The primary focus of the SharePoint Conference 2011 was on productivity with the SharePoint 2010 platform. As a result a number of case studies where presented, including this one from D&M Holdings, who designed a single SharePoint content repository to support multiple sites. Here's the whys and hows of what they did. 

So these are my thoughts on a 200-level session by a customer, D & M Holdings. You probably know D & M, a major audio company through one of its brands, such as Denon (see all their brands below).

D & M Brands.jpg

The Why

The session was presented by D & M's CIO Lalit Panda and by the VP of IT (Web Technology) Alex Alexandrou. The gentlemen opened with a slide describing the strategic landscape to give the audience some overall context. D & M are in a major organizational transformation from a "holding company," with multiple operating companies, to a single operating company, with multiple lines of business and attendant business units. With this organizational change, the company is moving to centralized support functions, and within IT this means a rationalization of applications.

From the web perspective, the marketing division has a number of objectives to meet in order to fit this strategy, including better brand awareness and deeper consumer relationships.

The Initial State

Lalit went on to describe the initial state of the D & M web technology stack, which as you might expect given the strategic positioning, was described as being "quite diverse":

  • 250 registered domains, and 200-plus websites around the globe
  • Nine major web technology platforms and multiple hosting arrangements
  • Lack of design branding and continuity of brand elements

As might also be expected, this situation was described as lacking in governance and use of best practice, and also, no surprise here, expensive and difficult to maintain!

New World Order

D & M decided to consolidate their web properties on a SharePoint 2010 platform. Lalit described some of the benefits this has brought to the company, including:

  • Global marketing and sales platform for all web properties, giving
  • Reduced operational costs for hosting, licensing and support
  • Ability to eliminate obsolete technologies

Lalit went on to describe some of improvements this has allowed D & M to lever to their advantage, including improved search facilities, streamlined development efforts, and importantly a global framework for navigation across all brand sites.

The How

Alex took over to describe the actual implementation of the changeover to a global SharePoint internet platform. After working hard to engage all the lines of business and brands, the focus was on the tool and partner selection. After procurement of the chosen solution, a Proof of Concept was undertaken with Denon Hong Kong. Alex made an important point with respect to understanding what is possible for a team with:

  • A particular set of experience and expertise
  •  A certain workload and other priorities

One Content Library -- Multiple Websites

D & M decided to go with an architecture that is based on a single-site collection, with “Variation” sites. ("Variations" is the name Microsoft gives to multi-lingual features and facilities within SharePoint.) This architecture provides for a single-content library from which assets can be published across multiple variations (language) sites. D & M utilize a "Master Controller" tool to manage the distribution of content across the multiple sites (but it was not mentioned what this tool is). Standard SharePoint workflow facilities are used to publish the content.

D&M_implementation_slide .jpg

Alex described the major benefits of taking this approach as:

  • A worldwide brand-oriented standardized approach to web sites
  • A global CMS "foot print" (a shared pool of "functions and fittings")
  • Easy to migrate content and populate data from existing legacy websites

Future Plans

Lalit returned to take over to briefly mention where D & M hope to go next. They intend to lever the investment in the SharePoint platform for B2B and B2C, for mobile access, to introduce social media and to integrate with a central-customer database.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I have never considered SharePoint as a "shoo-in" for major external web sites, but the D & M presentation was compelling in the way it described the real-world benefits that standardizing on the platform has brought to this particular company. No doubt some of those benefits might have been achieved by consolidating from nine technology platforms down to a single one, whatever that one was. However, these were not breathlessly enthusiastic "fan boy" developers; the presenters were the CIO and VP of IT for the web. If you’re considering SharePoint for the internet, you might want to ask Microsoft to put you in touch with D & M as a reference.

A big thanks to Lalit and Alex for a great session, and indeed to all the presenters, Microsoft staff, convention center staff, vendors, partners, and fellow end-users who made the SCP11 both informative, and fun!

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