my world of work and user experiences

December 31, 2011

Happy New Year – In the Cloud and here on Earth!

Filed under: Office365 — frederique @ 16:28

I wish you all the best for 2012, wherever you are!

For me, 2011 was the year I ended up In The Cloud for real. In particular: Office 365. We are doing a SharePoint Online project, so we are only seeing part of the cloud so far. But hopefully we’ll expand and start using Lync Online and Exchange Online later.

The jump from SharePoint 2003 to The Cloud

At this client, we are currently working in an – immensely customized – SharePoint 3003 environment and Office 2003. It is a big multinational, with a lot of corporate inertia and legacy applications that clash with the modern world. So the jump from SPS 2003 and WSS 2.0 to SharePoint Online is huge as it is. What we need to do in any case:

  • Upgrade our Internet Explorer 6 (yes, six!) to IE 8, because SharePoint Online simply does not work on IE 6.Fortunately we’ve finished that for almost all users now. And yes, we know that IE 9 is already upon us, but we didn’t want to make the roll-out even messier.
  • Upgrade our MS Office from 2003 to 2010, because when the client signs with Microsoft for Office365, he agrees to be on at least the current version of Office minus one.Actually, the old office is not as much of a handicap as the old browser, as long as you use SharePoint Online as a communication platform. Luckily we’ve postponed the more advanced functionality, that requires serious office integration, until a later stage. So we’ll have some time to roll-out the new office.
  • Migrate what is still relevant from the old portal and team sites to the new platform. Content, but also business solutions created via smart configuration of team sites.Because our old SharePoint was customized so heavily, there was no way to automatically upgrade the whole thing to a newer version of SharePoint. So we’ll have to create a new platform and configure that in such a way that it meets the users’ needs on each level and then get the existing content in there. We’ve been asking site owners to clean up their sites and delete what is no longer relevant, so that we won’t be wallowing in dead sites and irrelevant content by the time we start migrating.

A new intranet for a company that does not exist yet

Complicating this jump even further is the major reorganization that is going on: the company is split into two separate companies. The half I am in, will be a completely new company, with a new name, new vision, new style, new everything.

Unfortunately, these details of the new company have not been announced yet. So I find myself in the challenging position of designing and developing an intranet for a company that does not exist yet and whose particulars are mostly secret so far. For example:

  • Our main aim is to support the business, so we try to consult the stakeholders in the business. But what are our key business segments and business processes now? And who are our key people, moving forward?
  • The user accounts for the new company are not available yet. And the user account of the old company cannot be connected to SharePoint Online, because there are too many items in the Active Directory. But we still want to launch a first version of the intranet as a communication platform, to facilitate communication about the split and the new company. So for the first months, we’ll all get a separate account for SharePoint Online, with which we’ll have to log on manually.
  • The style is not available yet, so the visual designer will have to work very quickly and in secret between the time the basic look & feel of the company gets developed and the moment when we aim to launch the first version of the intranet.

Happy New Year in the cloud

These complications of jumping to the cloud from a prehistoric environment while the company is being split is half would make any project exciting. In addition, SharePoint Online itself generates plenty of excitement.

Some of that is positive: “Wow, with my test account I can experience the cloud, comment on the news and write a blog post and it looks great.”

And some of that excitement is negative: “I can’t believe it is so slow” [fortunately Microsoft fixed that]. “And why is there not a good poll available?”

Bottomline: we are happy to move all our users into the cloud in 2012, but we still have our feet on solid ground. And most of all:

Happy new year!
Happy New Year

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