From Admin to Architect – Some Thoughts

As some of you may know, I took a new job at the start of 2021. I accepted a role as a Senior Solution Architect for a Microsoft Partner organization. Prior to that my positions were at ‘customers’ where my role was to administer CRM and recommend / implement various aspects of technology (primarily Microsoft’s business applications and productivity tools). As an architect, my role would now be to work with customers to support them through their journey. I’ve worked with consultants a great deal over the past 11 years in previous roles and felt I had what it took to be one myself. I am and will forever be grateful that C5 Insight agrees.

This felt like a massive change, but one that I was ready and excited for. I believed I’d be challenged in new ways and I like the idea of working with people to support them as they strive to realize organizational efficiencies through the use of technology in their companies.

So far, I’m loving it. It’s been a welcome change of focus and I feel like many of my past experiences have been helpful in the journey thus far. I started thinking about writing a blog about the shift from “Admin to Architect” about six weeks ago but I couldn’t find the right way to frame it. Every time I tried I’d get stuck trying to identify the key aspects worthy of such a post. Perhaps that’s because a handful of months is still pretty early, so I let the idea of this blog drift from my mind all together.

A while back a friend of mine (the talented, all-around great human and co-Canadian Katherine Taylor) reached out and asked me how I was enjoying the new role and how I felt the transition had been. I ended up typing out a novel of a response considering it was a LinkedIn chat (me, write long winded pieces?! Shocking!). As I re-read my response I realized I’d just written this blog post – I touched on all the things I had in my head but couldn’t seem to get down in this format!

I’m going to share that response with you now, but first I owe a massive THANK YOU to Katie for reaching out with the question in the first place. It was just what I needed to get things “on paper” and out of my brain (if you recall from my very first post, that was one of my goals!).

Here is what I sent Katie, with some minor edits…

[ How has my role shifted – it’s funny you ask that. I’ve been toying with a blog post around becoming an architect, but my imposter syndrome is putting up MASSIVE walls every time I sit down to write or even think about it. I think because I’m still learning what’s all involved in being a “solution architect”.

But you nailed it when you noted the shift from uni-org thinking to multi-org. For example, I could have various projects on the go at any given time and at some times they could be similar in nature. For example, I could have two “on-prem to online” upgrades, but they could take VERY different paths forward.

Perhaps one would opt to move what they have straight up – lift it out of on-prem and putting it in the cloud and fixing any issues that come up. Then they could reassess what new features and functions they’ll have at their finger tips in the cloud and map a path for system enhancement from there. It’s a logical approach that makes great sense for some.

The other, however, could decide to doing a full overhaul of their system. Perhaps they see value in bringing along some of the aspects of their current state system that work well for them. But even then they could have interest in exploring new approaches since there are features and functions of the newest versions that they don’t have access to today. They could quite literally put everything on the table for re-approach/design, and want to be challenged to think differently as they go through the process.

To me, those examples demonstrate that the key shift in my role from the administrator role to that of a solution architect. Really digging to get at what the client wants to do. Additionally, pushing back to challenge where necessary. I think back to when I was on the customer side – I craved partners who would hear me out and validate we were on the right path when we were, but also pushed back when they felt necessary. The ones that did that – who really tried to work with us, were true partners, in my opinion.

There is also a huge element of knowing what’s possible. I spend more time learning and paying closer attention to what’s available. Watching demos, videos, reading – in some cases as part of my day but also just in general. I find I’m reading way more blogs and Microsoft Learn and Microsoft Docs articles/posts than I ever did before. I’ve always wanted to do that but at the customer level I was putting out fires daily, running from one thing to another and trying to keep strategy at the forefront but never truly feeling like I could get there because there was always something else going on that needed attention. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of work to be done, but it’s imperative that we are in the know with respect to the what these tools can and cannot do, and how we might recommend filling gaps.

But it’s impossible to know everything. That’s true of most things in life, but tech in particular because it changes constantly. A new feature or two has probably rolled out since I started writing this! When I interviewed for my new role I talked a LOT about this – to the point that I feared I might actually be talking myself out of the job. I just wanted to make sure that if they were looking for someone who knows everything about every application, I wasn’t their guy. I spent more time talking about my methodology for solving problems and finding answers than I did about what I actually do know (which I know is a lot, but that imposter thing I talked about is a constant dark cloud on my shoulder whispering “…but you probably DON’T know” and “…how on earth do they think you belong in this role?!”). I know others go through this a lot too. It’s normal and I try hard to embrace it, but I can imagine it scares some people from even trying to get into a new role. Of course you have to find the right employer who embraces it as well, and I’m so grateful to say I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. ]

So, there you have it – those are at least some of the thoughts on the subject. I feel as though there is a lot more one could break down in terms of the differences between the admin and architect roles, but these are the things that have resonated with me the most over the past few months. Who knows, maybe I’ll put additional thoughts after a few more months!

Have you made the transition from admin to architect (or, perhaps you’ve gone the other way!)? Do you agree with my comments above? What other factors or considerations would you add to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

Why I contribute

For those of you who don’t know me, this blog is just one aspect of what I try to do in terms of community contribution. I also engage in discussion with various people I’m connected with and share knowledge – either through formal ‘user group’ events or by staying connected with people I meet. I’ve also spoken at various conferences over the years, and co-moderated a panel series segment (alongside the wonderful Ashley Steiner!) for a couple of years. I even contribute articles to our company blog over at C5 Insight.

As many nerds do, I like to keep track of things. A while back I started tracking community contributions I was making and where. Recently I tallied those up to see what all I’d done. I looked back to the start of this blog and realized I’ve averaged over one engagement of some sort per week (not literally weekly, but all total – over 52 posts, panel discussions, speaking engagements, YouTube videos, etc. dating back 12 months)!

An average of once per week made me raise my eyebrows a bit as it felt like a fair amount. I reflected back on some of those posts and sat a little straighter when I did. There are many who do WAYYYY more and I adore them for it – it’s not always easy putting content together. But for what started out as a way to get things out of my own head and to give back to others in some small way, I am proud of the number!

An acquaintance of mine reached out to me one day and during our chat he commented he appreciated one of my posts from months ago and thanked me for putting the content out there. This got me thinking about why I put content together. I thought I’d share what I came up with…

Pay It Forward

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been helped by someone else. Either directly or via a blog, video, presentation at a conference, or even social media engagement. I’ve solved problems, been inspired to try something new, learned new information, or felt validation as a result of someone else’s post. I happen to be fortunate to know that things I’ve put forward have been a help to others because those people have reached out directly and said so. That’s a damn good feeling. I’d like to think that for every one person that reaches out to say so, there are others who do not (totally fine!), so, the reach is bigger than I even know.

It’s not about hearing it was helpful, it’s about making the content available for people to review and use as they need knowing full well we may never understand the benefit it brings.

Creating Brain Space

Every bit of knowledge that gets stored in my brain takes up space. I know I forget things I should know and it’s because I’ve replaced it with something new. Putting my knowledge/thoughts down “on paper” helps me keep track of my own knowledge, identify gaps in that knowledge, and makes room for more. I’m no brain scientist but it makes sense to me, so, I’ll go with it.

The more I share, the more room I have to learn.

I Enjoy It!

This one is pretty simple – do what brings you joy. If you enjoy something, do more of it. No, really, that’s all I’ve got for this one.

It Pushes Me

I may enjoy it, but that’s not to say it’s easy. It takes time, energy and effort. Sometimes I want to write about something but I realize I need to give it more thought or do more research. Ever heard the saying “no better way to learn something than to commit to teaching someone else!”. A lot of truth to that, let me tell you.

It also gives me something to focus on, but there is an interesting balance to be struck here. When I was in a role that was really hectic and stressful, I lost motivation to contribute because it started to remind me of the work that was stressing me out. That wasn’t fun, and instead of a motivational push, it was a ‘push-away’ push. Ask anyone who knows me well – I’m a massive advocate for life-work balance. While I don’t consider this work, it does take effort and if you are setting yourself deadlines and goals, there can be some stress in it. It’s important to take space for you, and not to let it rule you.

But I love the push to continual learn and evolve. We all know the pace of evolution of technology in general is blazing, so there are always new things to pursue. For someone who likes to fidget a lot, having something new is critical.

Those are my key motivators.

If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of sharing content – either writing a blog (doesn’t even need to be formal, make it a doc and share it socially), or sit on a panel discussion about a topic you enjoy, or any other form of content, I encourage you to put yourself out there. There are NEVER too many thoughts and inputs.

Nervous about saying the “wrong thing” – I totally get it! Start with opinion pieces or share your journey – you can’t get those things “wrong” because they are yours!

Do you already share? I’d love to hear the reasons you contribute! Or, who are some of your favourite content creators out there? Name drop a few to help spread awareness of them!!

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

System Planning – Defining Success

What defines a “successful implementation” of a system?

Is it that the system or app is “on” or “live”?

Or perhaps it’s because we have users with licenses who sign in and “use” the system on some form of regular basis?

Maybe it’s because we can derive data from that system or tool/application?

I suppose it depends on the initiative being rolled out, but the common point is that without a defined statement (or statements) of what success is, it’s hard to know when we’ve arrived.

Bare with me here…

I coach children’s hockey. At the beginning of each season I make it very clear that while it may be fun to win, I don’t judge our success on how many goals we score or wins we get. I define it based on the level of effort put forth by each member of the team. The other coaches and I explain that we measure this by looking for sweaty brows following a game or practice. We measure it by listening for huffing and puffing when kids finish a shift or a set of drills. We measure it by the rosey cheeks we see in the dressing room following their time on the ice.

These are measurable outcomes. We might lose a game by multiple goals, but if everyone in that room is sweating, rosey cheeked and catching their breath, it’s a sign they gave it their all, and that’s what we ask for. There are other measures of success, of course, but these are foundational aspects of the game that I think are present throughout.

So let’s turn back to a systems roll-out and think about this same logic.

If we’re rolling out a new system, what do we need to accomplish to meet the goal? Better yet, what IS the goal in the first place?

The point is to think about this when embarking on this journey. I often find it difficult to think of these measurable outcomes when on the spot, so a trick I learned a while back was to brainstorm a little and then put the list a way and come back to it later. Maybe hours, days, or even a week. Occupy brain space with other projects and then revisit the list and add to it. I find as I reflect on what I wrote the last time I’m inspired to make some changes to that initial list and add some new items.

I also talk to others to get their input in what they would define success to be. As different departments or users at what point they will define the roll-out to be successful.

The definition of success should be laid out early in the process as it helps us frame the tasks that need to be undertaken to realize those outcomes. Those tasks, in turn, become the work necessary to pull the project together.

For example, in the case of a CRM system designed to manage sales, one of the goals might be that all opportunities are managed through the system. If we use a workback plan around this, it might look something like this:

Goal: All opportunities are managed (entered, won/lost) through the system.

To accomplish this, we need to do a number of things such as (but not limited to…this is just an example after all):

  • Develop a standard operating procedure(s) for the company on how opportunities are entered into the system
    • Manual (someone enters them as they arise)
    • Automatic (based on other events/actions in the CRM system or via API connection to another system)
  • Identify the fields necessary for the company to manage an opportunity
  • Create the fields and place on the opportunity form
  • Create relevant workflows / business rules / script on the form to support staff in management of the opportunity over time
  • Develop training resources for our staff team and facilitate as necessary
    • This includes the development of a training recurrence schedule – repeated tidbits of supportive material and training for staff (because training never ends even if we think it ought to)
  • …the list could go on

Within this single desired outcome, we now have a list of tangible actions that need to be completed to move the needle toward our company having “all opportunities managed through the system”.

And this is just one of the outcomes we might define. There could be numerous outcomes we hope to achieve, each with its own set of tasks necessary to get there.

I find this approach really useful as it helps break down what can seem like an absolutely enormous project into smaller component parts that we can start to delegate throughout our team and ultimately help us move toward “success”.

Photo by Photo by Vek Labs on Unsplash

I don’t know that there is a single definition of success that applies to all companies when it comes to rolling out systems or organizational processes. The point of this post was to frame the importance of defining what success is as a means to measuring progress and achieving ‘success’ for the project in question.

I believe this is critical because, as I noted earlier, if we don’t define what success looks like, how do we know we’ve reached it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts? How do you define and measure success of your projects? What is one tip you’d share with someone asking this question?

We’re all learning. Why not learn together?

Cover Image: Photo by N. on Unsplash

The Art of Planning

Whether you’re a sports team embarking on a new season, a surgeon preparing for a busy day of surgery, a system admin preparing to introduce a new system to your organization, or planning dinner for your family, having a plan is of critical importance.

Okay, great. A plan. I can make a plan. Let’s use the dinner example…

The Plan – An Example

The Plan in Theory: I’ll get home around 5 and get tacos ready. We’ll be eating by 5:30 and we can go for a lovely walk and enjoy a quiet evening.

The Plan in Reality: Took a last minute call and didn’t leave my desk until 5:15. Realized on my way to the car we didn’t take any ground beef out of the freezer so I’ve got to stop at the store. Get home and realize the youngest is having a homework meltdown – need to calm them down and get them on the right track.

Phew, okay, child is in good spirits again. It’s 5:45 now. That’s okay, tacos are quick.

Wait, the dishwasher didn’t run?! Shoot, the pan I need is in there. Okay, quick wash of that and we’re good to go. Oh, a text…one sec…okay, responded. Moving on.

Great, beef is on. Geez, how is it 6 already? Okay, tacos…*opens fridge*…sour cream, lettuce…eww, that’s wilty…cut around and find the good parts. Cheese. Wait, we don’t have any cheese?! Come’on…whatever, fine, cheese is basically just pure fat anyway, we are healthier without it. Salsa – well, that *should* be enough for all of us…

Wait, what’s that smell…THE BEEF!

Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration but I can tell you that story is based on mostly reality in our house. When we don’t have a plan, things can become infinitely more difficult.

Systems Planning

Dinner is one thing. Planning to select, configure, and roll out a system to support your organization is a whole other ball game, but the basic principle remains true – it’s easier with a plan.

Over the years I’ve seen various systems and tools rolled out to organizations. Those experiences have surfaced some effective practices that I think are beneficial to pass along. This post could be a series in and of itself. Maybe one day I’ll do just that, but here are what I think are pretty integral aspects.

Identify Needs and Prioritize

What business goals are you trying to solve? Truly think / talk this through with your organization. It’s not just “a system to track our people” – WHY are you tracking those people? What is it that you are doing with all that tracked information? What purpose does it serve? As you start to peel those layers away you will start to get at the core of what your organization truly “needs”. All of a sudden the “a system to track our people” becomes “communicate more effectively with our constituents” or “better understand the needs of our customers”.

Then, prioritize those. What are minimum viable product aspects (the ones that you cannot go live without) and which are ‘nice-to-haves (the ones that, if not in phase one, could be slide into a future phase of development).

Think Process

It’s easy to get lost in the world of fields and specifics. There are rabbit holes you could go down at every turn, but try to take as step back from this to examine the entire organizational process you’re working with. Instead of “we’ll use leads”, think about what “use leads” means – have you defined what a lead is in your organization? When does a lead get created? How does the lead get created? If manually, who creates the lead? What information is required for people to action those leads? There are many other questions and each answer provides deeper insight into the overarching business process you’re trying to augment with the system in question.

Perhaps your building an app to manage an internal process – the same principles apply. Example: submitting for a refund approval. Where does the request come from? How does that request get to the appropriate approvers? Who are the appropriate approvers? Who needs to action the request once it’s approved? What information does that department need to action the process?

Asking questions is key. While it may be annoying to some people, if we don’t know the answer and act on what we think, we’re making an assumption. And we all know what happens when we make assumptions!

Define Success

One of the best lines I read in a book (Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead” – you should read it) is the concept of “Paint Done”. The idea stems from avoiding assumptions and being clear and intentional about what we are asking for or, if the receiver, in understanding what someone is asking for.

I fell in love with this idea as soon as I heard it and folded a piece of paper over the top of my computer screen so I see it while on every video call (the primary means of communication in my org). I started asking it casually when we were talking about a task or project just as Brene presented it in her book; “Okay team, let’s talk about the end game for a second – paint done for me”. The results were staggering! It frames the discussion around what success for the project or task is, and helps us surface key questions around how this item will be delivered when it’s ready. I don’t see a future where this isn’t part of my approach, it’s THAT impactful.

When thinking about what the end game of this systems rollout is, think about what “done” looks like. This will help you define KPI’s (key performance indicators) for your project stakeholders and executive team. It’s much easier to provide an update on progress or completion when you can say “We know we’re on our way because done looks like X and we can see that taking shape here, here and here” or “done looked like X, and X is what we have”.

Be Organized

Just as there are near infinite combinations of topics for tacos, I’ve seen requirements captured in various ways. Scratch pads, Word docs, spreadsheets, “To Do” software, and formal project management/issue tracking software.

I’m a fan of consistency in approach and process. However you elect to capture requirements it should be done in a predictable manner. I find the greatest success when I have a system that captures the pertinent information in a uniform way. What information? I typically strive to answer these questions:

  • What is the business trying to accomplish?
  • What is the gap we’ve identified that prevents the goal OR is making that goal more difficult to realize?
  • Who is impacted (stakeholders)?
  • How are they impacted?
  • What are your stakeholders expectations for how this/these gap(s) are mitigated?

These are your stakeholder requirements. They help you frame the business need you are trying to fulfill and how your stakeholders expect that gap to be dealt with. You need to be mindful that sometimes what your users *think* they want is not what they truly need. It is your job to call that out as the process unfolds and support them through this.

With this, the systems team can start to work toward identifying two-three options for how this problem can be solved.

From there we can typically start to anchor discussion with the stakeholders around how we want to tackle the item. Having the information in a consistent format with the same questions being asked each time helps us frame the issue in a comprehensive way.

Take Control, but Don’t be Controlling

Your users need to be the voices fueling the needs for the system, but they need the process to be managed. You are the one steering the ship and you need to be a good captain. What does that mean? It means you are identifying the right people to be engaged in the discussion at the right times. You are engaging external resources for insight and guidance as appropriate, and you are keeping the team informed along the way. It’s your job to build out the path to achieving ‘done’ based on all the input and feedback from the team. They are looking for your leadership here.

We all know that saying…’with great power comes great responsibility’ (thanks, Voltaire – or, Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, if you prefer). It can be difficult to tease out the common threads of various teams having input on the same system. Asking questions, particularly “why”, is your friend . Just as how children who are given firm but reasonable boundaries tend to respect those boundaries and why they exist in the long run, your users will respect your thorough, inquisitive approach to understanding what they truly require from the system.

Wrapping Up…

I maintain that having a plan is the key to success for most things in life. I find the points above help guide my approach to systems projects, and help me to keep the team engaged, the process organized, and the focal point on what the ultimate goals of the project are.

I’d love to hear what you think of these points and what you find useful in your world! Drop a comment below!

We’re all learning. Why not learn together?

Cover Image: Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Dynamics 365 / Power Platform / Microsoft Business Applications – There is just so much!

Overwhelming – a fitting word for someone jumping into the world of Dynamics / Power Platform / Microsoft Business Applications.  There is no shortage of things to learn in the community and limitless configurations and processes in your organization.

For the past 18 or so months, we’ve seen the Power Platform evolve as the core to a business applications suite that is nothing short of spectacular!

If you’re just coming into the fold, there are a number of things you should understand.

Endless Options to Enhance Organizational Efficiency

Common Data Service – a cloud-based hub for your business applications. You’ll find great literature from Microsoft directly, as well as various explanations from various community leaders. The best explanation I’ve come across is from MVP Sarah Critchley, found here.

Dynamics – Microsoft’s collection of industry relatable systems focused on everything from finance to manufacturing to business operations to really anything you want it to be. Overtime we’ve seen various naming for these products. When I first started we had Microsoft Dynamics CRM (“Customer Relationship Management”), Microsoft Dynamics NAV (“Navision”), Microsoft Dynamics GP (“Great Plains”), among others. These have transformed over the years and we now find ourselves with a Dynamics 365 spanning various applications including:

  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Field Service
  • Talent
  • Finance
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Retail
  • Business Central
  • Commerce
  • Marketing
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Mixed Reality
  • Business Central

You can learn about these here.

The Power Platform is a fountain of function. I could attempt to outline its breadth of features and functions here, but Microsoft’s site does a great job of this already. Additionally, the Power Platform Adoption Framework does a stellar job at articulating its value and laying out the necessary aspects for integrating the platform at scale in an organization. Kudos to Andrew Welch and others who have produced this fabulous resource.

Just the Beginning

This is quite literally the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to it all, but these elements give you a decent start.

Alright – time to check in, how are you feeling? Confused? Overloaded? Like you’ve stepped off a plane in a new country staring at signs in a foreign language – a pang of excitement yet shrouded in a blanket of nervousness? Allow me to let you in on a little secret…

You are not alone.

You are not alone.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

It’s a lot to soak in. Start small. Keep a journal of sorts (might I suggest a OneNote Notebook!?). Picture tabs (“Sections”) across the top representing the various systems you want to learn more about, and on the first Page in each Section answers a few questions such as:

This tool does…

Users of this tool might be…

This tool could impact organizational function by…

(Perhaps you can think of more! Comment below with your ideas)

Good Content – Where You At?

As I noted in my introductory post, there are so many incredible contributors to this amazing community which spans the entire Microsoft Business Applications umbrella. Just a few of my personal favourites…and trust me, these are just a few:

Kylie Kiser

Todd Mercer

Nick Doelman

April Dunnam

Ed Gonzales

Emma D’Arcy

Luise Freese

Seth Bacon

Gus Gonzales

User Group Communities offer tremendous value as they are ‘for user, by user’

Twitter (try #PowerAddicts , #PowerPlatform or #Dynamics365)

There are also plenty of training services out there. From App in a Day courses to bootcamps to blackbelt series, there is a format and method that near anyone can bite into. A few searches through your favourite search engine will yield plenty of options in this regard.

What Events Should I Consider?

At time of writing, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic casting a great deal of uncertainty over the in-person event market. Plenty of events have or are shifting to a virtual format, and many were already taking place.

I’m a bit biased given my speaking/presentation history, but Dynamic Communities “Summit” events have been, in my opinion, of tremendous value. They are well attended and I personally value sessions from “every-day people” sharing “every-day realities”. Great content and connections with industry peers is a great way to spend a few days.

That said, there are so many great options out there. Microsoft offers great events – Ignite and the Business Applications Summit I’ve heard are excellent. There are also many other groups offering various forms of conferences. Not too long ago the Scottish Summit took place and I’ve heard nothing but incredible reviews of the event structure, the hosts, and the content itself.

There are also great options/listings from Dynamic Communities, D365 Saturday, and 365 Power Up

We are all different humans, so what works for one may be different for someone else. I encourage you think about what you’re looking for in an event and content, and then scope out the various offerings and available. You’re sure to find something that aligns with your needs and learning style.

Let’s Wrap This Up

I’ve rambled long enough for this post! Yes, been an admin can be overwhelming and a lot to soak in, but instead of thinking of it in those terms, think of the limitless potential these tools offer you and your organization! The best part? You are a key part of stewarding the use of these tools to bring efficiency AND effectiveness to your users. You’re right up there with the Avengers in my opinion.

If I had to give one piece of advice – and this is advice I need to heed myself – it’s to engage in the community as much as you can! Put yourself out there. Tell people what you want to learn and you will be amazed at the resources that land on your…umm…internet-step. This community is as supportive, welcoming and engaging as you’ll ever find. I guarantee the majority of those you meet will be genuinely interested in pointing you in the right direction.

We are ALL learning. Why not learn together?!

Introduction

Welcome to The Nerdy Admin

Not too long ago I read a Tweet by Ed Gonzales (@PoweredbyEdg) encouraging people to ‘share their story’. My immediate thought was “Nah, I’m light years behind what others post these days”. The post was referencing another by Saron (@saronyitbarek) that said “If you’re holding back on writing that blog post because it’s “too basic” or “too simple”, stop holding back.

Damn.

Since 2011 I’ve been a part of and active within of the “CRMUG” (CRM User Group) and also within the social platforms Twitter and LinkedIn. Early on I did some presentations and participate in panel discussions which ultimately led to more active volunteer roles within the user group. Doing so lead to many, many incredible connections. People I’d meet in the halls or sessions of Microsoft’s Convergence conference or connect with on calls sharing experiences. Many of those people I now consider friends and am in contact still to this day. I also learned a great deal, both from sharing my own story and having it resonate with others (validation of my own experiences) and in the form of engaging in conversations that re-framed my position on a topic or feature, and learning how to use aspects of things I didn’t understand before.

Let me simplify that paragraph – I learned a lot because I shared a lot.

Whoa.

The irony here was that I have always felt as though I was sharing simplistic/basic content, but it seemed to resonate with some of the people who attended. I have always framed it as ‘this is my experience. I’m not the expert, I’m learning too. But here is what I’ve learned so far’.

Interestingly enough, about a year ago I had been thinking about starting to blog (or, perhaps someday, vlog – what?!). I even brainstormed a list of topics I could write about. After much reflection I ultimately decided that it was of limited value. There is SO MUCH content already out there and it’s all really good. I’m not sure anyone would benefit, I convinced myself. I packed up my brainstorm, tucked it away in a sub-tab of OneNote and moved on with life.

Ed and Saron’s Tweet inspired me to think again. I dug out that list and started to think about it more, and came to a realization. This WAS valuable information to the right audience. “Maybe I should just give this a shot”, I thought.

What Am I Doing?

I plan to post instructional content – application specific “click here, enter this, do that” tutorials. However the bulk of my content will focus on things we need to think about in our role of administrators. It can be an overwhelming world to be a part of! With the rapid development of features, functions and integrations with, well, everything, it can be daunting. It’s no secret that Microsoft produces at a fantastical pace and it can be hard to keep up. I’m going to tackle topics that I hope will make you think and reflect on the underlying challenges we face in our role. All the while pointing out many of the great resources available to admins and users alike. 

More than Tech

As a final twist, it won’t always be focussed on administration or even technology. Sometimes I’ll dive into other topics such as mindfulness, strategic thinking, trend and data analysis, or even quick tips on random business applications I’ve come to learn. These are personal interest items that I find tightly woven with the role of an admin.

But, why?

What is my goal? I can’t possible put into words what I’ve gained from the generosity of others within the community. May it be their blogs, hearing people present, following their social posts or having conversations with them directly about specific issues or problems I’ve faced, this community is chock full of intelligent, generous folks who share their knowledge at every turn. It’s time I try to give something back!

— Disclaimer —

There is one thing I need to be very clear about right out of the gate and you’re going to hear me reference often in my writings…

I am not here claiming to be the expert. I am sharing my thoughts and opinions on these topics. Even when I provide tutorials, I encourage you to chime in with your insights in the comments, especially if that’s to show a more efficient way of doing something. I am here to learn along with you, so please never hesitate to share your thoughts publicly, or privately to me directly.

I’m excited about this venture, and hope that it will be of value to those who choose to follow along!

Malcolm