Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Evolving the Role of the Strategic SharePoint Framework

Back in 2003 when I first encountered Microsoft SharePoint (SPS 2003) as a Director of IT, after a decade designing international Novell Directory Services, it was clear to me that no one really knew what SharePoint was and how to make best use of it. Some said it was a document management system, some said it was a content management system for portals, some said it was whatever I wanted it to be as there were so many features available. I wanted someone to tell me what to do with it. Just like a CIO would, I treated it like an application and had it installed as an application by a technology team. Then what? No one knew what to do with it, Microsoft had no business blueprint and the solution integrators were reliant on us telling them what we wanted to do with it – to be honest we had no idea really, although the features were truly revolutionary from what we witnessed. So commenced the long process of learning how to approach the subject of SharePoint, and indeed enterprise collaborative systems in general.

From the beginning it was apparent that with an enterprise platform that was as diverse and powerful as Microsoft SharePoint™ that it was not the responsibility of Microsoft to develop a business blueprint as the platform could do many things in a thousand different ways. It was for the product to evolve across the global corporate landscape and find its niche. In fact it would later transpire that though many treated SharePoint as a development platform, it was indeed being used for exactly the same solutions the world over, time and time again, due to what it was most capable of delivering aligned with what organisations shared as common priorities, goals and ambitions. What would happen if all these common solutions were brought together in a single, uniform and cohesive plan I wondered and if so was there a logical sequence to deliver these aspirational services whilst avoiding all-too-common pitfalls?

It was similarly clear back then that SharePoint was always pitched by technology staff using technology language to technology audiences. Where were all the business users and business engagement? Where was the use of comprehensible business language? Where was the interpretation of technical features as plausible business services? Where were the business-focused presentations? It was down to me as a business-focused director to fulfil that role myself to my own business stakeholders and do the translating. Evidently then no one had thought that there was a requirement for a business driven engagement role, a role for someone to bridge the gap between the business and technology. This is the origin of where the role of the SharePoint business strategist started to evolve in my mind.

By 2005 I had delivered SharePoint in a structured format to 22,000 users and by late 2006 had moved as a Microsoft early adopter (RDP & TAP) to the next version of SharePoint (MOSS 2007) with Microsoft case studies and interviews to match. By now it was clear that without a logical business framework or roadmap to work against SharePoint could be too confusing to any client. I was already advising numerous major organisations by then who wanted to know “how I had got it right’ and I gave them the benefit of my advice in my straight-speaking (I was even presenting for Microsoft on the subject) but there was still no diagrammatic method on the market.

By early 2007 I had taken my early thoughts about common services and designed a uniquely structured modular framework that I named Sequenced and Logical Enterprise Methodology (Salem™). Salem relies on a specific framework diagram, with a unique business service module structure, using original logic, service release inter-relationships, sequencing and business language – the opposite we find from so many ubiquitous, feature-focused technology-focused SharePoint presentations. If you want to engage with a business audience successfully, then you have to be able to explain SharePoint in plain English, quickly and in a visual way that is clear for everyone. Salem was more than that as I had determined that the Salem framework had to contain a range of common business services but also be extremely flexible to meet any unique business requirement. Therefore Salem had to be as flexible and adaptable as possible whilst still retaining the same logical structure. As importantly, the framework also had to meet the needs of software updates, new versions and even the cloud.

This was basis of the Salem™ framework that was later to develop into the Salem Practitioner certification program now made available to you today. Before this was possible I had to apply the business framework methodology in as many different types of enterprise client scenarios as possible, the bigger and more complex the better. I was able to apply the Salem framework to clients that were national and then international, spanning between 28 and 72 countries. At this stage I knew that because the Salem framework was working so well in so many different business scenarios with so many happy clients that I had the answer. Quite simply, it worked.

The next stage was to then take the Salem framework to the international SharePoint partner community and demonstrate that others could do what I had been doing successfully for so many years. Some had stated that it was my presentation style, not the framework itself – they were very wrong. Salem in the hands of others was even more powerful than before. By 2011 and in the hands of trained Practitioners in multiple countries, the results were speaking for themselves. Clients were turning their backs on other technologies and moving to SharePoint and renewing their Enterprise Licence Agreements, with CIOs citing the Salem blueprint as the roadmap they were looking for. Each Practitioner had their own original presentation style but the framework remained exactly the same, with the same modules, services logic and unique terminology.

Microsoft staff asked how we could scale the Salem framework out to the world so that we could assist as many clients as possible and reach as many people as possible and it was at this stage that we decided to develop a new, comprehensive Practitioner framework through Genius! (owned by Morgan & Wolfe) so that as many people as possible could benefit for learning to become a strategist, either independently or within the Microsoft partner ecosystem. We wanted anyone who wanted to progress their career to be able to benefit from our own learning, understanding and intellectual property as Salem is proven, tested and completely original as well as highly successful.

As the author of the Salem™ framework, I found myself at the forefront of developing the term ‘SharePoint business strategist’ in the industry because it was through my early work that I fought hard to get my audiences to understand that SharePoint is a business program far more than being a technology platform. Indeed for most of my life I have placed great emphasis on jargon-free plain-English communication. Gradually, over the last decade I have been successful in getting people to understand that the business path to SharePoint engagement is absolutely critical. For too many years, the successes of SharePoint projects have been reliant on the intermediate role of the business-language-speaking project manager and business analysts who tried to bridge the gap between IT and business stakeholders.

This gap is now filled by the formal certified Salem Practitioner, a true business strategist who is formally trained and certified in the process of both IT and business engagement for SharePoint, bringing logic, structure, sequence, rational, process and controls to any SharePoint engagement. Better still the process of becoming a Salem Practitioner for SharePoint is that it can be quick and easy to achieve through the learning structure that Genius! has put together. Salem isn’t just about Microsoft SharePoint and on-premise technology. The same logical framework can be applied to blended technology environments or even non-SharePoint environments and works as well with the cloud and Office 365 as it does with on-site implementations, a truly flexible framework approach.

Today the Certified Salem™ Practitioner(CSP) is a business strategist who may also be a project manager who has decided to step up their skills; a business analyst opening their horizons to new approaches, a solution architect wanted to hone their skills with business audiences, a developer wishing to progress their career into a more front-of-house role; an academic seeking new ways of teaching their students new business and technology approaches or a home-based self-learner looking to advance their own knowledge. Some Practitioners go on to lead client workshops and define SharePoint programs, others use the Genius! courses, masterclasses and workshops as their inspiration to look at SharePoint in a new way or indeed as a way of understanding SharePoint without ever needing to be technical.

Development companies use the Salem framework as a conceptual structure for developing new apps and original to market. CIOs find the Salem framework workshop the basis on which they can plan their future business-aligned IT strategy program and development companies use the Salem framework whilst assisting in defining future budget requirements. No longer do you need to be an IT technical guru to enter the world of enterprise collaborative systems when the logic of Salem is plain-speaking.

With the future of technology increasingly becoming cloud-driven, the role of the business strategist is becoming ever more important. Cloud services such as Microsoft Office 365 are opening up enterprise level software to companies large and small at a speed never thought possible only a few years ago. We now have Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, everything is becoming an on-demand service. Technology is becoming far more commoditized, now bought off-the-shelf, driven by dynamic business requirements, where software simply does the job it is intended to do without months or years of costly development. The entire concept of Apple’s app store has had a dramatic influence on the corporate software market. But with all these services the client can end up being more confused than ever.

Today there is an increasing trend for far less emphasis (and desire) for bespoke development solutions by companies, and far more emphasis on “what do we do with all this technology – how do we put it all together”? And who is going to bring all of this together? The framework-trained Certified Salem™ Practitioner, the person who is trained and certified in the Salem strategic business consulting framework that provides the answers and standards the client is looking for.

Take a look at some of our testimonials to see how others have found great value in the Salem framework. To train as a Salem strategist you must use the official Genius! website as our training and certification program is currently available by no other route.

Copyright Morgan & Wolfe All Rights Reserved 2013


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