What I saw at IT/Dev Connections 2014

Scot Hillier

by Scot Hillier on 9/18/2014

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This week I’m at IT/Dev Connections 2014 in Las Vegas. If you’re not familiar with the conference, it’s a multi-discipline conference including presentations from industry experts in not only SharePoint, but also Exchange, Windows, SQL Server, and General Development. Because people come from so many different backgrounds, it’s a great place to encounter new ideas and thoughts about the future. Here are my observations from the week:

The SharePoint Community Keeps Growing

Monday, I presented an all-day pre-conference workshop on building SharePoint 2013 apps. Like most workshop presenters, I survey the room before I begin to understand the background and experience of the attendees. While the groups always have a few new people, I was struck this time by the large percentage of people who had no development experience in a previous version of SharePoint. Usually, I can rely on making some connections between full-trust solutions and app development, but in this case many people were simply ASP.NET developers who were expanding into SharePoint. This is certainly an exciting and healthy trend for the community, but I may have to change some of my “war stories” in the future to resonate more with these developers.

Silos are Breaking Down

Technical people have always defined themselves in pretty narrow terms based on their areas of expertise. People will describe themselves as “SharePoint Developers”, “IT Pros”, or “SQL DBAs”. We embrace and extend that definition by describing larger groups as a “community” like the “SharePoint Community”. Increasingly, however, these definitions strike me as inaccurate. Just like I saw so-called “ASP.NET Developers” in my pre-con workshop, “SharePoint Developers” can be found in other tracks covering general development or SQL Server. As a result, I’ve begun to think of myself more as a developer with a certain expertise in SharePoint instead of a SharePoint developer.

While there’s always been some cross-pollination between groups, I think the cloud is breaking down barriers more rapidly now. As developers, for example, we can create SharePoint apps or ASP.NET web applications using the same skills that are based on client-side programming over REST. The fact that one solution is launched from within SharePoint and the other from without is not much of a difference in my mind.

All of this means that I have begun to really push the idea of conference sessions featuring two presenters with complementary backgrounds. Wouldn’t it be great to see a SharePoint IT Pro and a SQL DBA on stage discussing performance issues? Or a SharePoint app developer and a JavaScript expert talking about single-page apps? As the SharePoint track lead for the conference, I keep pushing the idea to anyone who’ll listen.

The Internet is a Utility Now

As I mentioned in my last blog post, this week I was trying to do a lot of work and presenting from my Surface Pro 3.0 using Office 365, Windows Azure, and GitHub. Things went pretty well, but I had predictably had trouble with the hotel Wi-Fi. Fortunately, the conference had hard-wired Internet connections for the speakers in every room. Coupled with high-definition screens, it was a great experience for speakers and attendees alike. It is also an admission that we cannot move forward without reliable Internet connections everywhere.

Someone asked me this week if the Internet was now a “utility”. In other words, do people expect/demand good connectivity everywhere, and is it essential for their daily lives. I have to say that if we have not reached that point yet, we are so close that I can’t tell the difference. Every conference should take note of how well this was handled by the IT/Dev Connections team; it was a big part of the success.

Looking Ahead

Based on my interactions with speakers and attendees, I think everyone had a good time this week. Tonight, I’ll meet with the other track chairs and the conference organizers to discuss what can be done to improve the event next year. I’ll be taking these observations to that meeting so we can keep getting better.

Topic: Problems (TO ADDRESS WHAT Business and Technical Scenarios and Use Cases)

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