One question I get asked all the time is “How do you stay on top of the changing Office 365 landscape?” It’s crazy! Right? New features are continually rolled out. Old functionality is no longer considered “best practice” and we get at least two “must have” new applications every year. Some changes are minor like the addition of new web parts, while others can have significant financial impact like the recent change to Microsoft Flow licensing.
How on earth do you make sure you are embracing the right technologies? How can you be certain that your digital workplace isn’t out of date the day you go live?
You COULD just keep an eye on your Office 365 message center and read about what’s coming. This isn’t always ideal though, just because you know what feature is changing doesn’t mean you’ll have any clue what it actually means or how it affects your environment. Plus, the occasional change does occur that may not show up in the message center.
You could hire a high paid consultant to come in regularly and debrief you about what’s coming, what’s changing, and how it affects you. However, keeping that consultant on constant retainer could get expensive after a while.. But hey, if that’s what you want to do... my email is firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
You could scour the internet, Twitter, Linkedin, and the Microsoft Tech Community site for hours every day and you would absolutely be prepared for what’s coming, you’d just have no time to actually DO anything about it... let alone your day job.
What On Earth Should You Do?
Well, luckily there are some things you can do to help yourself stay ahead of the curve and make sure that you are equipped with the knowledge for not only what changes are coming but also the wisdom to know how those changes affect you.
Attend a Conference!
Conferences are by far the best way to stay on top of the ever-changing Office 365 landscape. Conferences are better than focused training where you learn about only one technology. Good conferences will have many different sessions for all skill levels about many pieces of Office 365. You’ll be able to pick and choose the various areas you care about AND you can talk one-on-one with the experts in the field.
Cheaper than hiring an expert, better use of your time, and less frustration than trying to do it all on your own.
Plus, when you attend a great conference you get to connect with others in the same situation as you. You get to swap war stories, learn from each other, and come out of the event so much stronger than when you went in.
There really is no better way to make sure you are on the right track, feel connected, and confident in your path forward.
The next question is undoubtedly “Which conference should I attend?”
Fantastic question, and there are SO many conferences to choose from! Do you go to a major event and risk getting overwhelmed and lost in a crowd? Do you sacrifice your weekend and attend a local community event like a SharePoint Saturday? Something in the middle? What’s the right answer??
For Office 365 and SharePoint, the two most obvious conferences to consider are The SharePoint Conference in May and Microsoft’s Ignite Conference in November. What’s really great about these conferences is that Microsoft is directly at the helm. There is a large presence by Microsoft at these events and these events are generally when Microsoft unveils the latest secrets and features for Office 365. If you want to be on the bleeding edge and salivate over functionality that will be coming six months down the road, then it’s really a no brainer.
However, on the downside, both of these events are large (30,000 people at Ignite alone). They are in large cities (Las Vegas and Orlando respectively) and each event charges thousands of dollars for registration. So, you get the latest and greatest content, but you also spend several thousand dollars and risk getting lost in a crowd.... overwhelmed by the amount of content... and exhausted at the end of a long week away from work.
You do have other options though. With conferences like SPFest, you can get a lot of the same speakers and content and spend less money.
I actually speak at all of these events, and I can absolutely vouch for the quality of the speakers and content. You should absolutely consider any of these events to help you stay on top of Office 365 and learn some great skills.
However, you do have another option. It’s possible to get the best of all worlds and spend next to nothing.
For the past ten years I’ve been organizing a SharePoint conference in the Ozark mountains. The North American Collaboration Summit (NACS) is being held in Branson, Missouri on March 14th and 15th. This conference has Microsoft keynote speakers Mark Kashman and Bill Baer. The speakers at NACS are the same speakers you find at the SharePoint Conference, Ignite, and the various other conferences around the world. Most of the speakers are MIcrosoft MVP’s and experts on the topics they are presenting.
Instead of getting lost in a crowd, you’ll be part of around 500 attendees. This gives you ample time to catch the speakers one-on-one and chat with them during or after the event or at one of the social gatherings in the evenings. You won’t find a better setting for maximizing your interaction with speakers and like-minded attendees. From business decisions makers, to developers, power users, and administrators.. There really is content for everyone on SharePoint, Office 365, Azure, PowerApps, Flow, Power BI, and Microsoft Teams.
Finally, unlike other events where registration can cost as much as $3000, registration for NACS starts at only $150. Yes, that’s right... $150. Why does it cost so little for the same speakers and content? It’s simple, we are a nonprofit event. Every dime we make goes back into the conference to make it better for the attendees and speakers. Additionally, instead of holding the conference in an expensive location like Las Vegas, we are exceptionally proud to host our event in Branson, Missouri on Branson Landing. Not only is the registration a bargain, but local hotel and food prices are insanely affordable.
Really, you cannot find a better use for your training dollars.
Better than a one-day event where you barely get to scratch the surface or really connect with anyone and less exhausting than a full week event which it can be hard to find the time for; you will come away from NACS recharged and ready to conquer your digital workplace.
In addition to offering over 70 sessions from experts from all over the world, NACS also offers an optional day of full day, deep dive workshops on Search, Administration, Azure, Office 365 ROI, PowerApps & Flow, Development, PowerBI, and even AI.
Finally, supporting community events helps ensure that we can keep doing these types of events and bring quality content not only to the large corporations with the big training budgets, but also to those companies that can’t afford to spend a lot on training.
So, as you look at 2019 with an eye towards staying on top of the ever-changing world of Office 365, prioritize attending a conference... and make sure to put NACS in the mix. Register today at http://nacs.eventzilla.net or find out more about the event at https://www.collabsummit.org
I’ll leave you with a few words from Microsoft Corporate VP of Office 365 Jeff Teper and his thoughts on the event:
Finally, as an extra added bonus for you reading this far, we are happy to offer a limited number of 50% off discounts for general registration. Use the discount code “PAIT” and save 50% but don’t delay!
This is the biggest discount available and there are limited tickets available.