Jeff Willinger & Sam Marshall Interview

Jeff Willinger, MVP, JWILLIE PARTNERS, USA interviews Sam Marshall, ClearBox Consulting Ltd, UK

Video Transcript

Jeff: Hi, I’m Jeff Willinger J Willie on Twitter and I am thrilled to be here at the European SharePoint conference as well as Azure and Office 365. We are here on the conference floor ESPC19 I’m lucky enough to have Sam Marshall an old friend of mine that we actually met Sam I don’t know if you remember where we met for the first time.

Sam: It was in Copenhagen about five years ago six years ago.

Jeff: About six years ago at the intra team oops I don’t know if I could say that on camera at that conference very a lot more intimate than this fabulous conference I mean you and I both speak at a lot of different conferences all over the world and I think that this particular one is one of the best well-run and this exhibition floor is like a who’s who in European actually worldwide office 365 and Microsoft ecosystem.

Sam: Yeah definitely I think across Europe this is the ones come to you’re gonna come to anyone it’s always a great networking opportunity as well as you know you get to hear such a strong presentation from Microsoft too. But hello Jeff good to see.

Jeff: Good to see you good to see you good to see you looking good you really haven’t changed in the five or six years since I’ve seen you although I run into you here and there.

Sam: This is why you’re so popular from the circuit Jeff.

Jeff: You know Sam my first attraction to you besides your devilish good looks is what you actually do for work and why don’t you tell the audience what you’re you know what you’re up to oh my fascination with what you’ve been up to.

Sam: Yes so I’m the owner of a company called clear box and clear box produces a report that looks at all the SharePoint Internet in a box add-on products you can buy so don’t want to drop too many names but you probably know like Valo and Powell and Omnia and what these do is they take the standard SharePoint products and really take it to the next level in terms of building probably a corporate wide particular multinational intranet we’re kind of interested because this is a complex area there’s probably eighty products out there that do this so if you’re on the buying side trying to make a choice here it’s a really tricky area to navigate we produce report that gives independent advice and helps people quickly bring it down to a shortlist that’s the idea.

Jeff: I love that because being a Microsoft SharePoint consultant Sam, I’m always saying you know and we live in a day and age of the shiny new thing as you could see but why do companies need to buy basically we were talking about this earlier a series of web parts you know that are packaged in different ways why do they need that I mean I guess you could look at it as an intranet accelerator if you will but and companies charge you know it’s a licensing model so they’re charging per user and I’ve always been fascinated. My claim to fame is let’s get as much out of the box functionality first however, a lot of companies that are running scared they are buying the shiny new thing and expect there’s going to be adoption before they do any sort of upfront legwork.

Sam: You know the reasons buying in a box product is I think if you really want to focus on getting value out of the intranet early it helps you get to launch day a lot quicker yes and absolutely Microsoft has made massive strides in the last five years in terms of saying you can do all this stuff with SharePoint without adding another product which is true. Yes they have been saying if you got the right people who can do the configuration agree as well if you have a good set of prescription drugs and if you have six months to put it together. A lot of the companies that we work with they identify things that they know are going to be really tough in the standard SharePoint particularly if you’re dealing with a combination of multiple languages multiple locations and even often multiple brands you know if you think like Sony as a corporate brand but then they also have Playstation as a an experience that employees would want to see what you’re getting.

Jeff: Is playstation like Xbox it’s just we’re a Microsoft type of conference.

Sam: So even Xbox within Microsoft or like Unilever they’ve got Ben and Jerry’s which you know has its own separate experience. So a lot of companies when they do the analysis are saying do we go with standard SharePoint or do we buy something it gets us to where we need to be quicker decide that actually not only is it less risky to buy something but actually ends up cheaper as well. So yes there’s license costs but there’s also costs in terms of building your own even if you’re not doing code you’re still building your own yeah and you know we say in the report you need to be really clear about what your requirements are and then pick ones that will fit for you and sometimes you do that homework and go now we see what the incremental benefit the other one is we’ll do what you say which is let’s start with SharePoint and see how many bumps were hit and hit and the roadblocks will we’ll buy something but then probably you’re gonna throw away maybe a third of what you’re done because the product gives you a better way of doing it.

Jeff: I always wonder if I went to the corporate side if you know if I became not necessarily a SharePoint administrator but a director collaboration, CTO type of role my first inclination would be let’s make sure that we’ve got the latest and greatest you know SharePoint 17 or online and let’s get as much first and I want to I want to talk to the employees find out are they using the intranet right now what are they using it for you know search is always the number one pain point right so the out of the box search is getting a lot better oh yeah I don’t know if any products out there are going to improve my search yeah there are search products but that probably doesn’t fall within your intranet in a box.

Sam: So you know we talk about search and we always think oh like an internal Google but really what we’re interested in is finding yes and finding in terms of indexing contents is out the scope so you’re looking at maybe BA Insight or some of the new connectors but then that the rest of the experience is about things like how does it present the search results. I think even with what Microsoft announced now there are other products that you better job of saying let’s filter as you type if I’m searching for someone and say I’m gonna start typing J E F but I know that I want someone who’s in finance it’ll say okay you’ve selected finance you’ve hit the key J there’s no results and it’ll tell you that before it’s time to start the rest of the search so it’s still.

Jeff: I always think there’s something wrong with the search when I’m typing in I’m like I know it should be there wait a minute and I keep on and it’s not serving up what I want yeah then I just call up my administrator and say hey it’s not work search is it’s broken. Yeah so your report which has been successful what’s next as far as you know are you are you working on other reports?

Sam: So the big change with report this year is it we’re going to a quarterly release cycle. It’s gonna be evergreen.. Is it licensing place Sam. It’s not actually the price is the same as it always was but we always want people to know that what they buy is the latest edition.

Jeff: It’s a brilliant idea I wish I came up with that brilliant.

Sam: I don’t think I originated the idea.

Jeff: But from your report standpoint because things change just walking around the exhibition floor here at the amazing ESPC19 I’m seeing companies that I’ve never seen before hmm that are strictly European they’re like and they’re interested in breaking ground in the US yeah but yeah I mean so. Maybe they should talk to me but yeah yes.

Sam: But also that you know there’s loads of really interesting products that have come from outside the SharePoint sphere and they’re doing some great stuff too and what they’re starting to see is a yeah it’s important for them to integrate with SharePoint content but it’s a things about maybe the SharePoint UI that you don’t work for you they will start from an entirely different proposition very and you access your documents and so on but maybe work with news in an entirely different way if com sites are not your banks and then the third area that we’re looking at is employee applications so things like dynamic signal social chorus again come from.

Jeff: But they want to they want to eat away at the SharePoint world they want to take they all say that you know we’re much better than SharePoint everyone you know SharePoint is sort of like the David or Goliath I don’t know who is the bigger one okay oh well no I mean I think they are making SharePoint you know when I tell people my SharePoint consultant I usually get that we have SharePoint and then fill in the fill in the blank and it doesn’t have to be like that right so that’s why the dynamic signals of the world social choruses others that are out there that are eating away a little bit they always come back I hear about these Google stories where people go to the G suite and then after their license is up do you know because they give it to them and then they realize you know what this Microsoft it’s got some legs to it.

Sam: Yeah but I don’t see it as a zero-sum game it’s although Jeff you know it’s uh what they’re doing to me is playing more nicely with office 365 and that’s really important office 365 is so dominant now it’s a de facto standard but it doesn’t do everything for everybody right so what we’re getting is some great choices to say there are other ways of tackling a problem particularly for like first line workers which is fairly new space for up for Microsoft so if you’re reusing the same data that’s hosted in office 365 but presenting it in different experiences I think that’s great it’s a it’s a complementary way of working.

Jeff: I am with you all the way I don’t care what’s in a hot dog just make it taste good most people really don’t care about SharePoint or Slack or whatever just let me communicate with my colleagues easy let me find documents easier and just let my experience be normal.

Sam: Yeah we’ve got to recognize it for most employees at digital workplace it’s never just office 365 so use Salesforce you might use SAP they might use success factors as part of their work absolutely and that to them they want continuity across it you don’t want to think oh where do I begin my search because I’ve got to think where that document or that exact customer card might live.

Jeff: Yeah well that’s all I’ve got for you Sam I hope this was good for you as did I leave anything out.

Sam: No it’s uh it is wonderful to be in Prague it’s a great conference and I’ll…

Jeff: You know I get to travel all over my first time in Prague and having spent time in Paris right before I came here I’ve got to tell you I actually like Prague better than Paris. I don’t know the people it’s inviting I like the cobblestones; pricing is great beautiful geography and topography yeah and of course this conference I can’t say enough about. So thanks again Sam yeah again this is Jeff Willinger signing off from European SharePoint Office 365 and Azure conference.

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