Part two of Jamie McAllisters Journey as a Microsoft Sharepoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP).
A hair-raising start
My journey to Seattle had an inauspicious start. After the 747 had left Heathrow an apologetic captain announced that the airplane couldn't be pressurized and we had to return to London to fix it. There were a few hair raising minutes as the airliner dumped its excess fuel, and five hours later we were heading to Seattle again, this time without incident!
Putting faces to some "strange" names
The MVP Summit began on Sunday, and I found that I was immediately meeting people in person who I'd only known online before. The first was an MS Excel MVP from New Zealand who goes by the online name Teylyn. We answer technical questions on the same forums regularly, but had never actually spoken before! This summit allowed me to put faces to many online aliases.
There are around 4000 MVPs across 90 countries and representing 90 technology groups. The summit managed to attract around 1400 of those MVPs to Seattle this year. This is really quite a feat and highlights how important the summit is to the MVP program, Microsoft and its customers. It's the premier event for everyone (including Microsoft) to find out what is actually happening in the industry!
The technology game-changers
Microsoft had arranged a lot of sessions on the present and future of their main technologies. This was a great insight into how the industry will be influenced in the next few years. The Cloud featured in conversations with fellow MVPs a great deal, and is likely to be a game changer for many businesses. I can personally see products such as Office 365 greatly extending the utilization of SharePoint in small and medium sized businesses (though large businesses are likely to benefit greatly too!). Due to the hosted nature of Office 365, there will be the ability for product updates to be pushed out every 90 days for Office and hosted SharePoint. This is something that simply wouldnt have been possible before cloud solutions came along.
Also featured was the importance of mobility. Tablets such as the Surface Pro are being positioned as a great solution to run business software. I decided it was time to embrace the Tablet revolution myself and picked up a Surface Pro when I was there. In my personal opinion Office 2013 works very well on the Surface Pro either through the touch screen or using a mouse, and I can sync my documents to SkyDrive Pro and continue working with them on my other devices or share them with colleagues. As I use the tablet more in the real world .Im bound to find out what works best, so stay tuned.
News for solution providers
We now have amazing new capabilities to create Apps and distribute these via an App Store for Windows 8, Office, and SharePoint. These Apps can be very feature rich and powerful, potentially running right inside MS Word or Excel. To provide the best solutions for our clients its likely that scripting skills need to be in the toolbox of all development teams from now on.
Another interesting change is that SharePoint workflow is potentially no longer within SharePoint! We now have Workflow Manager which executes workflow processes on behalf of SharePoint. Hosted on a different server from SharePoint this makes Workflow very scalable indeed. However, if you are upgrading from SharePoint 2010 fear not! The Workflow Foundation that we relied upon is still available in SharePoint 2013 for backwards compatibility.
A chance to contribute to the future
During my interactions with Microsoft at the Summit I gained a deeper understanding of the ambassador-like role of the MVP. The MVP summit was our chance to meet the people who actually create the Microsoft products and we were able to present real world feedback and aspirations from our clients to them. This chance to use real world experience to influence the future is I'd say the reason that the MVP program exists, and I'm very glad I could be a part of it.
Finishing with a bang.... and karaoke
When these summits end, there's usually a party, and this year was no exception. Centurylink Field - stadium for the Seattle Seahawks was hired for the night. There were cheerleaders, fireworks, death defying stunts, and most scary of all, a karaoke stage.
After this, the curtain came down on the summit and we began our journeys home. Attending Seattle this year was a truly excellent experience, which I hope I get the chance to repeat in future.