Thursday, 24 July 2008

SharePoint Towers

In this post I will be talking about the selection of the SharePoint Consultant in SharePoint Projects with a hint of Basil Fawlty thrown in. I have written before about how important SharePoint Consultants are as 'supposedly' they have done it all before and know many of the SharePoint pitfalls (and hopefully the fixes). As a SharePoint Specialist myself (ok 'Consultant'), with Officetalk, I believe I have aided a number of SharePoint Projects, but how does a company find the right SharePoint Consultant? Summertime means a trip to the English seaside armed with an umbrella. Last week I went, with my wife, to stay in a hotel on the East Coast for two nights. The appeal to us of the hotel was that it was a Windmill. So with childhood images of Windy Miller and Camblewick Green in my head we travelled to the seaside. On arrival we were met by the owner (lets call him 'Bernard') who is the star of this posting. Bernard, probably in his late 50's, starts by showing his disappointment that we have arrived ten minutes late. When we booked he had insisted that we inform him of our expected arrival time so he could plan what time to take his dog for a walk. Reminding me of Basil Fawlty, in the classic British comedy Fawlty Towers, Bernard had this continual grin that I felt was hiding his real feelings. I kept expecting him to run out and start attacking his car with a branch. On the subject of cars, I have to mention the small carpark, that only really fitted five small cars, but Bernard insisted that it could accommodate seven medium sized cars - if they double parked (there was even a car parking position diagram in the Welcome Pack). This tight parking meant that nobody could actually get their car out of the car park during their holiday, but Bernard did request that guests left their car keys with him if they were leaving the premises. So why am I talking about an eccentric-hotelier in my SharePoint Blog? The reason is because you need to choose the right SharePoint Consultant. You don't want someone who tells you exactly when you should start your project or one who tries to cram too many items into your Project Scope. Don't let the SharePoint Consultant try to dictate how many sites are included in your SharePoint and never lose sight of whose Project it is. I have to blame myself for the choice of hotel because my wife did point out several bad reviews she had read about the hotel and it's owner a week before. At least we took the advice over avoiding the microwaved kippers. So when choosing your SharePoint Consultant make sure you ask to see some references from other SharePoint Projects they have worked on and if possible do your own research. Another highlight of Bernard's bizarre behaviour was how he insisted on us deciding what we wanted for breakfast the next morning the very second we had finished today's breakfast. Don't let your SharePoint Consultant force you into quick decisions. The game of 'Find the Bernard Sign' also became a favourite pastime. These polite signs included "No Take-Away Food in Rooms", "No Eating on the Bed", "No Cars Entering or Leaving Car Park after 9pm" and "Take all Your Belongs Home. People often leave mobile phone chargers". Again take on board your SharePoint Consultants advice, but make sure that they don't restrict you too much. At times Bernard was trying to organise our holiday and I even felt I had to inform him of all our plans for the day. I am sure he looked disappointed when I said we were spending the morning at the beach, perhaps he was worried about us bringing sand back on our shoes. Or maybe he just didn't like the fact I was wearing my Aston Villa football top in his hotel lobby. I had to get a mention of the Villa in somewhere this week ! To be fair I must comment on the good points about Bernard. He was always there (yes 'always') and always offering to help. On arrival he gave us a very useful map and a quick briefing about the local area. I believe a good SharePoint Consultant should also always be available for you and be able to start by giving you a taster of the kind of things SharePoint can do. At Officetalk we often start a SharePoint project by giving the company a copy of our Checklist and then giving them time to see which areas they want to include. It is also important that the SharePoint Consultant communicates in ways that you and your project team understand. You don't need lots of SharePoint jargon you just need advice and suggestions that you can consider. Even if they develop sites or webparts (SharePoint controls) for you make sure you understand them and have documented how they work. So always be careful when choosing your SharePoint Consultant because you don't want to end up staying at SharePoint Towers, especially if it is 'Faulty' !! [Make sure you click on the Windy Miller link because it is priceless]

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