It’s no secret that when SharePoint 2013 showed itself, I was horrified. I absolutely hated it. And in fact, I hated it so much that I decided I would rather leave the industry than be forced to adopt it. I had my exit strategy all worked out. I’ve refused to speak out about any part of it, and this is my first real blog on the subject.
Why did I think this way? This is only my 3rd version of SharePoint, and every single version that comes out looks and works completely different from the previous version. As a producer of training material and someone who is in the front line of adoption of SharePoint into business, I was completely demoralised by SharePoint 2013. All the work done in SharePoint 2007 and 2010 had to be redone – yet again. All the users’ mindsets changed, yet again.
Realising the magnitude of the work ahead; of the titanic struggle it is to get people to use and love SharePoint at all and now expecting them to change everything they have spent years getting used to; the immense time it would take to rewrite and relearn everything – again; having to break it to clients that all the training would have to be started again, from scratch. It was just too much to bear.
I am not an early adopter. My clients and team are not early adopters. Most of my clients are only just installing SharePoint 2010 right now. We get to see how things turn out because we’re there together for years slowly figuring out how and if this technology can make a difference and getting people to use it. And this mad rush to bring out new versions and completely change every version every couple of years doesn’t sit well with us.
There was a demo of SharePoint 2013 at our Microsoft offices a few months ago. A packed room; mixed audience of business decision makers, business users, hard core techies and vendors. Reaction of the business people I spoke to; mostly terrified – like myself. The governance issues. The training issues. The budget issues. The risk issues. The platform management issues. We knew what this version meant and it wasn’t pretty. My clients had the same sentiment that I did : “No thank you”.
And then I went to the Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Vegas 2 weeks ago. In the keynote we were shown again what SharePoint 2013 can do. To my surprise, I actually started getting a little excited. I sat up, listened and paid attention. (You can watch the keynote on the link above). It motivated me to attend more sessions on what it can do after I had decided I could care less and wasn’t going to attend one of them. I saw some really cool stuff, things users would love! My esteemed colleague and friend Francois Pienaar even noticed my change in attitude and asked if I was going to stay now.
Despite the complaints I had about the conference, the one thing it achieved was to change my mind about leaving the industry permanently. The people I met, the conversations I had and the knowledge I gained have bought me the will to continue – and to do a good job in the process. I’ve gone from a completely negative mindset to one that sees opportunities in all of it, despite the monstrous work it will take. Not right now, in the future; but I feel like I actually may be able to handle it now. It’ll take a few more months of thinking about how to do it all.
What makes me sad however is the months I lost because of the bad communication I got about 2013. I have refused to evangelise it and gave it a vote of no confidence purely because of the mailing lists I was on, the demo’s I attended, the blogs I read. I listened to all the wrong people and it resulted in a severe identity crisis that nearly made me walk out the door.
So my message here to Microsoft is – get a consistent message out there and make sure the right people are saying the right things to the right audience. One size does not fit all and it causes untold damage.
My message to business decision makers and business users is be careful what you read and take to heart; choose your sources carefully. Read things from like-minded people only. I would hate for you to have the same experience I just did.
My message to the techies out there is use this blog as a case study as to why it’s so hard to get people to adopt SharePoint. That you can’t just keep throwing new technology out there and expect it to be used. Just changing the mindset of people to even accept the possibility of wanting to hear more can take months. I don’t just do SharePoint, I use SharePoint – like my clients.
My message to anyone on SharePoint 2007 or 2010 (majority of the planet!)- it’s ok. Don’t feel pressure to do anything you don’t want to do. SharePoint is going to be around for a very long time, and you can catch up to whatever version you want whenever you are good and ready, and not a minute before. There is no rush and every version has it’s business benefits. Plus you don’t get to be vendor guinea pigs while they use you to figure out how SharePoint 2013 works. If you take another 2 years or more to upgrade, the vendors truly will know their story by then and you’ll get solid, real world advice.
The message I have to myself is that things change and there is no stopping that; but you always have a choice about what you want to do. Also it’s natural to resist change, that’s what humans do. That there are the most amazing people in this community globally that make a difference every day in their users groups and offices that make it all worthwhile. That it’s ok to not be an early adopter; there is time enough for everything later, I don’t have to beat myself up about it. I’m exactly where I am meant to be.
PS to all business users – you are going to LOVE Community Sites in SharePoint 2013. And one day when we’re ready, we’ll take the journey together.
Much love and apologies for such a long blog.