In the twelfth and final part of the diary of his SharePoint 2010 adventure, Robert Schifreen eyes up the final configuration and the unavoidable prospect of going live.
Microsoft likes to imply that you can have SharePoint up and running in an afternoon. You can't.
If you try, you'll probably manage it, but you'll be starting down a path from which it will become ever more difficult to return to the beginning and get it right.
To get where we are now, we have been on a huge learning curve. It has taken around eight months of hard work, but I'm convinced it was the right thing to do, and the work will stand us in good stead as the project progresses.
I don't claim that the experiences I have documented here will precisely match the problems you have, or that they can be used as a step-by-step guide to what you will need to consider when implementing SharePoint. But I do hope it will make you realise how much planning and general thought is required, over and above what it claims on the side of the metaphorical box.
Alongside the things I've been doing, my manager has been just as busy with the non-techie things. Speaking to consultants, sorting out proposed designs and templates, attending dozens of meetings, talking to people behind the scenes to ensure that we get the kit we need, planning an internal training and comms strategy, liaising with departments over importing their data, fending off users who want to know why it's not ready yet, as well as a huge exercise to capture user requirements, find out what data they'd like brought over into the new system, and planning a new information architecture from scratch.
We're conscious that the biggest complaint from users about our existing intranet and document repositories is that people can't find what they're looking for, so conversations these days include "taxonomy" or "managed metadata" in every sentence. Frequently both.
So where are we now? My two-server test farm is long since gone, and is now a proper six-server, three-tier farm that's almost working the way we want.
After that, and some user testing, duplicating my efforts on the production farm should be relatively straightforward. Then it's a case of migrating users' data from our existing network shares, at which point we can begin to roll out a working SharePoint environment for all our staff.
It has taken around eight months of hard work, but I'm convinced it was the right thing to do.
Longer term, we have great plans for what we hope will become a core strategic service for all staff and students. We'll be looking for SharePoint development skills within the next year or two, as we begin to create a true intranet and portal that means our users have just a single point of entry into all our systems. Our intranet will evolve from a document collection into a proper intranet/portal.
In an ideal world, when I log into SharePoint from my office PC or from anywhere else, the system should show me a summary of important things like emails and appointments and news, and then provide single sign-on links to every other internal system that it knows I'm allowed to use. It should also allow me to access a range of classic portal apps, such as booking leave and claiming expenses. That's our ultimate goal.
Beyond that, there are other SharePoint features that we haven't even considered yet, such as Business Intelligence.
All of this, and more, is still two or three years away at least, but I'm pretty confident that we're on the right track. And in for an exciting ride.
Robert Schifreen is a SharePoint farm administrator at the University of Brighton and can be contacted at email@example.com.