Why Attend USPJA by Marc Anderson

Faculty member Marc Anderson just posted an excellent post on why attending USPJ Academy for your SharePoint training makes sense. I’d like to second his thoughts, and also add a few additional comments.

As Marc points out, context is vitally important, as is the academic community whether that’s students or faculty members.

What may be even more important than these factors, however, is speed. All of the content authors and faculty members are battle-hardened veterans in the SharePoint field. We’re not working as trainers, we work in the field, gaining valuable experience every day. We have been doing that for many years. Now, we’re bringing that experience to you.

Sure, you can figure out all of this on your own. The faculty is proof of that; most of us are self-trained, simply because, well, until now, there haven’t been any kind of formal training in SharePoint.

What that experience brings to you, as a student at USPJ Academy, is learning speed. We can tell you exactly what you need to learn, which sources are good and reliable, how to take what you learn and apply in real-life scenarios, simply because we’ve done that for years. We’ve fallen into the traps, we’ve made the mistakes, we’ve paid the price.

Chances are, if you read about a SharePoint topic online, one of the faculty members have experience applying that topic in a situation and can tell you what you need to know.

For a business, avoiding newbie mistakes means less time spent fixing problems and more time making money. Efficient learning also means that employees more rapidly get to a point where they produce more value.


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Don’t Show Your Clients a SharePoint Team Site

So, my previous post on out-of-the-box seems to have caused some stir. That’s fine; I know I’m right, meaning everyone else who means something else is wrong. Speaking of which, in case you’ve forgotten, I don’t care about you, so if you think I’d spend one second of my life doing or saying anything to insult you, you’re also wrong about that. If you feel insulted, do that on your own time.

I also promised Dessie Lunsford and Mark Miller a follow-up article to the out-of-the-box post. This isn’t it. I can only write so much while waiting for SQL Server to install, so I’ll have to write another post to follow up on some of the feedback.

Now, let me throw out what may be another fireball. Don’t show the SharePoint team site to your clients. And by client, I mean both internal (your boss or your organization) or external (in case you’re working as a consultant or something like that).

Let me make one thing absolutely clear: Out-of-the-box, the SharePoint team site is a marketing tool to show people how fantastic SharePoint is. Honestly, I think SharePoint’s biggest problem right now is that it is in the hands of the Office team. The Office team knows very well how to create products, but I think they lack quite a bit in understanding how to build platforms.

Thus, what we end up with is something nice and shiny, with plenty of bells and whistles. That’s why, when you see the videos showing how great SharePoint is, you see the team site, with its fancy new inline editing options, the ease with which users can customize that site to become whatever they want (right), and how pink the clouds are for all SharePoint users. You see very few demos of how SharePoint as a platform solves business needs. I know those videos exist, but they are few and far between.

The team site is a tool to sell SharePoint, not to solve business needs. It’s quite natural and completely expected. After all, Microsoft wants to sell SharePoint, so it’s logical that they’ll make it as sellable as possible.

However, when we, as advisors to clients who know only their own business, want to advise people on what to chose, we shouldn’t sell people SharePoint. We should ask the most important question for any new business solution:

What do you want?

Yeah, I rooted for the Shadows.

The point is, you shouldn’t say: Here’s what SharePoint can do, which features to do you want? That’s adopting the client to the solution, not the other way around. It’s not even right to ask: Here’s what we want to accomplish, now how can we get SharePoint to do it? By this question, we’re assuming SharePoint is the answer when in fact it’s just an answer, and it may not even be the right answer.

Back to the team site, the first things customers do when they see a team site is say: Yeah, that’s what I want. You’ve already framed their minds before you ask your most important question.

Try this: Ask 10 of your friends who may be in need of some kind of collaboration tool, and who haven’t heard about SharePoint, or at least haven’t seen it in action, the most important question for any new business solution. Then, write down a list of what they want from a collaboration tool and compare that to the features you get in a team site.

I’ll be very surprised if you get more than 10% saying what you get from a team site is what they want from a collaboration solution.

I hear some people say that, for many organizations and teams, the team site solves a lot of the problems that many people have. I highly doubt that. In my experience, many people think SharePoint is insanely cool, but once they get it installed, they realize that their needs were something completely different and abandon the site completely. Yeah, they learned something about what they needed, but it took a long time and likely cost a lot of money and frustration.

When a client calls and says: Can’t you help me to get SharePoint to solve problem X or Y?, I usually say no. If they call and say: I need to solve problem X or Y, can you help me?, I far more often say yes. I also far more often end up recommending SharePoint. When clients have chosen SharePoint, they very often do so for the wrong reasons, which is why I more often end up asking them to take all the steps back to the beginning and ask themselves what they want.

Then, when the client realize that and understand their goals before selecting the tools to reach that goal, we either end up scrapping SharePoint completely, or we build the most fantastic solutions that produce insane business value at a fraction of the cost.

But I never, ever show them a team site.


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