See you at SP Fest DC – April 27-29

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I love Spring. Why you may ask? Is it because Western New York has finally begun to thaw? Nope, thanks to our friend El Niño we’ve been toasty all winter long! Maybe it’s because flowers are starting to bloom? What flowers? I don’t exactly have a green thumb. Okay, maybe it’s due to the loss of an hour of precious sleep? Definitely not. In fact, that is an absolutely horrible part of Spring in the United States…

It’s because it is that time of year again when many of my favorite tech conferences are held!  You’ve got Microsoft running the dev-centric Build (/b) in San Francisco as well as the C-suite focused Envision (I’ll be there as well so check back for a write up soon!) down in the Big Easy (aka New Orleans, LA).

But, another favorite conference of mine, SharePoint Fest (SPFest), is headed to a town many of you know an love (or despise?) Washington, DC!  The DC edition of this popular SharePoint conference draws many talented experts (such as my governance guru, Sue Hanley or fellow Montreal native and SP wizard Ben Niaulin) that will be sharing incredibly useful information that can help improve the quality of your SharePoint implementations.

The conference will be held in April at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Plus, if you register with the code Orluk200 you’ll get $200 off the cost of a Gold or Platinum conference pass. Please note that while the company I work for, Nintex, is sponsoring, I receive no remuneration if you use this code so enjoy guilt free!

Oh and I’ll be presenting two sessions at the event:

WF 201 – SharePoint Adoption Broken? Learn how to fix it with Workflow and Forms
Workflow and Forms in SharePoint can be used to solve business and institutional challenges, particularly user and business adoption. As we attempt to implement these solutions by automating processes we are often presented with difficult decisions such as when to leverage out of the box functionality, adopt no-code solutions or develop custom applications. In this session we will discuss commonly encountered process problems and how to overcome them, the business need to support integration across platforms and how to address an ever expanding mobile workforce.

SOL 04 – Amazing Food & Drink. Faster. Anywhere.
Nintex Technical Evangelist, Brad Orluk, will show you how food and beverage companies New Belgium Brewing and Mitchell’s and Butlers, boosted productivity, decreased production errors, and reduced bottlenecks to bring you their great food and drink, faster!

Brad’s Interview on Technology Advice

I was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Josh Bland, explores a variety of business and technology landscapes through conversations with industry leaders.

In this episode Josh and I discuss everything from business process automation to workflow and forms, my SharePoint ideas, to the upcoming SPTechCon 2015 August 24-27 in Boston, MA.

Below are a few highlights from our conversation:

TechnologyAdvice: How are businesses starting to automate more and more of what they do everyday?

Brad Orluk: When we talk about business process automation, virtually every type of business has a collection of various processes that make up what their business activities are. That may be production lines, assembly lines themselves, or research and development procurement. Virtually every type of horizontal on a business function can really benefit from automation. Think of HR and on-boarding offer letters, exchanging those back and forth, obtaining signatures, and dynamically generating an offer letter.

Those different types of things can be completely automated with our tool set very, very easily.

Obviously we don’t want to take the people out, because people have to approve these things. So approvals can be done with our product inside of their SharePoint infrastructure or it can be done even via mobile, because we have a discreet mobile app that tasks can be assigned to users while they’re on the go. So we’re really starting to bridge this space between virtually every environment.

TA: Does that include workflows and forms – you mentioned those earlier – do you see those as being part of that ecosystem of automation?

Orluk: Absolutely. Because at the end of the day, a solution — any kind of custom solution developed through Visual Studio as a standalone piece of software or something that lives inside of SharePoint — is but a collection of inputs and processing.

So really what we’re doing is building tool sets that everyone inside your business’ constituency can really extract the maximum value out of — whether they are a power user or a developer, they can all use easy drag and drop tools to build out these types of solutions.

TA: What are some challenges in this industry and how are you tackling them?

Orluk: There are myriad challenges out there in this space. And it’s everything from headcount to paying employees to build custom solutions, to the cost associated with developing those solutions themselves. The expertise is a challenge because this is a place that’s really changing very rapidly, so skill sets become obsolete very quickly. And again, driving adoption of what we’ve already invested in. So making sure that customers who have bought things like SharePoint or SharePoint Online are maximizing the investment they have in that space.

Our tools really allow you to maximize those investments because they help reduce the amount of effort that goes into building these types of solutions. So again, numerous challenges from the cost challenges to the time it takes, because everyone’s doing more with less. I think that we really enter in with a unique value proposition because we make it easy and quick, and again, appeal to a wide audience.

TA: On mobile phones, how is the interaction of workflow automation going to move on devices more so than just a desktop?

Orluk: At the end of the day our audiences are really very mobile, they all over the place, they’re connected to the Cloud, everyone’s computing in the palm of their hands with their smartphone. We’re trying to bring solutions that our users are building with our tools. We want to make sure that we have that in their hands; we have things like the ability to create custom mobile branded apps that will really integrate with solutions we built.

At the end of the day, what we’re finding is the hybrid scenario is really the future. Everybody must maintain some kind of sovereignty of their data with their internal datacenters. We are finding that for extranets, other types of solutions, and integration with other platforms, they need to be in the cloud.

So as time goes on, the lines between the on-prem and the cloud are going to become very, very blurred. We’re in a unique position because we offer solutions in both of those places that can leverage all of that functionality.

This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Josh Bland.

The Revelations of SharePoint or my recap of Ignite

SPD didn't make it on the trail to Ignite.

First off, the event was huge! Ignite was able to draw over 24,000 attendees from all over the world and the content (ranging from SharePoint and Office 365 to Exchange and Azure) was top notch!  I really enjoyed getting to catch up with so many people in the community and help launch the new Nintex vTE (Virtual Technical Evangelist, read MVP program). It was a truly awesome experience! I’m still not sure about the musical selection for the Attendee Celebration though…

While there were numerous developments, so many in fact that you’ll simply need to visit Microsoft’s Channel 9 to get caught up, I’d like to focus on my post from last week where I threw a couple of things out there that I thought may come out of the sessions in relation to deprecated functionality and feature announcements as far as SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online were concerned. Let’s see how that panned out…

1. Don’t expect a forms announcement because Microsoft is focusing on platforms and not end user tools. *CONFIRMED*

Microsoft focused on “experiences” at Ignite. The various components of Office 365 (OfficeGraph, PowerBI, O365 Groups, OneDrive, Delve, etc.) will be easier to integrate with on-prem installations but the tooling for these systems was not discussed outside of Visual Studio.  Plus, not only was no replacement for InfoPath named, during one of the last sessions of the conference (UPDATE: The session recording has since been removed. But Bill Baer (Senior Technical Product Manager at Microsoft Corporation) confirmed this today during a SharePoint community YamJam) Mark Kashman said during his SharePoint UNPLUGGED session that there will be no SharePoint Designer 2016.

Gadzooks! So what does this mean for the would-be solution builder in SharePoint v.Next? Well, SharePoint Designer 2013 (not to mention InfoPath 2013), albeit deprecated, should continue to function in SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online. This doesn’t bode well for many enterprise IT shops that would like to be working with tool-sets that are not only supported but still receiving feature enhancements.

Some further speculation below. Perhaps…

  • Microsoft’s dev elves are still working hard on crafting some new tools for us.
  • Microsoft will be acquiring a firm that specializes in this area
  • An all new way of building no code apps is on the horizon (e.g. Project Siena)
  • Only time will tell as far as how Microsoft will proceed in this space. Stay tuned!

2.  Full trust code will still be supported in SharePoint 2016. *CONFIRMED*

This development came to light a week prior to Ignite during Bill Baer’s session at Microsoft Build 2015. Custom solutions and those that leverage the legacy workflow foundation, Timer Service, etc. will still be supported inside of SharePoint 2016. Additionally, SharePoint 2016 will require the now deprecated Windows Server App Fabric 1.1. Obviously, we can see that Microsoft is still very much pushing developers to adopt the app model for their solutions going forward.

To check out the entire SharePoint Roadmap session (Where you’ll learn about roles, the need for a discrete SQL instance and much more!), follow this link to Bill Baer’s “Evolution of SharePoint…” session. Oh and another interesting piece of news that goes hand in hand with this is there will not be a SharePoint Foundation in the 2016 release.

3. Migration, migration, migration! *CONFIRMED*

Microsoft announced its investments in SharePoint Online with the new Migration API. This will allow organizations to leverage blob storage to quickly move content in between environments (On-Prem -> O365 or O365 -> O365) without having to use CSOM. This is a much more efficient (and faster!) was to move content and addresses the realistic needs of organizations to embrace hybrid deployments. Check out the Ignite Session here: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Ignite/2015/BRK3153

Following on this news is the recent announcement of Nintex and Sharegate working together to offer on-prem customers a way to migrate their workflows to Nintex Workflow for Office 365. Additionally, users looking for ways to migrate legacy Lotus Notes apps with ease, Dell is now offering the ability to migrate a Notes database forms to a Nintex Form with virtually zero effort. Simply map your fields in the Dell Migrator for Notes to SharePoint 6.5 release and export a pre-built Nintex form!

Final analysis

These are exciting times for everyone working in the Microsoft ecosystem. There will be some uneasiness but overall I firmly believe that the functionality to build world class end user experiences will improve and allow for solutions to business problems that defy current thinking. Oh, and naturally, Nintex has solutions to these problems today.

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