I had a privilege to attend my fourth SharePoint Conference in a row. Ever since I have started working with SharePoint product and attending SharePoint Conferences, it’s been getting popular with more and more attendees – In SPC09, there was nearly 5500 attendees, SPC11 seen around 7500 attendees, and this year, it was more than 10000 attendees.
Here are the highlights and key takeaway for me from the conference.
This year’s keynote was one of the best keynote delivered by the SharePoint conference. Of course, we didn’t have Ballmer like SPC09 kick-starting the conference with bang but from rousing music of SPC12 keynote intro to wide array of speakers, it covered very much all the essence of the SharePoint 2013.
For me, because SP2013 preview was already launched months earlier, there wasn’t any major breaking news apart from announcements like Yammers availability on Office 365 platform without any additional cost & new windows mobile platform apps for SharePoint & SkyDrive Pro. Microsoft has emphasized on the three major investments in SharePoint 2013 – cloud, mobile, and social and various demos & keynote speakers stuck with the message by showcasing key features on social, windows azure, new Apps model for developers, and major IT performance improvements around minimal download strategy & Shredded Storage features. If you haven’t seen the keynote, don’t miss out and watch it here.
Last but not least, Microsoft redelivered message for enterprises and SharePoint implementers by suggestion of avoiding customizations as much as possible in SharePoint 2013 wave and adapting apps model may take us away from farm customizations.
Sessions and Technology Trends
Although I have been switching my role constantly from IT Pro to DEV at Slalom Chicago, this year I wanted to focus on the IT Pro sessions. Starting from Bill Baer’s Introduction to IT Pro Improvements in SP2013, I have attended wide array of IT Pro sessions including Spencer Harbar’s SP2013 User Profile Sync and SP2013 Request Management sessions. Personally, I felt like there has been large number of platform improvements in SharePoint 2013 but it was overshadowed by the new Apps Model in developer front. For IT Pros, it is worth to note that features like AD Import, Request Management, Shredded Storage, Distributed Cache, Default Claims Authentication Provider, Unified Search Architecture including FAST, New My Site & Social Architecture would improve SharePoint deployment performance.
As usual, whenever I got chance, my developer instinct inside, didn’t wanted me to miss out some of the developer sessions like Ted Pattison’s OAuth and REST intro session and Mirjam Van Olst’s Web Templates in SP2013. I could have definitely attended more DEV sessions if I didn’t spent time taking SP2013 Beta exams. More on Beta exams later in this article.
Overall, there has been great sessions delivered and major focus was on Search, Social/My Site, Apps Model, and Cloud/Hybrid architecture at SPC12 conference.
Late Night Parties, Networking, and Community
Wow!!! This is Vegas and it’s only your fault if you can’t have best conference experience. Ever since I landed on Sunday afternoon and left week after, I had enjoyed off hours with Slalom colleagues and other SharePointers until wee hours. Some of the major highlights for me was Sky jump from Stratosphere with Slalom Chicago colleagues on Monday Night, Jon Bon Jovi’s Tuesday Night party at Mandalay Bay Beach, and Axeler SharePoint City Party on Wednesday Night.
I still remember during SPC09, while working for EMC, we had nearly 50 attendees from all over national offices and we had great time hanging out together. Unlike SPC11, this year, while working for Slalom, we had again nearly 45 attendees from all over United States and had great time hanging out with colleagues.
Another crowning achievement of SPC12 was large twitter board. If you are tweeting with #SPC12 hashtag, your tweets would show up on the large twitter board within minutes. As I was walking out the conference, I was pleasantly surprised that twitter board was working and showing my last tweet.
SharePoint 2013 Beta Exams and Exam cram Sessions
Every SharePoint conference allows attendee’s wide verities of activities apart from breakout sessions like free certification exams, free exam cram sessions, free hands-on-labs, and post/pre conference classroom training for additional cost. Up until this year, I have never tried to use these perks. This year, while I was here at the SPC12, since most of the breakout sessions available by videos, I had decided to use free activities and I was fortunate enough to take two free SP2013 Beta exams – 70-331 & 70-332.
Although I can’t share much, both 70-331 and 70-332 contains lots of case studies, drag & drop & sequencing, and multiple choice questions. 70-331 focuses on core features like farm, web app, site collection configuration and 70-332 focusing on advanced features like upgrade, search, record management, ECM/WCM, Project Server, and BI integration. If you are planning to take Beta exam, results won’t be available until 6-8 weeks after it RTMs around Feb 2013. You can use IT Pro Ignite Training Videos for your SP2013 MCSE certification preparation. That’s what I have used and I believe it covers everything what you need to know to take SP2013 IT Pro exams. If you are planning to have SP2013 MCSE certification and have SP2010 MCTIP certification, you should plan to take 70-417 Upgrade exam for Windows Sever 2013 MCSA certification.
One of the major issues at the SPC12 was number of attendees. I have never seen 10000 people at the conference and clearly it affected conference attendees many different ways – apart from long queues for food, water, restrooms, there were crowded sessions and exhibition room. Many people locked out because of sessions were full and if that wasn’t enough, Wi-Fi was nearly unavailable throughout the main sessions. With 10000 people and most of the people with at least 2-3 devices, if you don’t have your own hotspots, Wi-Fi was nearly unavailable throughout the conference. I don’t even remember if I was able to log on to my laptop or iPad. Thanks to AT&T 3G signal, at least, I was able to use twitter using my iPhone but Wi-Fi unavailability at the major conference like this has to be biggest embarrassment for organizers.
Downloading Conference PPTs and Videos
If you have attended SPC12, most of all the sessions are available through My SPC. Instead of visiting all the session pages, you can download this PowerShell script to download all the videos and PowerPoint decks.
Last but not least, Conferences like SharePoint Conference is unique and affect your professional career many different level. I would highly encourage to attend these kind of events if you can.