Upcoming SharePoint webinar

Announcing the first of the CIAOPS webinars for 2010.


100107 – SharePoint Questions and Answers 1

Topics covered:
– Configuring and scheduling command line backups
– Document management best practices
– SharePoint alternatives and downsides
– SharePoint 2010 Foundation
– Embedding YouTube into SharePoint

Presenter: Robert Crane
Date: Thursday 7th of January 2010
Time: 10.00am (Sydney, Australia time)
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: $10 ex GST
Level: 2 (Intermediate)
Prerequisites: None

This webinar will answer many of the most popular questions we see regarding SharePoint technologies.

Registration: To register send an email to director@ciaops.com.

Don’t forget that our previous webinars:

091112 – Introduction to SharePoint (Free)

091126 – Basics of using SharePoint (Free)

091210 – Basic SharePoint administration ($10)


Are also available upon request (director@ciaops.com)

I hope to see you there.

Up in the sky

A few posts ago (I smell fear) I was lamenting the fact that Microsoft seemed to be getting pretty desperate about getting resellers on board to sell its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). I pointed out that in my opinion existing resellers and their inertia when moving to this new platform was going to be a millstone around Microsoft’s neck that it needed to address.

Now the following article ‘Microsoft must sell the cloud to IT Pros in 2010’ covers similar ground. The article points confirms a number points that I have been speaking about for quite a while, such that if IT Pros

“don’t get in line to compete [with online services], they put themselves at a significant risk of being not there when real money starts to get spent in this space.”

and the fact that a majority of businesses are going to be dipping their toes into the world of online services:

“data also shows that only 16% of those who have adopted cloud computing, or will within 12 months, will go solely with an off-premises model. But 50% of those respondents will go with a mixture on both on-premises and off premises.”

and that BPOS is the best opportunity for IT resellers:

“The most popular is software-as-a-service, represented for Microsoft by BPOS, and infrastructure as a service, represented by SQL Azure and integration technology.”

and finally Microsoft has a major challenge on its hands but only a limited time frame in which to achieve it:

EMA’s Mann says couple all that with the fact that “IT never gets rid of anything” and you have a situation where “IT is not going to move to the cloud, they are going to add the cloud to what they have.”

And how IT can go about doing that will be Microsoft’s challenge. The clock begins ticking louder in 2010.

The reality is that most businesses are considering the adoption of some form of cloud technology in their business. It is certainly, not in the short term at least, going to replace on premise infrastructure it will supplement it. However the majority of IT Pros that I know have no online strategy at all, they like Microsoft, are focusing on the wrong aspects of changes online services are going to usher in. It is not about selling a per month service, it is about what opportunities become available with the wide spread availability of these tools.

To survive in this new environment you are either going to make money by volume (many sales at low margin) or specialization (fewer sales at much higher margins). It seems to me the option with the least effort required is simply moving up the food chain (i.e. the second option) but this appears to put the fear of God into so many IT Pros. Why? Because in past they became comfortable selling their IT knowledge. The reality is that Google has changed that landscape FOREVER. As evolution has taught us, now is the time to adapt or perish, because the window of opportunity will not remain open forever.

All new and shiny

I have now swapped over to the new hosting package for www.ciaops.com that I have been talking about of late. A bit early perhaps but I wanted to make sure it was all operational by the first of January.

Now, there is still plenty of work to do but the first step is always making the change. My previous design had the navigation menu on the right hand side of the screen much like my other recent web site upgrade (www.anzacsinfrance.com). I asked a few people their thoughts and they said that the perhaps the menu should go on the right. ‘I don’t like that’, was my initial reaction, ‘this is MY web site’, I thought. Wrong! I then remembered the whole reason I had gone down this refurbishment path. I was looking to create a web site that worked for visitors not for my own ego.

I swallowed my pride and decided that I needed to do some research. The first place I went to was probably one of the most popular sites on the Internet – Amazon. Guess what? Menus on the left. What about the BBC? Again, menus on the left. Wikipedia? Again, menus on the left. If I wasn’t finally convinced I found a tool form Google called Browser size.

According to the site:

Google Browser Size is a visualization of browser window sizes for people who visit Google. For example, the “90%” contour means that 90% of people visiting Google have their browser window open to at least this size or larger.

This is useful for ensuring that important parts of a page’s user interface are visible by a wide audience. On the example page that you see when you first visit this site, there is a “donate now” button which falls within the 80% contour, meaning that 20% of users cannot see this button when they first visit the page. 20% is a significant number; knowing this fact would encourage the designer to move the button much higher in the page so it can be seen without scrolling.

So if I had my menus on the right of the page it was likely less people would have been seen them without scrolling. This would have meant they were less likely to stay and view the content, which is exactly what I don’t want.

Luckily with the new hosting tool, swapping the columns was a piece of cake and after doing this I must admit I liked the site better myself. This whole process goes to prove my earlier point about focusing on the reasons you have for doing something. I have some very specific goals for my web site going forward but what good is that if I ignore that when I go about implementation? Like derrrr, however it is very, very easy to overlook. I must now revisit some of my other projects and see if I’m making similar mistakes. Focus grasshopper, focus.

Another great set of tools to help me achieve my web site goals I have found is Google Webmaster Tools.
Once I have configured my sites in here I can see if they appear in Google and not only what search queries have resulted in my site being displayed but also how my sites raking in that query. There is a whole swag of tools available here that I need to fully explore but honestly, it is yet another way that Google is helping my business. Best of all, like most of Google’s stuff, Webmaster Tools is free. I once again see this a confirmation that Microsoft is falling behind in the battle to win hearts and minds in this ‘new economy’.

So I’m off to do some more fiddling and migrating of my web site www.ciaops.com. Stop by, have a look and let me know what you think as I’d really love to get feedback from some real visitors. Feel free to contact me via email (director@ciaops.com) with your thoughts.

Improving the response to feedback

I’m a big one for measurements and metrics. You know the saying – ‘If you can’t measure it then you probably shouldn’t be doing it’. This statement however probably neglects the most important aspect of metrics, that being adjustment. Once you measure something you need to use the results to improve what you are measuring. In many ways that means creating a constant feedback loop as changes are made and then their results are compared, changes made and then measurements taken again. Sometimes, an adjustment may make things a little worse or with any luck, a little better. In the big picture, the result should show a continual improvement.

One of the areas where I have been making measurements but failing to make adjustments has been with my web site www.ciaops.com. I have watched as the metrics have continued to fall and for various reasons failed to lift a finger to make any changes. From January 1 that is going to change as I have migrated my main web site to a new platform and am committing myself to much closer monitoring and adjustment going forward. The main reason for this is that I am coming to appreciate how critical a web site now is when selling your business. It is the number one place where potential customer will come to check out who you are and what you have to offer. If you fail to measure up here, guess what? They’ll be gone.

Probably the major reason that I failed to make adjustments to my web site was simply the fact that the platform I was on with my previous ISP was simply so ancient now. I was working with old fashion tools trying to keep up with the modern advances of the web. Having identified previously that I did need to do something I soon came to appreciate that the platform I was on was not going to be suitable. That has driven me on an extensive search of what is available and I am now very confident of the platform I am adopting. Yet that is still not good enough. As ‘good’ as I ‘think’ this platform is, a ‘nice’ as I think my remodelled web site will be it makes no difference now unless I see improvements in my metrics. This means I need to focus more fully on what visitors use my site for. This means I need to spend more time looking in depth the analytics of my web site. It means making changes to my site that may not seem to make sense to me but in the end I need to focus on what I deliver to people who visit my site because it is going to the central to my business in the future.

My initial attempt at migrating my site is clearly going to be far from the most effective result possible however, the important thing will be my enhanced focus on examining the site metrics and make adjustments. With 2010 fast approaching let me ask you firstly whether you have adequate metrics in place for the critical aspects of your business? Secondly, I’d ask that if you do have these metrics in place what are you doing with them? For it is silly to simply collect the results without converting them into action.

When my new site goes live around January 1 have a look and let me know what you think because now I have the tools and desire to make the site what it should truly be – the central location of my business going forward and I can use all the feedback I can get.

Dear web hoster

Haven’t I been a good customer? Haven’t I always paid my bills and never asked any really demanding questions? Haven’t I been using your service for over 10 years now as well as bringing all my clients along as well? But guess what? I’ve finally realized that I’ve been stupid. I’ve allowed you to take me for granted, take my money and provide nothing above the basics in return. Now that I’ve finally woken up to this fact guess what? I’m outta here.

If you look at any business, it probably makes 80% of its money from 20% of its customers. Typically these 20% simply pay their accounts every month and continue to buy product from you, but what do you do for them? In all the years I’ve been with my ISP I think they have contacted me once about upgrading the plans that I was on and that was because they wanted me to shift to a new server. Was that better for me? Nope, it was better for them. What was in it for me? Nothing except extra expense. Now I maybe dumb but I ain’t stupid. Why should I pay more and get nothing additional? Give me a break. Is this how you treat me after all these of good patronage?

How many relationships in business (and life) do we take for granted? Too many I’ll bet. We simply assume they’ll always be there and thus, we never need to do anything to maintain them. Problem is that overtime, left unattended like a garden, the weeds start to grow. The relationship starts to decay as the parties drift apart. Now the bonds that maintain that relationship become weaker and weaker until even the smallest change the landscape causes them to break. The smallest enticement is enough for the customer to switch.

Clearly my current web hoster really doesn’t care if I’m a customer, even after all these years. Even though I maybe small fry I feel totally taken for granted. Even as I scaled back my investment with the web hoster I have still not received any queries as to whether there were any problems or something additional that could be done to retain my business. So rather than be continually ignored I’m taking all my business elsewhere. Worse still, I’m going to tell everyone that I’ve done that. That can’t be good for the web hoster’s business now can it?

It doesn’t take much to maintain a strong relationship but like a garden it still needs to be tended. It needs to have the occasional weed removed. If not, then that lack of focus soon becomes obvious and it’s generally down hill from there.

If you don’t know which customers in you business contribute the most to your profitability then you should. Once you do look after them and fire the 80% who continually cause you grief. The impact of losing a good customer is going to far higher and typically you won’t realize it until it is too late. Even if your car is running well you take in for service don’t you? If you aren’t doing that with your best customers now, like me, it is only a matter of time before they are someone else’s clients.

Free CD sampler

If you interested in IT resources then I’d suggest you head over to SMB Books to have a look at what they have to offer. You may even find that last minute Christmas gift for that geek who is near and dear to you. One thing you will find is a free CD Sampler that SMB Books have put together showcasing a range of products that are available on the site.

A full listing of the products that are showcase on the CD Sampler can be found here. Low and behold you’ll find that one of the products showcased is my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide. As part of the offering for the CD I have made available a number of my documents as well as well as interviews that I have conducted recently. However, you’ll also plenty of really handy stuff on there and best of all it is free to you. Simply complete the details on the request page and lickity split you’ll have a CD before you can say Merry Christmas!

Help others

As Christmas draws near and the season for purchasing gifts draws to an end (just before the sales of the New Year start) I’d urge you to stop and have a think about those who may not be going to have such a merry Christmas this year.

Sure we can all sit here and dwell on the issues at hand but that achieves very little in the end. I reckon that taking action is the best method of actually making things better. As I have mentioned before, one of my favourite ways of making a difference is Kiva.org. It is a system where you can contribute small amounts together with others that is lent out to small business people all over the world.

I like this system for a number of reasons. Firstly the money that you give is an investment rather than an donation. The recipients of the funds use it as loans for their business. They are obliged to pay the amount back (and to date everyone I have lent to has done just that – see my donor page). This means that once the money has been repaid it can be withdrawn or re-lent. If you choose to re-loan the money it means that same amount is working over and over again. The other reason I like Kiva is that a business operator I feel a close association with those working in a business and trying to get a leg up. Finally, I think Kiva is a really great example of the power of the Internet for good. It shows you how technology can be utilized to provide benefit to many of the most disadvantaged on our planet.

If you haven’t see Kiva then I’d ask that you at least have a look at the site and see what it is all about. I’d also encourage you to take the opportunity to look around your community and see what assistance you maybe able to offer someone in need this Christmas. Even if it is just a friendly ear because there are more people in need out there that we realize.

Sick of giving feedback

A while ago I must have agreed to be on this Microsoft Partner Research Panel. Basically it means I have to fill out a web based survey once a month about my relationship with Microsoft. Well no more, I’m sick of doing these things. Why? Because I’m self centred and I see no benefits for ME.

Now mind you I have no problems doing the occasional survey but this once a month thing is becoming a real drag. I can’t see that I’m receiving any benefit personally or for my business. If I am, I wish Microsoft would tell me because I certainly can’t see it. I never see any results from these surveys, I never get contact by Microsoft about what information I enter in these surveys and like I said I can’t see ANY benefit to me or my business of spending the amount of time I do on these things.

It’s like when Microsoft (and any other vendor) ask for customer case studies. What’s the benefit to end customer? No much really. They get to see their name on some anonymous white paper buried in some obscure web site. How does that help their business? How does it improve their revenue or decrease their expenditure? It doesn’t. So why should they do it? It is simply distracting and only really benefits the vendor.

Now I appreciate that people like Microsoft need feedback and this maybe the most efficient way for them to receive it but I’m getting the feeling that this feedback thing is becoming a one way street. What’s in for me? If there is something, then I sure as hell have no idea what it is!

You can’t just keep going along and sucking information out of people without giving something tangible back I’m sorry to say. If you want my opinion then there has to be something in for me, I’m sorry. I have a business to run. I’m know I’m a greedy, self centred and pompous but hey you’ve had your chance. I’ve done you lots of favours and the now your relationship bank account with me has been overdrawn and I’m bouncing all your cheques until you start putting something back into it. As The Donald says – It’s no personal, it’s business.