Remain Calm You’re Still a CIP

Picture Gildna Radner’s SNL character Emily Litella starting a monologue about wanting to bring an end to AIIM’s “see, I pee” promotion. Picture her rambling on until someone points out that “it’s CIP, as in Certified Information Professional.” Picture her offering up her classic: “never mind” and the skit would end.

As much as it would be comforting, I can’t hide behind a misunderstanding. When I wrote my previous post “Ding Dong the CIP,” I knew what I was doing. I was trying to come to the aid of an association that I have great respect for, and to show support for a decision that I was party to making.

I am writing this today, to acknowledge that the CIP is not dead. We don’t have the witch’s broom in our possession and we’re not going back to Kansas. The scarecrow can keep his brain, the tin man his heart, and the cowardly lion need not cower in the shadows of the forest, because, well, we’ve caused enough confusion, and besides, Christmas is only a week away.

Seriously, I’d love to explore all things CIP in this post but, being mindful of the rapidly approaching holidays, I’ll do my best to be brief, and I’ll try to stick to the facts.

Fact – The CIP is back. Again, you can read John Mancini’s explanation of why the Association made this decision. I will summarize this from the point of view of someone who was in the room when the mistake was made:

We misjudged the importance of the CIP within the industry. We heard, loud and clear, from passionate members of our community that the CIP has value and we decided to work to fix the CIP instead of getting rid of it.

I have no problem announcing this mea culpa because, I’d rather take the position of having been wrong than be accused of being obstinate after having been wrong.

Fact – AIIM is working to meet the demands of a community of professionals that is rapidly growing beyond the ranks or ECM and ERM folk. The things I wrote about in my earlier post are also true. More and more people are dealing with more and more issues around managing information, and many of them don’t identify with Information Management as a profession. AIIM will now work to adapt the CIP to fit a broader and growing body of knowledge. Fact – no organization is more capable of meeting that challenge.

Fact – AIIM is a viable and vitally important source for information about information. To the pundits that suggested that AIIM has had nothing to offer without the CIP, I would say “you couldn’t be more wrong.” The CIP is important, apparently more important than we realized. However, the CIP is far from the only good thing AIIM has to offer to the community of information professionals.

Hopefully, the CIP can grow as the body of knowledge that it is designed to certify one in, grows. Hopefully, AIIM, the AIIM community and the industry that AIIM serves can help focus attention on the CIP going forward. Hopefully, this will cause more people to see the value in holding that certification, and hopefully those people will realize that AIIM remains the preeminent source of research, standards, education and communication around that growing body of knowledge.

It’s a lot to hope for, but my history with AIIM tells me that it can all happen. I received, and accordingly I still hold a CIP. I have an ECMm and an ERMm. I still value the later designations more than the certification. The important thing is that when I needed to learn about handling information that doesn’t respond to a SQL query, I turned to AIIM and AIIM delivered. As that information grew in importance in my workplace, I continued to turn to AIIM for insight and guidance and AIIM continued to deliver. As that information worked its way onto multiple platforms, into the Cloud and onto my phone, I didn’t even have to turn to AIIM. People in the AIIM community had already prepared me for those changes. I heard them at Chapter meetings, at the AIIM Conference and, by proxy, through AIIM’s research, whitepapers and webinars.

Whatever your feelings about the CIP, don’t confuse the certification with the Association. Don’t look upon the CIP as an end point that, once achieved lets you walk away from the community. AIIM has much to offer me, you and the entire community of information professionals and the industries that serve those professionals.

Once good thing came from this mistake, the AIIM community showed that they can still get excited. More than ever, I am looking forward to the AIIM Conference in New Orleans and I hope to see you there.

What – No SharePoint?

imageEarlier this week a group of volunteers gathered in Woburn, MA to chart the educational course of the AIIM New England Chapter. We’ve been working for several years to “put the program on rails” but we decided to derail a couple of old standards. One of those appears to be the notion that we should have one event every year dedicated to SharePoint.

This used to be a slam-dunk event for the Chapter; in its heyday, tossing the word “SharePoint” after anything was an immediate win.

Join the parishioners of the Triple Rock Baptist Church for a day of preaching and music, followed by a bake sale, potluck dinner and some SharePoint – Jake; get wise, you get to church

We always tried to give our SharePoint events an AIIM-ish twist. We explored ‘Usability’ in SharePoint. We explored ‘Governance’ in SharePoint. We teamed up with the folks over at ARMA Boston to explore ‘Records Management’ in SharePoint and we tried to figure out what people are really doing with SharePoint. We had some success, but two things seem clear. OK, one thing seems clear and one seems a little fuzzy. Clearly, interest in SharePoint as a subject is waning among our members. Fuzzily, (oh my goodness, that is a word), the direction in which SharePoint is moving, or trying to move, is getting hard to predict. I’m not suggesting a doom and gloom scenario, but if we try to build an event around a product, we need to have a clear picture of the road ahead.

So, rather that market a “message for SharePoint” that has benefit to the broader masses of Information Professionals, we are going to offer a series of messages for that broader group that we hope will attract people from the SharePoint community, too.

Now that I’ve let AIIM NE’s agenda co-opt my blog space for a few hundred words, I think I’ll give you a break and bring this to a quick end. I would ask for a little help though. As many of you know, I am the Program Director for AIIM New England. We are trying to chart a different course this year, partly because, like many professional associations, we are struggling to find the right mix of topics that you (information professionals) will find interesting.

If you have a few minutes, would you please fill out this survey? I promise you that it will only take a few minutes of your time and the results are very important to us. We, by the way, are a small group of like-minded information professionals (well, maybe not entirely like-minded) who volunteer our time to spread the word and provide meaningful educational events at a ridiculously low price to the broad community of (say it with me now) information professionals.

Note: if you have problems with that survey link, for example, if WuFoo asks you to open an account, paste the URL below into your browser. We don’t care if you become a WuFoo customer (although we like them) but we really do want your input –

We Interrupt SharePoint Stories

clip_image002Unless you’re new to this blog, you know that in addition to managing technical things at a small insurance company, I am a member of AIIM. What you might not know is that for the Chapter year that began July 1, 2012, I am responsible the events that the New England chapter of AIIM will produce. Most of our events are in the greater Boston area, but we will be stepping into CT and perhaps western MA. We will be holding a variety of events, some social, some educational and we could use some help. Our event schedule is almost complete, and we are planning events around the following topics:

  • Social Media use inside the organization
  • SharePoint’s content management, and process improvement features
  • AIIM and AIIM New England
  • Security
  • Records Management
  • Training for AIIM’s Certified Information Professional Certificate

Some of these events will involve seminar style presentations by people with expertise in the topic area. Some will involve panel discussions and some will mix the two styles. We are currently looking for speakers/panelists, sponsors and of course, attendees. What can you expect in exchange for filling one of these roles? I’m glad you asked:

Speakers – AIIM Chapter events are fun, and you’re the star. In many cases, we can adapt our program to fit your message; if you need more time, you got it. If you prefer something less formal than talking off a slide deck, talk to us. If you have a product you want to feature – AND you have a customer who will talk about it – we want to hear from you. Once you agree to participate, we will talk about you in our marketing, on our website, in our blogs, in Twitter, on Facebook and we will continue talking about you as long as you continue to be interesting.

Sponsors – In addition to the blogging, Twitter chatter, Facebook liking and marketing material that you will be featured in and on, we will plaster your message across our website in a banner ad. We will also give you a few minutes during the event(s) you sponsor to speak directly to the audience. Our events also feature adequate time for networking. You can sponsor an individual event, a series of events or the entire Chapter program.

Attendees – AIIM Chapter events are a great way to explore and learn about topics of interest to you. Nobody is in a hurry to move to the next session, so there is adequate time to answer questions, have discussions, and dig into the details. Some of our 2011 events were characterized by 50% or more of audience interaction! In addition, since you are in your own backyard, the people you meet are more likely to be people you can connect with again face-to-face, as well as virtually.

Everybody at an AIIM Chapter event becomes part of the Chapter community. Not a virtual community, a real community, the kind where you might stop by to share a cup of coffee or a couple of beers after work. In fact, we will provide at least two events at which you can do just that. We will kick-off our program year with a social event in nearby Waltham, MA, and we also hold an Annual Holiday Social event. Last year, the Holiday Social was held at the Marriott in Newton, MA.

The New England Chapter is one of the oldest AIIM Chapters. We have numerous AIIM fellows, Distinguished Achievement Award holders and several of our members have served on the AIIM Board; in fact, at least one of our current members is a previous Chairman of the Association. AIIM NE is a storied Chapter and we are looking to continue writing history as we move through our 5th decade! Join us for an event; share your expertise with your neighbors, support a great program or come, listen and learn. You can reach me through this blog, ping me on Twitter, email through LinkedIn, or reach out to me through the Chapter contact points listed above. I hope to see you at an event in New England this year.

SharePoint Community; Loud but not so clear

clip_image002By: Mark Thompson

A week ago I emailed Dan and asked if he had written anything regarding the SharePoint community. I was hoping to read his thoughts on this subject but instead he gave me this opportunity to share my thoughts about my recent experiences in the SharePoint community. SharePoint Stories has developed a sturdy reputation so being a guest blogger this week is something I take seriously.

I don’t know why, but I’m still surprised at random human kindness and volunteerism whenever I see or hear it. Maybe I just watch too much negativity on television. I need to get over it and take a closer look at my own community of friends and colleagues and focus on the positives.

Speaking of community, let’s talk about the first of three points I’d like to make. There exists an amazing community of Leaders, IT Pros, Administrators, Developers, Consultants, Trainers and learners. They all have something in common. It’s SharePoint. And SharePoint is about collaboration, building solutions and creating easy access to information. SharePoint is about taking a process or procedure and making it ever easier than it was before. SharePoint empowers an individual; SharePoint is about establishing a community within your organization. Here is an analogy for you. We all know of countless people who may have relocated because of better schools, more affordable housing and let’s not forget better jobs. They go through this effort just to be part of a particular community. Similarly when a SharePoint deployment is successful it becomes a community within the organization, and people will want to be involved. The SharePoint community is a very strong and thriving community and we do want to be a part of it.

My second point is about the negative vibes I have encountered recently. These encounters are rare but I suspect the egos and the immaturity of some members of the community can completely change the landscape if we don’t recognize the signs and step up our game. Please do not misinterpret what I’m trying to say, the sky is not falling. I just want us to remember that the community is not just about you, it’s not just about us. It’s about everyone in this community. Our immaturity is discouraging the young lady who drove 80 miles to a conference to ask some nagging SharePoint questions but was made to feel stupid by one misplaced remark in the audience.

Do our egos can prevent the growth of our businesses because we don’t make time to follow up with the individual who needs two minutes of our time? Would we rather hang out with the boys at the hotel bar instead? Our behavior has prompted attendees to skip our presentations because they recognized our name from the last conference; you know the one where we argued with the “bone head” in the back of the room who was trying to prove he knows more than you.

Because of our selfishness, we’re more interested in getting our picture on the conference website & brochures instead of volunteering to actually share our skill set and present something meaningful to the SharePoint “newbies “.

For my third point I just want to remind everyone of what being part of the SharePoint community means in the grand scheme of things. A community exists because of its members. We can all benefit from being a participant, and this holds true even for the most seasoned SharePoint veterans out there. Let’s encourage each other. The presenter who had the sound or projector issues should still get a “thank you”. Likewise, we need to thank the developers who write code and build tools that are free because of their passion for the platform. They feel they can make a difference so they took a deep breath, crossed their fingers and stepped up their game. Let’s make the young lady who was so excited to attend a free seminar on a Saturday feel like her drive was well worth it. Please, do reach out to the newbies. Many of you remember meeting that individual who was totally lost when their boss threw SharePoint on their lap and was told to figure it out. Remember that look of clarity on their faces after you set them straight?

Before I step off the podium please remember that my compliments do reflect the majority but my complaints do reflect the very few individuals who don’t yet understand the big picture. Getting our name up in lights and seeking out sponsors is not the only game in town. Continue to be generous, demonstrate random acts of kindness and the SharePoint Community will continue to be strong and resilient. As the SharePoint community matures, it has to serve a broader range of members. We are seasoned SharePoint professionals who love to learn and share and newbies who have just discovered a whole new world. We are still a community of professionals.

On Reading Blogs

clip_image002While in Boston for SPTechCon, I was having dinner at a pretty good Irish Pub. I sat at the bar as I normally do when dining alone and the bartender gave me a copy of the Rules. Beginning at 5:00 on Mondays, this restaurant features $0.10 wings at the bar. I was having soup and a Rueben sandwich, but the rules were fun reading. They specify things like “you can’t mix sauces”, “you have to buy wings in groups of 10”, “you don’t get bread or a salad with your ten-cent wings”, etc. My first thought was “who needs rules for ordering chicken wings?” but in less than 10 minutes, two people asked the bartender for variations covered by the rules. One wanted to order 15 wings and one wanted half BBQ and half with the house sauce. In addition to not following the rules, both of these people got mad when their request was denied. Seriously people, you are eating 10 wings for $1, how can you possibly complain?

Last week, I was searching for a way to filter a Lookup Column in SharePoint, and I found references to several blog entries. One of the posts that looked promising was followed by a number of comments indicating that the solution was not foolproof. One for those comments began:

dude, do you monitor this at all? it seems that you are blogging solutions to make yourself look good but you are not actually familiar with the solution

That comment bothered me; I thought, “this is the guy who gets mad when he can’t order 15 wings.” First off, there were over 30 comments on the blog and the author had already answered one by saying he hadn’t had time to look into the question. He also encouraged the person asking the question to post any solution he found. Second, I doubt very much that anybody blogs to make themselves “look good” – blogging is work, it’s work we don’t need and although some of us enjoy writing, it’s still time we could use to write something else. The fact that I can search on “sharepoint filtered lookup column” and get 40,000 plus results is amazing, and you are complaining that the blogger isn’t answering questions fast enough? Perhaps you need to watch this video.

Since I author several blogs, I calmed myself down and I reread and thought about the comment to see if it had value; I found little. I appreciate every comment I get on my blog, and I try to respond to every one, at least with a “thank you for your comment”. On the other hand, I don’t often blog about technical solutions (I read other blogs to find those). It takes time to find errors in SharePoint, particularly when the solution works for you! This guy figured out something that worked for him, was pretty cool, and judging by several comments, his solution worked for others. It didn’t work for everyone but how was he to know that? How was he to test and debug that? Have you tried debugging SharePoint? If you’re the kind of person who needs rules to order ten-cent chicken wings, here are my rules for reading blogs:

1. Thank the blogger for taking the time to take screen shots, research a topic, copy links, write, edit and publish a blog entry.

2. Understand that your mileage may vary. There are a staggering number of permutations for SharePoint configurations; the likelihood that you and the blogger are working off similar configurations is slim.

3. Treat the information as a clue. If nothing else, the blogger has given you information you didn’t have before. If you can’t find the complete answer, take the blogger’s solution and use it as a starting point.

4. Contribute something useful. If you have a question, or if the solution didn’t work for you, add as much detail to your response as possible. You may help the author or others solve your problem. Better yet, if you have a comment that can help others avoid a problem, add that to the blog. Even better yet, solve your own problem and post the solution!

5. Do NOT contribute something useless. The Guidelines for Social Media that IBM offered to the world include the rule: “Don’t pick fights” – follow that rule, and don’t post comments that only make you look good, or make the blogger look bad.

6. Create your own blog. If all the SharePoint blogs out there haven’t managed to answer your question, find the answer yourself and publish it. If you don’t want to create a blog, write an article for End User SharePoint. I guarantee that before you post that article, you will gain a huge appreciation for every blogger who ever posted a technical solution.

7. Compare blogs. I read about eight blog entries (see #1 above and go watch that video) before deciding on my solution, and I ultimately decided to try a different approach (see previous post ‘Unfiltered’). The last thing I would ever do is plop the first bit of JavaScript I found into a web part.

8. Remember that SharePoint is global. Bloggers may be posting in their second language and they may not operate under the rules, laws and business conditions you live with.

The SharePoint community is a wonderful collection of intelligent, creative, passionate people, most of whom are willing to share their experience with others. Take advantage of that amazing resource and please, please don’t do anything to discourage the people contributing to the community.

Boredom Interrupted

This week marks the second time an unplanned event saved me from writing an uninspired blog entry. The first time this happened was on the heels of the Microsoft SharePoint Conference (which I could not attend). At that time, the NY Times inspired what turned into a popular rant about the future of Microsoft. This time, I’m not ranting, I’m honored. Last week, Mark Miller of notified me that he was writing an article about this blog. He highlighted my entry on SharePoint Lists v. Excel and generated some of the highest views I’ve had. Now I have one more reason to appreciate the great work Mark does at EUSP.

The renewed attention on that post generated a few comments, tweets and emails. A few compliments tell me I’m on the right track with this blog, but it’s two challenging comments I want to talk about. One person pointed out that I left out a valuable feature of SharePoint Lists, that multiple people can make entries at the same time. The second person mentioned that the article was one-sided; well, it is SharePoint Stories, but it’s a point well taken; SharePoint isn’t the best tool for every task.

The result is that instead of writing a “look back on 2009” where I bore you with the course this blog has followed, I’m going to answer both comments with an update on a previous entry about a custom survey. The survey was briefly mentioned, ironically, in an article where I was thanking the SharePoint community, including ESUP.

This particular survey was designed to gather feedback from people attending a customer meeting we had just held. As the author of one of the comments pointed out, the beauty of using SharePoint for this task was the fact that I didn’t have to care when people responded. Using a Custom List instead of the standard SharePoint Survey let me attach a workflow to the survey which allowed us to automate the processing of the survey results. Now we all know, SharePoint is limited in its ability to present survey results – but, that’s where Excel shines. We exported the SharePoint survey results to a spreadsheet and gave that spreadsheet to one of my coworkers who does magical things with Pivot Tables. The result was a series of short, highly informative reports, easy to read charts and tables summarizing the survey data. Once the “survey”, the workflow and the spreadsheet were in place, the reporting process was just short of automatic. As one of the comment authors mentioned, the key is to “use the right tool for the job.”

Thanks again to Mark Miller for all he brings us through ESUP and for all the people who contribute to the SharePoint community; you make it easy to succeed. In fact, I just noticed that ESUP has a recent article on processing SharePoint Surveys without using a workflow. I look forward to all the interesting stories that are bound to be part of 2010 – Happy New Year!

On The Run

I’ve been on the run this week, literally and figuratively. So, on Monday when I was watching people complain online about the long download times for the SharePoint 2010 beta. My first thought was, “people, it will still be there tomorrow”.

Seriously, I haven’t voluntarily endured painful waiting since 1975 when I waited in line for tickets to see Pink Floyd perform at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Back then, you either waited in line at the box office or at a Ticketron outlet. No Internet, no StubHub, no auto-redial phones, not even a GPS to get you to the box office. And, that was worth suffering for; those tickets were not going to be there tomorrow.

Ironically, there are similarities between these two events. The first that comes to mind is remembering that by the time I actually got to see Pink Floyd (in the spring of 1976), I had purchased the latest album and learned all the songs by heart. Likewise, by the time I can actually install SharePoint 2010, I will know everything I need to know to replace our servers and, thanks to the great SP Bloggers, I’ll know the other stuff too. SharePoint, Twitter and the blogosphere create an inverse Donald Rumsfeld effect. “There are the things we know we know, the things we didn’t know we needed to know, but now know. But there are also the things we don’t need to know, that we now know”.

Second, once I actually had those two precious tickets in hand, I could ask the girl I was kinda-sorta dating to go with me to the concert. Date accepted, plans could be made for a trip to Pittsburgh from West Virginia (Go WVU!). Likewise, once we have the beta installed, we can start to make our plans. We can verify that everything; sites, web parts, workflows, etc. works. We can start to prepare our rollout plan. We can prepare our training material. When the ‘safe to install’ version is released, we will be ready to go.

Third, I expect that just as I grew tired of listening to Wish You Were Here, I will grow bored with SP 2010 experiments on our development server long before the final product is released. Also, far in advance of our own install date, I will succumb to temptation and build up unattainable goals for the new version – I will give into and become the hype.

The final thing that I expect SharePoint 2010 to have in common with Pink Floyd is the actual event. By the time the concert date had arrived, I had broken up with the girl I was planning to take to the concert. She wasn’t actually a big fan so I gave her ticket to a buddy who was. While we were worried that the band couldn’t live up to our expectations, they blew them away, and they did it with an old standard – “On The Run” from Dark Side of the Moon. During that song, a 30’ model plane flew down a guy wire from the upper deck cheap seats, crashed into the stage and exploded. OK, maybe that’s a bad example – although I’m sure Microsoft could build a product that would crash and burn, I don’t expect it will be SharePoint 2010. I meant that I expect that what will impress our users is something that SharePoint has always had available but that Microsoft has somehow made better. Maybe that’s why my next post is going to be on Custom Lists.