My Favorite Posts From 2014

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With the holiday season and new year, the blogosphere is flooded with posts containing predictions and resolutions. Of course, I’m right there in the thick of it, focusing today’s #CollabTalk tweetjam on the topic of SharePoint and Office 365 predictions for 2015 (with a massive panel of experts, no less) and preparing to leave my own predictions on this site tomorrow afternoon. But as part of my annual wrap-up, I wanted to share some of my favorite posts from this past year. It’s not all about number of hits — sometimes you write to push out a message, other times you write because you’re sincerely passionate about a subject. When you author 20 to 30 articles a month, you have the luxury of writing about things that drive your corporate message, with plenty of time to also write about more interesting things.

Looking back, 2014 was fun, frustrating, and constantly changing direction — with a new job, bringing more freedom to tackle topics that interest me personally (and which more closely align with Microsoft’s product direction), and dramatic turns is those technology strategies. I’m still genuinely excited to be a part of the SharePoint and Office 365 community, and am inspired (and occasionally perplexed) by much of what is coming out of Redmond. I’m looking forward to the new year, the upcoming Ignite conference in Chicago (I’m registered!), and to be back in a business-building role as I build a local team, organize our new office in Bellevue, and look for new customers in the region.

For those who regularly read my content on this site and others, you’re probably aware of the themes and topics I tend to cover: governance, migration, business analysis and planning, information architecture, social technology, adoption and engagement, and leadership development. As I look back over this past year, you’ll find the heaviest concentrations of content around governance, planning, and social topics, but I did occasionally break out a new topic altogether, and have included some of my favorites below. This list is in no particular order, but hopefully you’ll find something interesting here that you can apply to your own project or team:

  1. Building Your Brand
    (LinkedIn) http://linkd.in/1EGbQGc
    The idea behind this post came from a conversation I had with a good friend after a very frustrating argument with my management team and my argument that there is more to your brand than product brochures and cheap trinkets handed out at conferences. Aside from the constant changes that are needed to test and measure the impact of your brand, you also need to fiercely defend your brand through the culture of your organization. At some point I need to write a Part 2 to this article that makes the case that without a strong culture, your brand will die. Hmmm… something to think about for a future post.
  2. Focus on the Last Mile of SharePoint Automation
    (CMSWire) http://bit.ly/1lflNvS
    Coming from a telecom background, I enjoyed the imagery of "the last mile" and the idea that even if you have fiber cable available within your community, you still need to improve the quality of the connection from the telephone pole to your house — which is often still old copper cabling, greatly diminishing your high-speed fiber line. Similarly, improving your SharePoint environment often comes down to sometimes simple improvements to the day-to-day end user tasks. Fix the last mile — the basic end user experience — and you’ll dramatically improve the overall success of your environment.
  3. Telemetry and Social Informatics of SharePoint
    (buckleyPLANET) http://bit.ly/1CHABO6
    A major topic of discussion at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, and one of the key takeaways from Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer and adoption of many of their development practices was the emphasis being put into telemetry and analysis of usage patterns to determine the product roadmap and other strategic decisions. The idea behind this article is that there are out-of-the-box methods through which organizations can begin to understand how their end users are collaborating, and which deployed solutions are driving business value.
  4. The Need for Change Management in a Hybrid SharePoint Environment
    (Metalogix blog) http://bit.ly/13R2TZR
    While a bit of a product pitch, this article touches on a topic which I was (still am) very passionate about, and which I don’t feel was adequately understood or listened to while at Axceler and Metalogix — the idea that migration and administration were part of a broader change management need within the SharePoint platform. I still feel there is a huge missed opportunity here that the leading ISVs are missing, especially tools that can meet change management requirements across hybrid environments, in a federated manner. Hmm… might need to write another post to clarify that one.
  5. Fostering Corporate Innovation Requires Historical Understanding
    (Wired) http://wrd.cm/1K0HgYa
    This article surfaces two important ideas: first, the idea that corporate innovation should be something leadership teams spend more time funding and nurturing, and second, the idea that the fastest way to solve any problem is to begin with a shared understanding of the problem. Looking back at my almost 25 year career, its amazing how many problems, broken teams, and poor management decisions are due to a lack of employee innovation (or a culture that supports innovation) or from people taking action without first understanding the problem. I briefly mention the power of visual modeling as a way to both encourage innovation as well as to increase understanding.
  6. Finding Your Place on the SharePoint Social Adoption Curve
    (buckleyPLANET) http://bit.ly/1ohvx9l
    Speaking of needing a shared understanding — the lack of shared understanding is why so many organization ran toward social collaboration so quickly, and without understand how it should be applied, or how it should be measured…and equally explains how rapidly many of them dropped social, not understanding why it didn’t work for them. This article encourages readers to reflect upon their cultural readiness, and determine the best path forward.
  7. How Well Do You Capitalize on Your Talent Pool?
    (LinkedIn) http://linkd.in/14b9r6m
    After attending a session with Microsoft Research and Development guest speaker Malcolm Gladwell, who is one of my favorite authors, I thought of how some of his ideas applied to the corporate world, and specifically to the hiring process. But I also incorporated an idea from another of my favorite authors, Marcus Buckingham, who talks at length about managing to people’s strengths. In a nutshell, this article is about improving your process for finding the
    right people for your organization, and then doing a better job and understanding who you’ve hired and how to help them do their best work. I’m of the philosophy that management is as much an art as it is a science, and that many of the people who have people management responsibilities have no business being in people management roles. Unfortunately, I’ve worked for a few of them, so this article feels personal.
  8. The Maturity of SharePoint’s Social Story
    (buckleyPLANET) http://bit.ly/1zOpSCG
    What I like about this blog post is that it paints a picture of the state of Microsoft’s social journey — and still pretty much summarizes the frustrations and concerns of many in the SharePoint community who struggle to understand how social fits into the environments (and the careers) that they’ve built. So while the article doesn’t really attempt to provide answers, I think it paints an accurate picture of where we are today.
  9. The Future Requires Social Portability
    (Wired) http://wrd.cm/1x1OC8y
    Reaching into my telecom past once again, this time I compare number portability (the ability to keep your phone number when you switch carriers) to the need for portability of social activities between workloads. Of course, I wrote this having some insights into what was coming from the product team, including inline social capability that, for example, allows you to start a conversation with team members while editing a PowerPoint presentation, but having access to that same conversation in Exchange or in the Yammer UI. Microsoft has since released their Groups capability to most Office 365 tenants, with more inline social experiences coming (probably this spring).
  10. The Future of SharePoint and the Social Pivot
    (CMSWire) http://bit.ly/1timMzt
    Following the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas in early 2014, I wrote this piece in an attempt to help explain how the new social features all came together to improve the end user experience in SharePoint. People were (and still are, to some degree) focused on the small features and sub-brands (Delve, Sway, Clutter, etc) and not paying attention to how these pieces come together to solve larger needs. This is an area where Microsoft could certainly do a much better job in communicating their vision — but I do acknowledge that they are trying, and relying on partners and the MVP community to help fill in the gaps.

As we start the new year, I have a backlog of content around dialog mapping and business analysis topics that I’ll be publishing here and through ITUnity.com. I’m also ramping up my webinar output, so watch for those invites as they go out. I hope to continue generating 20 to 30 posts per month, and look forward to adding a couple new sites and portals to my content portfolio. Watch for my monthly summaries, pointing you to those new sites. And thanks for reading!

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.