Recapping SharePoint Conference 2014

I had a privilege to attend my fifth SharePoint Conference in a row. It is interesting to note that even though I wasn’t interested in this conference initially being in between product release, I was pleasantly surprised and felt like this conference had one of the best experiences and contents delivered since SPC09.

SPC14

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Here are the highlights and key takeaways for me from the conference.

Key Note

Major theme of this year’s conference are continued from SPC12 – Cloud, Social, Mobility, and Big Data and expanded into bringing personal experiences like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn into new workforce user experiences – Social Workplace powered by Yammer & Open Graph, Personalized Insights powered by Office Graph & Oslo, and Next-Gen Portals.

Pre-conference discussions around President Bill Clinton set the high expectations and many of us took our seats almost an hour before the key note. This year’s keynote was one of the first ones I was up front in first 20 rows. Although we were all wondering what Clinton has to do with SharePoint conference, one of the reason he brought in was to discuss conference’s main theme – how technology allowed people to connect, transform, reshape, and played it’s role to solve much bigger humanity issues. Clinton had started great with providing great case studies of how technology helped after Heiti’s earthquake and Srilanka’s Tsunami’s aftermath but he was failed to relate his foundation work with SharePoint and overall technology industry. My take on the conference keynote is it was boring until Bill Clinton left the stage and Teper entered on stage. It was easily seen on twitter that 10000 people were silent while Bill was on stage (they might be listening to him in awe) and became chatty as soon as Teper deliver all the announcements.

While people were waiting for Jeff Teper during Clinton’s speech, Office blogs accidentally leaked (or probably due to Bill’s never-ending speech) all the information what Jeff supposed to announce as breakout speech. By the time Jeff was on stage, unfortunately majority of us on twitter who was following twitter instead of Bill Clinton’s speech, already aware of announcements. Surprisingly, that didn’t affect Jeff’s segment and keynote turned into awe-inspiring moments.

As I mentioned earlier, i wasn’t expecting any major announcements this year (especially SharePoint 2013 SP1 released one week prior to SPC14) but pleasantly surprised to hear significant enhancements and announcements for upcoming year:

One of the most important take away and message from this year’s keynote were from Jared Spataro – “Cloud is on fire” or Jeff Teper – “Cloud is the key”. For those of us working in SharePoint field, this is not new but this year’s conference demonstrated that Office 365 is where all the innovation happens like Oslo & Office Graph, Yammer integration, new Office 365 APIs, 1 TB site collections, Multi-factor authentication support, and SAML 2.0 support. It is evident that Microsoft has released nearly 75 new features since SPC12 and according to Jeff Teper, that’s more than 1 feature per week. Office 365 is where all new shiny things happens and On-Premises will be considered as step child from now on. SharePoint On-Premises are dying to slow death. Another major message was Phase 1 of Office 365 is completed, Phase 1 was all about hosting and foundational work, future is about transformation and connecting the whole suite of Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer, Office, and Windows Azure in Office 365. If you are in SharePoint space, this is nothing but most promising news you may hear.

Sessions and Technology Trends

This year’s conference is the first time I have seen new Microsoft. They have been always tight-lipped in past and worked with partners, MVPs, and MCMs as private TAP program before announcing to general public. This year’s conference was evident that new era of Microsoft has started and many announcements like Oslo & Office Graph, Forms roadmap, Social roadmap were directly released to general public and asked general customer communities to get their feedback on evolution of future of office.

When I set my SPC Calendar a week prior to conference, I was impressed with conference schedule. This is first time I have seen sub keynotes (IT Pro, DEV, and Executives) followed by main event key note. I really love the idea of dividing conference audience into three focus areas and have them kick-start through sub key notes. This year, I had decided to focus on Office 365, SharePoint Online, Hybrid, and IT Pro sessions. On Day 1, I started out my journey of IT Pro sessions with Bill Baer’s rousing IT Pro audience key note and Sam Hassani’s Hybrid end-to-end overview. Last session of Day 1 really changed my perception of Microsoft and where they are going in future while attending Introducing Codename Oslo and the Office Graph session. This is first time I believe I was in awe and flabbergasted with what future promises. Ever since SharePoint 2013 came out, many of our customers wanted personalized & social intranet and thinking about possibility of Office Graph really set the high bar for remaining conference. Although it was downhill after that session, Office Graph and Oslo gave me enough motivation to keep going through remaining best practices sessions.

Day 2 started out with Forms Update and yet again, I was impressed with new Microsoft who shared their early stage of Forms direction with customers and where they are going with future after death of Info Path. Unfortunately Forms Update was one of the last session with major announcements and remaining conference was about the best practices and future of SharePoint custom development. I have attended various best practices sessions throughout remaining time of conference on both IT Pro and DEV areas including Todd Knidlt’s Load Testing SharePoint 2013 with Visual Studio 2013, Paul Summers and Dan Benson’s Develop Advanced Search Driven SharePoint 2013 Apps, Eric Shupps’s Developing an intranet on Office 365, Chris Bortlik’s SharePoint Online Management and Control, Vesa Juvonen’s Real-world examples of FTC to CAM transformations, Tedd Pattison’s SharePoint Apps best practices with OData and REST APIs, Jeremy Thake’s SharePoint 2013 Apps with AngularJS, and David Mann’s Deep dive: REST and CSOM comparison.

In general, SPC14 was clear as far as where Microsoft is taking SharePoint. Message was much similar to SPC11 and SPC12 where building blocks were set. Office 365, Social, Hybrid, Apps Model, REST and CSOM, JavaScript and HTML5 were major themes and technology trends. There wasn’t one single session regarding Full Trust farm solutions. If you are in IT Pro space, plan to either work for Microsoft or change your skill sets. If you are in DEV space, plan to learn front-end developer skills. That’s where Microsoft is going whether you like it or not.

New Era for Microsoft

Although I have mentioned above, I have never seen Microsoft sharing their concepts and non-production ready features or systems to the general public. This is definitely new Microsoft. They have always been tight lipped in past. Either it’s acquisition of Yammer with their “Open By Default” mantra or new thinking of Jeff Teper’s team, office division in Microsoft is setting new stone for how Microsoft will collaboratively work with partners and customers. Their showcase of Oslo & Office Graph and InfoPath Forms replacement road map in early stages of product development are proof of new era for Microsoft. This was one of the most surprisingly pleasant experiences I had during this conference.

Pleasant Experiences

If you read my SPC12 recap, I had a section called unpleasant experiences. This year, it was 100% opposite. All the attendees must be proud of all the services including wireless, day-long coffee, fruits, & snacks, well-maintained large meals area, large exhibit hall, number of water coolers & rest rooms, and large session rooms. It made attendee’s life navigating through conference much easier. Huge kudos to the Microsoft and SPC workforce for making it happen. Great job folks!!!

Late Night Parties, Networking, and Community

This might be first year since SPC08, I have never attended any late night parties including Monday Night AvePoint Red Party, Tuesday Night Main Event Race Track, or Wednesday Night Metalogix Party. Instead, either i had spent time networking with my team or enjoyed gambling at Casinos. This year, I had decided to try different and actively tried my best to track down my twitter buddies whom I never met. One of the best part of the conference was to wander around myself and enjoy fellow SharePointers watching while they were resting or hurrying up in between sessions.

During SPC12, I had somehow missed out community board and never put my stamp on it. This year it was different. Here are some of the pictures of community board before, after, and my place on the SharePoint timeline. Thanks to Mark Kashman (@mkashman) for posting before and after pictures of SPC14 community board on twitter.

Community Wall - First Day

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Community Wall - Last Day

Conferences like SharePoint Conference are unique and affect your professional career at many different level. One of the major benefits for me is it allows me to steer my career in different direction, check out vendor community, motivate me to learn new things, and most importantly – connect with people whom I never met but bonded through twitter. I would highly encourage to attend these kind of events if you can.

Last but not least, big thank you to my employer – Slalom Consulting and local Chicago Portal and Collaboration leadership to provide me great opportunity to experience SPC14 and learn future trends of where Microsoft is going with SharePoint and Office 365 product line.

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2 Responses to Recapping SharePoint Conference 2014

  1. Great recap, thanks! Unfortunately we haven’t had the chance to meet at SPC. Maybe next time 🙂

    • Nik Patel says:

      Thanks Matthias. Glad you enjoyed it. I would have really loved to meet you. I have tried to hunt down many folks but it’s always hard to track down in the midst of sessions, parties, and rushing through things. Will definitely try to make effort to meet next time. We need next SPC at less crazier place. I loved Anaheim setting compared to Vegas. 🙂

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