Nottingham, England. Home of the heroic English outlaw Robin Hood and the venue for the second SharePoint Saturday UK. The excitement had been building for months.

For those of us privileged to be speaking at the event the fun began on the Friday night with the speaker's dinner, a medieval banquet at the Nottingham Courts of Justice. Many of the speakers got into the swing of things donning costumes and fancy dress. Ian Woodgate bore a striking resemblance to teenage wizard Harry Potter! Eric Shupps was appointed as the Sheriff of Nottingham and as punishment for not asking permission to leave the dining hall I found myself in the stocks being pelted with wet sponges. Nice.

Morning Sessions and Keynote

The day of the event dawned. All 500 tickets had been snapped up, and by 8am the queues were forming in the mist outside the conference center. After some opening comments by organizer Brett Lonsdale of Lightning Tools, and a cameo appearance by (the real) Robin Hood, Todd Klindt (MVP) delivered the opening keynote. He told us about his own experiences in taking the SharePoint related Microsoft certifications, and underlined the value in taking all four with developers taking the IT Pro exams and visa-versa. Good advice in my experience.

The sessions began at 9:15, and first up for me was me. I was presenting my session on collaboration at a European Central bank. As I hurried to the room to prepare I bumped into Paul Beck carrying the first, hot-off-the-press copies of the SharePoint 2010 Handbook. The book is a community project in which 14 authors from around the world have each written a chapter detailing some of their real-world experiences with SharePoint. A must-have stocking filler for every SharePoint enthusiast! I grabbed a copy to give away in my session.

My presentation focused on a real-world example of how my Art of SharePoint Success framework was implemented in one of the world’s most powerful financial organizations. The project was named by the governor of the bank as one of the two most successful projects in the bank that year, and by the bank’s project manager as one of the most successful she had worked on in the bank during her 15 years there. After 9 months the SharePoint based collaboration solution was receiving over 160,000 site visits per month, and over fifty percent of the 2,500 employees had volunteered for the optional training course. If you want to know how we did it then you can read more about the Art of SharePoint Success in my regular articles here on CMSWire, on my blog or in the SharePoint 2010 handbook.

With my session successfully delivered I could relax and enjoy the rest of the day. Next up I went to see my friends from 21Apps, Ant Clay and Andrew Woodward presenting, “Measuring the intangible, SharePoint and Social ROI.” Ant presented his simple recipe for success:

  1. Start with, “Why?” -- If you’re not making a positive difference, don’t do the project
  2. Get a BHAG -- Create a Big Hairy Audacious Goal that everyone can get behind and aspire to
  3. Figure out your baseline -- Whether it’s good or bad, you need to have an understanding of where you’re starting from
  4. Tune the engine -- Continuous improvement, agile projects, lean manufacturing concepts win over long project lifecycles; measure progress and gain validating learning
  5. Beware of vanity metrics -- Just because something is having a positive effect on one measure doesn’t mean you’re making true progress towards your goal
  6. Pivot or Persevere -- If the cause and effect of what you released isn’t taking you towards your goal, have the guts to stop, learn and change track now

Wise words indeed. Ant promised a soon-to-be-released e-book which would expand on these ideas, so keep an eye out for that.

My next session was Paul Grimley’s presentation on “Deploying SharePoint 2010 Globally – The Options.” Paul told a packed room that the key aim of the session was to help others deploy a successful global SharePoint solution. He discussed his experiences relating to deploying global SharePoint solutions. He talked about things to consider and provided his thoughts and advice on how to tackle challenges of working with global organizations.

I spent the next session in the Ask the Experts room where I was joined by event organizer Mark Macrea, and SharePoint User Group UK regional organizer Mark Stokes. There was a steady stream of people with a wide variety of issues and problems ranging from “Why doesn’t my search service work?” to “How should I be managing structured data within SharePoint?” Hopefully we were able to offer some useful advice!

Networking and Closing Remarks

I spent much of the afternoon in the exhibitors hall catching up with old friends from the global SharePoint community: Penny Coventry, Dave Coleman, Marc Anderson and Ben Robb to name just a few. The networking side of these type of events is easily as valuable, if not more so, as the sessions themselves. It’s a chance to meet with consultants, clients and sponsors and find out what’s happening in the industry.

I made it into one final session presented by Matt Groves, “The most important social feature of SP isn’t in SP -- making SP social with Lync.” Working for a Microsoft gold partner, I get a good view across the Microsoft technology stack and I often forget that people working with end clients often aren’t as aware of the latest technical developments. This was brought home when a show of hands in Matt’s session showed that almost no one in the room was working with Lync. Matt gave a great presentation (as always) and defeated the demo gods with a flawless (almost) display of SharePoint and Lync integration. No stranger to controversy, Matt shared his views and dislike of the SharePoint “I like it” feature (which he pointed out did not reflect the views of his employer).

The closing keynote was presented by Steve Fox of Microsoft, and his focus was on cloud development for SharePoint developers. Unfortunately I missed the session but I caught up with Steve in the hotel bar afterwards. Steve claimed that most SharePoint developers seemed to be ignoring cloud based development which includes SharePoint Online and Microsoft Azure. I agreed with his view that cloud development and SharePoint was the new frontier, although mainstream Azure adoption is perhaps still a few years away.

The weekend wrapped up with at least a hundred people packing into the Cross Keys pub for a well-deserved SharePint. Of which I may have had one too many, thanks to my colleague Fiona Bridle!

In only its second year and SharePoint Saturday UK has already become established alongside the International SharePoint Conference and the SharePoint User Group UK at the heart of the UK’s thriving SharePoint community. There were top quality sessions from global experts based on real-world experiences, the chance to meet and chat with leading community and industry figures, advice and guidance on career and professional development, a look to the future with SharePoint and cloud development and a fantastic social event. If you weren’t there then you missed out. Make sure you make it next year. And don’t forget all this is free!

Many thanks to Brett Lonsdale, Mark Macrae and Tony Pounder and to all the sponsors and speakers. Great job.

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