For the first time, this year’s Microsoft SharePoint Conference had a dedicated “Business” track for non-technical, business decision makers and judging by the 600 plus people that packed in to this session there was a huge demand.

This session was presented by Andrew Woodward, a longstanding SharePoint MVP, the founder of UK based consultancy 21Apps, and this week named as one of the top 25 social influencers for SharePoint.

In his introduction Andrew explained that his background was in agile software development but that he had come to realize that it doesn’t matter how good the code was if the requirements were wrong, and that this had led him to move to this business orientated side of SharePoint.

His aim in this session, he told us, was to redefine the concept of a Center of Excellence (CoE), and that in his definition the CoE was non-technical. He explained that this was an ongoing process, and that there was room to develop the idea further.


Andrew described the challenge facing SharePoint projects, “Experience shows that without the right team in place to support the adoption, exploitation and promotion of new ways of working organizations struggle to achieve the expected return on investment.”

Andrew went on to introduce us to a number of models and approaches that he uses to help define organizational challenges relating to SharePoint. Firstly we were shown the Cynefin framework, which is used to describe problems, situations and systems.

SPCenterofExcellence1.jpgFigure 1: A Cynefin framework diagram

Next Andrew explained the Montgomery Burns test for validating a SharePoint vision statement, and was surprised to find that around 90 percent of the audience didn’t seem to have an explicit vision for SharePoint anyway.

Andrew suggested that we use our stated aim for our SharePoint project to complete the statement, “The Montgomery Burns award for outstanding achievement for …” If your vision fits well into the statement then it probably needs further work. For example, “The Montgomery Burns award for outstanding achievement for improved collaboration,” or, “The Montgomery Burns award for outstanding achievement for excellence in collaboration.”

Finally Andrew showed us the Kapitola Pathway which he uses to align the use of SharePoint with organizational goals. Here’s an example he showed which illustrates why the empire might build the death star.

As the model shows, the basic idea is to map actions and rationale with left and right arrows. Andrew explained that the benefits of this approach are that it provides an end-to-end view of how SharePoint fits into broader organizational strategies, validates broader strategic plans by testing them against projects and initiatives, and that the technique allows the CoE to quickly validate and challenge the business requests.

Figure 2: Example Kapitola Pathway 

SharePoint Center of Excellence

Andrew opened his discussion on the SharePoint CoE by explaining that what they do is be the single point of contact for everything related to SharePoint in the organization. We were advised to brand the SharePoint Center of Excellence and to develop a mission statement.