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 in 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 documenting 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 in 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.

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, in 2010, the SharePoint team implemented a custom approval workflow. One of the benefits of 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 it 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 the user experience. By utilizing these assets as advocates for SharePoint, Goldman Sachs has been able to successfully engage its 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.