Short and Sweet

imageAs I indicated earlier in the year, I am doing less of the heavy lifting around our SharePoint space lately. I think I mentioned that this would have an impact on this blog, and well, I think that starts today. I’m not planning to stop or to go to a less frequent editorial schedule but I do have less to say.

I’ll wait for the applause to stop.

Seriously, I can wait.

OK, here’s the first short and sweet SharePoint Story.

One of the things I’ve been doing lately is helping a young woman build a site to store, track and display the results of our upcoming Wellness Contest. I say helping her build, because she is doing all the work. I’m looking over her virtual shoulder (via Lync) but she is navigating the browser, creating the lists and libraries and she is constructing the SharePoint Designer workflows. My contribution is a lot of:

oh, I see why that didn’t work” and “ok, now go back into the browser and try that workflow again…

So far, the most memorable moment for me is when she was terminating a workflow gone haywire and, looking at the workflow results page, said:

These error messages don’t really tell you much do they?

No, no they don’t – Welcome to SharePoint.

This post is about two bits of my personal style that I felt were important enough to pass onto her, and I’m going to refer to one that I’ve already mentioned. Let’s get the reuse out of the way first.

As I said a few weeks ago, I like building multiple small workflows instead of single large ugly workflows. Yes, adding the word “ugly” is a literary technique to skew your opinion toward agreement with mine. I don’t want you to think I’m trying to subtly manipulate you – the manipulation attempt is blatant.

I had a new reason for sharing this technique today though. Having short, single-purpose workflows helps a person build their reference library. Everybody forgets how to do some of the wonderful things they did in an earlier moment of greatness. It’s nice to be able to say “oh, I remember doing that when we did the Wellness contest back in 2014” and to be able to open that workflow and study it. If you open a workflow that scrolls on for several pages, you’ll likely be too confused to gain much benefit.

By the way, in addition to reusing the old thing, that counts as one of my two new things, so I’m almost done.

The second new thing has to do with clarity. Simply put, use more variables. For instance, in the workflow we were working with today, we are processing a step count that arrives by email. If there is an error, we are going to send an email back to the person who sent in the steps. That bit of information is in the Current Item From field, and we could reference it from there. However, I’d rather store it to a variable called “vFrom” and then send the error message to ‘vFrom’ if / when we have to. When we look at that workflow, the variables are visible, readable and the workflow makes a certain amount of sense.

When she finishes this project, I’ll provide a full description here; maybe I’ll even be able to coax her into writing that post. Until then, maybe I’ll actually do some work of my own, or I’ll offer up another short and sweet observation.

My Annual Plug

imageI’ve been writing this blog for almost five years. During that time, I’ve talked about lots of products that we use (in addition to SharePoint of course). I’ve talked about people we have worked with and conferences that I’ve attended. There’s only one organization’s event that I’ve ever really dedicated a post to. That organization is AIIM and this is that post. It’s a good time for this post for two reasons: 1) the conference is coming up soon, and 2) my SharePoint coworker has been on vacation so it’s been a slow news week here in the office.

In about 6 weeks, AIIM 14 will take place in Orlando, FL. Right now, looking out over 4’ mounds of snow in my yard as I watch freezing rain pour down, sunshine and warmth seems like something out of a fairy tale, but they have it in abundance in Orlando. So, if you’re a fan of such stuff, you have reason enough to go. But, that’s not why I’m going. I like winter. I like snow. I’m going to Orlando, to AIIM 14, to learn.image

If you want to know “how” to use SharePoint, there are just under a zillion conferences you can go to. There’s probably a great one on Saturday or at least there will be, on an upcoming Saturday within walking distance of your house. If you want to know what Microsoft plans to do with SharePoint and what they think you should do with SharePoint, there’s something big happening pretty soon in Las Vegas. But, if you want to know “why” you should be using SharePoint (or any ECM/collaboration solution) or how you might use it better, you need to go to AIIM.

Seriously, nobody understands content like the folks at AIIM and the folks that will be speaking at AIIM 14.

OK, disclaimer time. Sheesh, this gets bigger every year. 1) I will be speaking at AIIM 14. 2) I am the Program Director for the AIIM New England Chapter. 3) I am on the Board of Directors of AIIM International.

Do I have a vested interest in wanting you to go to AIIM 14? I guess, kinda-sorta, but it’s not like I make any money from AIIM. It’s not like working with AIIM, AIIM NE, speaking at the conference or (writing this blog for that matter) will ever lead to increased sales. Well, that is assuming that none of you have an uninsured nuclear reactor hanging around. I attend the AIIM Conference to learn. That’s the benefit I bring back to the office. I have been attending the AIIM Conference, every year since 2000 in order to learn and I have never not learned something that has helped me do my job better. Every single conference has been worth the effort, worth the expense, worth the time; this year will not be different – AIIM 14 will be worth the trip.

The AIIM Conference offers one of the best conference experiences I’ve ever had. It’s big enough to attract some really cool keynote speakers, but it’s small enough to be comfy. You can meet people and actually see them again after you’ve met them. You can meet the speakers, the organizers, the staff members at AIIM, the Board members of AIIM and you will have plenty of opportunities to talk with all those people. It’s also small enough to sell out, so if you want to go, get moving.

My presentation at AIIM 14 is titled “From Hoarders to Pickers and Pawn Starsyou can read about it here, but I think it will be better in person. One of the things people have told me that they like about my presentations is that I talk about things that go wrong, don’t work or cause problems. I also try to point out how we got those things back on track. You’ll hear a lot of real life experience at AIIM 14, told by the end-users, managers, CIO and VP’s who struggled through them and a few who stepped up and hit a home run off the first pitch.

In addition to hearing and talking and taking notes, I’ve made numerous connections at the AIIM Conference that are some of the most important people in my little network.

OK, I hear the “yeah, yeah, we get it, you’re going to AIIM 14 and I should too” comments and I feel the effect of hundreds of shaking heads. There are so many choices today when it comes to ways of acquiring information that I thought I’d share my favorite way with you. Next week, I’ll have another SharePoint Story – maybe about something that worked.