Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What is the Future of the SharePoint Community

Every community has a lifecycle. I have been a part of numerous communities and tribes over the years. Certainly from the youth sports I participated in and also from a professional level with the Unix, Novell and Microsoft communities.

I’m still an active part of quite a few communities, including Social Media Club Seattle, Ignite Seattle and the IAMCP Seattle chapter. I’m not as active in some of the other communities anymore … partially because they don’t exist anymore. Partially because they have evolved and I have too.

No community stays the same forever. Communities evolve.

imageThe people either evolve with it or they move on and find (or found) new communities and new tribes.

The SharePoint community is evolving too.

Community starts with Philanthropy

As I think most people know, or quickly figure out, you get out of a community what you put into it. The SharePoint community has been, and continues to be, one of the more gracious and giving communities I have ever been involved with. I look forward to hearing from and speaking with the people that make this community go and grow. There are far too many people here to name, but I can safely say I have had great conversations with hundreds of people at dozens of events.

Community is a Two Way Street

Everyone is giving up something … their time, their expertise, or even just their presence.

Some give a lot more. I personally have spoken at over 20 SharePoint Saturday events and have seen first hand the incredible work the organizers have done to pull off an event. I have also helped put on a few events too. So, I know the hard work and collaborative efforts (sometimes herculean efforts) that are required.

The organizers work closely with the speakers to ensure great content. The speakers come from all over the place … sometimes traveling thousands of miles … to speak at these events. And the attendees are giving up their time and often bringing tough questions that they face at work. Attendees are why we do it.

What can an Attendee do?

The simple answer is … A LOT! See Mark Rackley’s post on Your SharePoint Saturday Attendee Guide --- everything from a simple thank you to the speakers, sponsors and organizers to taking the time to provide feedback. Preferably constructive feedback.

Showing up is Critical

image"We can't believe you are here!" this is what the people in Africa said to Paul Swider, Michael Noel, Joel Oleseon and the rest of the #STPAfrica tour. As they re-iterated their experience on stage at the SharePoint Africa re-cap session at the last SharePoint Conference. During a fantastic catered lunch session sponsored by Barry Jinks and his team at Colligo --- which, by the way, they underwrote the SP Africa Tour. We heard from the people that went out into the field (so to speak) and connected with the SharePoint community. This one happened to be in various cities across Africa. But, we continue to hear the same story over and over again and all over the world. People are very interested to learn more and do more with SharePoint.

The #STPAfrica team was literally MAKING COMMUNITIES as they go

As Martha Stewart would say … This is a VERY GOOD THING!

What is the Shape of the Future SharePoint Community?

What’s next for the SharePoint community? What can the community do to keep it going and keep it growing?

The big question to ask is: What is the future of the SharePoint Community?

I think it will involve a few factors. One thing that has happened that continues to be a very smart move is that the community operates independently from the Microsoft machine. Of course, SharePoint is a Microsoft product, but like the SAP ASUG community and the Oracle IOUG communities they have separated from the Mother Ship (pun intended).

Groups like Mark Miller’s Nothing But SharePoint have sprung up and continue to evolve. Events like SharePoint TechCon, the European SharePoint Conference, SHARE and countless other SharePoint oriented events continue to crop up. This is a very good thing.

Another thing that helps keep the SharePoint community strong are the people that are often called Rock Stars. Fortunately, there are a lot of imagethem and they come from all over the place and have many different skill sets. Currently one skill set is (seemingly) valued much more than others, but I predict that will change. Especially as more hybrid solutions start to become a reality.

  • Who are the next SharePoint Rock Stars?
    • Of course, we’ll have Developers and Technical People (the Devs and Techies). They have always been at the forefront of SharePoint efforts.
    • One Big Gap remains … We need more Business people. The people that understand the People, the Processes AND the Technologies (see below for my MVP recommendation)
  • Before answering that … I think we need to know …
         WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A ROCK STAR????

What is the end game for the SP community?

Only time will tell. I think the community has continued to adapt and evolve. I think if the community, and to some extent Microsoft, embraces some of the points made above the SharePoint community will have many more years to go.

imageThe MVP Community needs to grow

Microsoft has done something great. They created a community of like minded experts that share what they know. There are 5000+ MVP’s today and about 400 of them are SharePoint MVP’s. That’s a big number. However, I think there is room for more. As mentioned above I think there needs to be a few more MVP’s added on the business side of the puzzle.

On the business side … there are a few today that are Rock Stars in their own right. They speak, write and generally evangelize the SharePoint product. I think there need to be more Business Focused MVP’s in order to drive the next wave of SharePoint innovation. Sure, there will need to be technically oriented MVP’s too --- they have always been there and have always pushed SharePoint to the edge … and oftentimes beyond the edge.

SharePoint also needs More Ambassadors

As I wrote about a while back … there are people in the SharePoint community that may not be the traditional SharePoint person. They may have come from Microsoft, they may have come from the ECM industry or any of the ancillary industries that ostensibly tie into the bigger picture of what SharePoint is and can be come.  We need more Julie’s!   We need more Ambassadors!

image

When you meet an ambassador … Embrace them. Welcome them. We need more of them.

Whether they are MVP’s or Ambassadors or some new term The only way the SharePoint Community will continue to thrive is with more people that are committed to see it succeed and to continue on in what may potentially be a new path.

The End Game for SharePoint … like any other community will be determined by the people. Only the people can decide when a community needs to grow or go away. I have seen the SharePoint community grow from a very small grass roots effort over the past 10 years I have been involved with an incredible group of people that genuinely care and share what they know. I expect the community to continue to adapt and evolve and I expect to be a part of it for many years.

See you at the next event!

Communities matter. Communities happen. Communities evolve!

clip_image001Jeff Shuey is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet, K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.

Follow me on Twitter, check my blog, send email or find me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+

7 comments:

Bjørn Furuknap said...

Jeff,

We don't need more MVPs, we need a better MVP program. Right now, the MVP program is an obscure, financially motivated corporate program that rewards loyalty to Microsoft, not skill. The community has little or no say in the award, neither as contributors or in decisions about who to award. In fact, nobody even knows how those decisions are made.

Microsoft markets the MVP program as a community thing and as a sign of quality, but it's neither.

Case in point, three of the four community people you mention in this article are SharePoint community grand masters, but are not MVPs. Nobody knows why, except behind the scenes rumors about politics and pissing off the wrong people.

So no, we don't need the current MVP program more than we need fish entrails in our strawberry jam.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bjorn. The MVP Program does not recognise those who do it for the real reasons. We have people who are MVPs for the wrong reasons. I do agree that we need more business people to join the community. The trick is how to get business into the community.

The Share Conference is doing a good job of this so far but we're not seeing these people at the regular monthly events. They come to a conference and that's it. We need to get them involved in the community not just attend events.
We need to convince businesses that being part of the community is for everyone's benefit.

Jeff Shuey said...

Great comments folks. I have added another segment on Ambassadors. Also, the idea that we don't need more MVP's may be true. However, I do think the community needs more experts ... No matter what we call them.

Thanks again for the comments. Keep 'em coming.

Chris O'Connor said...

Community scene in Australia seems to be struggling a little, with less people as enthusiastic about user groups, SharePoint Saturdays, etc.

Yes - they come - but don't participate as much - it's the same old players all the time.

And - we rely on sponsors for food/venue - and they're all pulling funds, to the point that it might require cancelling some SPSat's.

Not sure how to re-invigorate people (and sponsors) - but we'll keep trying.

Jeff Shuey said...

Sorry to hear that Chris. However, that's a little bit of the point of the post. The people need to be engaged and involved ... when they feel like they aren't learning or aren't part of the process or aren't something else it's time to re-think the model.

In other groups I've been involved with we've had similar challenges. I hope the message can be re-vamped and the community can be re-engaged. Let me know if I can help.

Stephen Cawood said...

FYI -- Last I heard the count there were about 250 SharePoint MVPs, so your 400 number is likely too high.

Stephen Cawood said...

Hey Jeff, I agree that the MVP program does not include all of the people who make worthy contributions to the community.

However, the comments on this thread lead me to believe that people are forgetting a key aspect of the program.

Yes, it's true that the MVPs are awarded for contribution to the community, but that's not the only purpose of the program. Possibly the main motivation of there being an MVP program is the desire for Microsoft to have a dedicated audience that they can use to gather feedback and suggestions. This also speaks to your point about MVPs being techies--they fill that role.

Obviously, some people are annoyed by the nomination system, but that's beside the point to some extent. Microsoft wants technical MVPs not just because they're out in the community being ambassadors; they also want the program for other reasons.