a sprinkling of End/Power users, as well as a few first time visitors to a user group which is always nice to see. One of the things that all the seasoned consultants, speakers and organisers need to do is try and encourage fresh blood to come to these events to keep the user group alive and constantly evolving.

The Secrets of Social Computing with SharePoint Server 2010

Once we got started, Symon Garfield (@symon_garfield) kicked off with a great presentation on “The secrets of social computing with SharePoint Server 2010”. Symon’s focus on SharePoint in his role as CTO for ICS Solutions is away from the technical hands on with a more pragmatic business focus as a Management Consultant.

One of the key takeaways I got from Symons talk was on the ‘Why should I care about Social Computing?”. One of the answers to this is ‘Because it’s happening whether you like it or not.” If you ban facebook on work PC’s, then people will use their smart phones. if you google your company/product/self, chances are there’s a blog on the subject somewhere.

So why is this? is Social Computing a fad for the first decade of the 21st century? Facebook would suggest not. Analysis for Placebook, a social analysis of Facebook users shows that the users of Facebook are spread across a multitude of age ranges with almost as many 40-50 year olds using it as those in their 20s. From an enterprise point of view the thought should perhaps be we’re doing it at home, so why not in our workplace? In SharePoint vNext there’s a distinct likelyhood of OfficeTalk, an in-house twitter style application that’s been developed in Redmond making it’s way into MySites and I’m sure that Microsoft will seek to expand on it’s already dominant position in the Gartner magic quadrant for Social Enterprise as the year progresses.

Symon alluded to a great webcast from Microsoft on how they implemented social computing internally, and you can see that and his analysis here.

Symon covered a great deal of information in his talk, especially around the writing of Business Cases for a social computing platform, pointing out that standard Fiscal focussed business case analysis may not be suitable for the less quantifiable goals of Social Computing. He did suggest however that you should focus on the long term goals, after all, a short discussion over a water cooler led to Sticky Notes, what would they have achieved with SharePoint?

I’ll finish talking about Symon’s presentation with a quote that really stayed with me, “When minds interact new ideas emerge”. Read from that what you will.

After the most excellent Domino’s pizzas (Thank you Peter and Randy, I never did ask who sponsored the food?) the second session kicked of with Giles Hamson (@ghamson) talking about Project Server and SharePoint working together.

Project Server 2010 and SharePoint

One of the key things that Giles was keen to point out is that Project Server isn’t just another service application that sits on SharePoint, It’s a whole new application stack that uses SharePoint for it’s presentation. And it requires ENTERPRISE! That came as a bit of a shock to me, after all, that’s no cheap license set-up that you’re working towards there. However it does mean that your project server implementation comes with a lot of bells and whistles from a Business Intelligence perspective.

It also makes any particular system very resource hungry. Giles quoted a system he had recently been involved with that server around 100 project managers and had dual WFE’s with 24 Gb of Ram and 4*Quad Core servers and a suitably large SQL infrastructure behind all that to support it. If you then couple in PerformancePoint and a few other Sharepoint Service Applications, I think you’d be talking about a pretty meaty farm!

There were a few eye openers along the way too where Project Server seems at odds with SharePoint, such as only support for IE7 & 8 in the RTM product with SP1 introducing IE9, but only limited support for other browsers that SharePoint considers Tier 1. In addition, branding of the Project Web Access sites through Custom Masterpages is not supported and turning on Publishing breaks stuff!

I think I can safely say that if I get involved in a Project Server for SharePoint installation, I shall be researching the subject thoroughly before popping that ISO onto a blank dvd!

Wrap up.

I had a great night at the SUGUK EA meeting. Peter and Randy do a great job running their area of the UK and I really hope to be back there again soon, with any luck presenting for them in the very near future.


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