Day two of the SharePoint Conference in Anaheim (held October 3-6, 2011) and around 300 people packed into the room to listen to Todd Ray, a Senior Business Strategy Consultant within Microsoft Enterprise Strategy Services. As part of this group's Enterprise Strategy Program, Todd works with Microsoft's enterprise architect community to implement Microsoft's Value Realization Framework. The demand for this session (#SPC226) was so high that people were turned away at the doors, and this was one of only a handful of sessions that had to be run a second time. Expectations were high…

Introduction to the 14-Part Framework

Todd opened by telling us that this session was a high-level introduction to a 14-part framework which was detailed in a soon to be published white paper from Microsoft. Although in this session he only intended to cover around half of the 14 elements. The framework was, Todd explained, “A strategic approach to the business whitespace to help you leverage your investment… an adoption framework that results in business value,” and was based on some 10 years of experience. He showed a slide with the technical elements of Sharepoint deployments at the bottom, and the business architecture at the top and a line between them. In Todd’s view, there is plenty of information and guidance relating to the bottom section, but not much “above the line,” an area that Todd refers to as “business whitespace.”

Vision, Strategy, and Roadmap

First up was a discussion of vision, strategy, and roadmap. Not many customers have a SharePoint strategy, we were told. Todd emphasised that establishing a baseline understanding of your current situation and defining a target situation was a necessary best practice. But, he lamented, not many people do this well. Stakeholder education, requirements gathering and business engagement are all key elements of developing your strategy.

According to Todd, SharePoint deployments need to move from being a “monolithic service provider” toward a set of partitioned services. Microsoft itself has “a collaboration utility offering… and a custom service offering.” Todd explained that the business services mapped to the architecture of your SharePoint deployment. Todd asked if anyone was familiar with this approach; only one person in the room raised their hand. At this point, some asked about the scale of the deployments that Todd had based his advice on, and Todd responded that they were very large, enterprise-level deployments. “Does this work on a smaller scale?” he was asked. Another member of the audience confirmed that similar approaches had worked for them in smaller scale deployments.

Developing a Business Case for SharePoint

The focus then switched to developing business cases for SharePoint deployments. Todd started by talking about how the approach taken to develop a business case for SharePoint varies according to a number of factors, including where you are in the platform's lifecycle, which ValIT provides a nice framework for. We were told that developing user personas and narratives against each service offering was the key to telling the story, or understanding and explaining the value proposition of each service. Among the other recommended practices for business case development were:

  • Define the business objectives and drivers in the upfront strategy work
  • Uncover the high value use cases during business engagement (and PoC / Pilot if possible)
  • Develop “day in the life” narratives
  • Align specific usage scenarios across the offerings to specific business capabilities and metrics
  • Use good modelling techniques (such as using sensitivity analysis on assumptions or estimates)

Then we were shown a “mind-blowing graphic” showing how mapping capabilities to scenarios to performance were key to developing a business case (I’ll have to wait for the white paper understand that one!).

Change Management, Training and Communications

The next subject for discussion was change management, training and communications. According to the slide usage, willingness is most influenced by the following factors:

  1. End-user voice
  2. User experience
  3. Communication quality
  4. Process change
  5. Training quality

Can you guess what the final part of the presentation was about?

Governance. Surely the most used term at the conference (again).

Todd told us that he has a love-hate relationship with governance and that people call him “the governance guy.” Todd explained how the concept of the service architecture was related to the way SharePoint is governed. Among his guiding principles for governance were:

  • It must be fit for purpose (right size)
  • Leverage / improve on how similar assets are governed
  • Align with organizational models / culture

With regard to the last point, Todd commented that “Governance in a large federated business is really hard.” He also advocated the use of a SharePoint site for governance and noted that there are a number of different audiences for governance.

Measuring the Business Value Realization

The session wrapped up with an overview of how to measure the business value realization for SharePoint investments. The difficulty with this, Todd explained, is that with SharePoint, cause and effect can be difficult to identify.

Learn More

Todd did a great job covering some difficult and complex concepts in a very short space of time. I’ve been working in this space for a few years now and I am glad to say that I came away from the session with some new ideas and perspectives. For me, the areas that Todd discussed are absolutely the key to successful business solutions with SharePoint, and I agree with Todd that there is a shortage of practical guidance and advice. If you want to learn more, keep an eye out for Todd’s whitepaper and follow my Art of SharePoint Success articles here on CMSWire or on my blog.

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