SPTechCon 2014: Goldman Sachs’ Chris Weldon Teaches Admins How to Manage SharePoint from the Outside In

In his presentation titled The Importance of Outside-In SharePoint Administration, Chris
Weldon
, Vice President at Goldman Sachs, discussed some of the challenges, as
well as lessons learned from his organization's experience with administering
their SharePoint.  With only a lean team
of five people managing three farms for more than 35,000 users, as well as a wealth
of stringent compliance and regulatory concerns, Chris
discussed how Goldman Sachs' SharePoint team has successfully maintained,
deployed, and supported SharePoint farms globally.

Chris began his presentation with an examination of his
organization's history with SharePoint.  They began their  journey with SharePoint 2007. Goldman Sachs knew
that SharePoint was the right platform for their organization but realized that
they had a lot of obstacles to overcome as a result of the compliance and regulatory
restrictions when it came to document sharing.  As can be imagined, central to this was the
issue of external document sharing – how do we let users outside the organization access documents without allowing access
to sensitive and confidential material? 
Their original approach was to adopt a custom synchronization solution
between internal and external instances. 
While this solution seemingly worked, it brought with it a host of synchronization
issues and upgrade obstacles.  In order
to resolve their synchronization issues when they upgraded from SharePoint 2007
to 2010, one of the key things they did was shift to using a single farm versus
multiple farms, as well as limited customizations.  This not only eased the heartburn associated
with synchronization but likewise made future upgrades much more streamlined.

Chris Weldon at SPTechCon Boston 2014

From there, Chris dove into the mechanics of how Goldman
Sachs
approached managing their better-designed, updated SharePoint environment.  One of the most notable changes is how the
organization decided to approach site provisioning.  Whereas in 2007, site provisioning was a
slow, manual process, for 2010, the SharePoint team implemented a custom
approval workflow.  One of the benefits
to doing this was that with the automated process, provisioning SLAs went from
a multi-day, tedious wait to a 10-minute process.  This thoroughly improved user experience and
confidence with SharePoint.

Another thing that Goldman Sachs did to improve their
SharePoint environment was to rethink how they handled quota management.  One of the biggest changes in quota
management from 2007 to 2010, according to Chris, was moving the process from a
manual process to an automated one that was executed via a workflow.  By veering away from manual increases,
Goldman Sachs was able to unburden the IT helpdesk, as well as create a better
user experience.

Critical to Goldman Sachs' ability to maintain a healthy SharePoint
environment was the ability to appropriately support the environment.  This definitely posed a challenge for Chris
and his team, as they had such a small team managing such a large
environment.  Some of the ways that his
team approached supporting the farm included:

  • Unifying the logging approach;
  • Simplifying log searches;
  • Creating tests unique to the sites' workload;
  • Talking to users and getting feedback; and
  • Empowering the helpdesk.

Chris' next major topic of discussion was one that is
universally a hot topic amongst SharePoint administrators – Governance.  With a host of necessary controls required
including eCommunications retention, InfoBarriers, entitlements, and more,
maintaining governance has definitely been a challenge.  To combat these impediments, Goldman Sachs' SharePoint
environment strongly coupled to SharePoint Services Service Side Object Model
(SSOM) to ensure that entitlements were properly managed.

One of Chris' last major topics of conversation revolved
around user experience and how to improve it in order to drive user
adoption.  One of the cornerstones to
improving user experience was to realize that Goldman Sachs' "outside-in"
approach wasn't just technical; it was about community and collaboration.  One of the ways in which Goldman Sachs drove
user experience and adoption was to identify champions.  As most of us know, knowing and showcasing who
the SharePoint champions are within your organization can greatly improve user
experience.  By utilizing these assets as
advocates for SharePoint, Goldman Sachs has been able to successfully engage
their community.  Some other things they
implemented to improve user experience and engage the community include
creating user groups, holding office hours so that users can interact on a
personal level with the IT team, and creating discussion boards where issues and
topics could be transparently discussed.

Chris Weldon at SPTechCon Boston 2014

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