The Year in Review with Bamboo COO Lam Le

Editor’s note: As we continue our annual Year in Review series with a look back on 2010, you’ll notice a number of new faces among the participants this year.  Our goal with this year’s offering was to offer the most holistic glimpse into the “year in Bamboo” to date … and what a year it was, including the release of SharePoint 2010 as well as the continued growth of Bamboo, as evidenced the double digit increases in our product line, revenue, and staff. 

Lam Le, Bamboo Solutions COOYou were one of the original team members at Bamboo.  Given a decade of growth and maturation, how different is Bamboo from those early days as a startup?

Obviously, we are a different company than we were a few years ago.  There are many more new faces.  I think the biggest difference is that we had more people who bring fresh ideas and contributions to the way we run the business.  At the same time, I’m very happy that as we have grown, our core values and company culture haven’t changed much since the early days.  It evolves, but we still care deeply about providing value for our customers while treating them with respect, being transparent, and championing innovation as a primary means of moving forward.  It’s harder to be as nimble as we were in the past now that we have thousands of customers, but we pride ourselves on the fact that we continue to mature our segment-leading products while, in parallel, incubating innovative new product concepts in Bamboo Labs.

You are the product visionary behind Workflow Conductor, Bamboo’s entry into the business process management market.  How is Conductor doing?  Where will Conductor be at the end of 2011?

I’m very excited about Conductor roadmap.  It’s extremy difficult to create a new product in the business process market segment, and I’m very happy with our progress in 2010 as we continue to invest in adding requested features that are important to our customers.  Conductor is becoming a major tool in our Enterprise offering, and our customers have started to take serious interest in the product with the release of version 1.5.  The 2011 releases of Conductor will allow us to complete our collaboration toolset.  Our plan is to be able to provide a mature workflow tool that integrates directly into other Bamboo applications such as Project Management Central.  You will also see Conductor play an important role in our upcoming Cloud PartsTM suite of products.

You’ve recently returned from a visit to Bamboo’s Technology Center in Vietnam.  How is that office different than Bamboo’s headquarters in the U.S.?  How do employees based in Vietnam ensure successful collaboration with their counterparts in the U.S.?

The Vietnam office is a very important asset to us.  They are really an extension of our U.S. Engineering department, providing major Research, Design and Development functions, as well as Quailty Assurance and Online Operations.  Over the past few years, we have developed a collabration process that is very effective; not surprisingly, we use SharePoint as the primary collaboration platform via our corporate portal.  Besides departmental sites for personnel management, all of our projects are run through  the Project Management Central site where tasks, bugs and documents are shared.  We typically have 30+ active projects going on at the same time with many different releases, and it’s SharePoint along with our custom Web Parts that makes this level of online collaboration possible.  There are actually quite a number of products we offer today that originated as a result of this collaboration practice.  Using the right tools and process, the 12-hour time difference between Reston and Ho Chi Minh City is actually a strength rather than a liability for us. We are very proud of the way we collaborate – it’s like having a company that operates 24 hours each day.

Besides the obvious differences between local customs and culture, the Vietnam office operates pretty much the same way as the rest of the company.  Over the past five years, we have developed a strong and well integrated working relationship.  One of the traditional values of the Asian culture is to have a large and extended family structure.  That particular trait fits with our company culture really well and I think that’s why we’re so successful working together despite being 7,500 miles apart.

Microsoft’s launch of SharePoint 2010 occurred in May.  How has that release impacted Bamboo? How will the continuing adoption of SharePoint 2010 affect Bamboo in 2011?

You mean all the extra work we have to do to support the new platform release? Wink  In all seriousness, we have been planning for SharePoint 2010 since early 2009.  With a porfolio of 60+ products, we did have lots of work to do to port our products to the new platform.  We have completed that work, and our products are now available on both platforms.  In some ways, this is just the beginning since we will continue to improve our products to take advantage of the features of SharePoint 2010, not to mention the ability to work with SharePoint Online, BPOS, and Azure.  We are anticipating a strong adoption of SharePoint 2010 and will plan to shift future feature sets to favor that platform.  Obvisouly, we will continue to support SharePoint 2007 well into the future, especially given that our Enterprise customers will take some time to move.

You’ve personally authored quite a bit of content on Bamboo Nation this year.   What is the SharePoint 2010 Cookbook series all about?  Will you continue your participation in that series in 2011?

Obviously, being a leading vendor of this market forces us to learn and train ourselves on any new feature.  Our particular challenge is that while we’re fortunate to gain very early access to new releases, there is often no one to teach us but ourselves.  Currently, there are lots of good books and blog posts about SharePoint 2010 from the community, especially from MVPs.  With the SharePoint 2010 Cookbook series, we felt that having to learn and work with SharePoint every day, we wanted to write about some of the most useful aspects and share our perspective on what we’ve learned with the community.  The main idea behind the series is to impart some of our practical (and hopefully useful) knowledge.  One of the sources that we use to generate ideas for the series is actually our helpdesk tickets, wherein we will create an article based on repeated problems that our customers have run into.  We plan to continue to do this, and there’s much more to come with the Cookbook series in 2011.  I just wish I had more time to blog, as I do enjoy this part of my job.

Your Whitepaper on SharePoint 2010 User Management has seen over 3,000 pageviews to date, making it among the year’s most-viewed posts on Bamboo Nation.  Have you gotten any response from the community?

The article has been well received the community and I’ve received several positive comments for the effort.  One of the most difficult things about SharePoint is how to learn it.  It’s a very difficult platform to get to know since it’s so comprehensive and covers most of the Microsoft stack.  My observation is that in order to learn SharePoint effectively, you have to be able to understand its foundation and architecture.  You will not understand SharePoint, or be able to use it effectively,  if you just learn its features.  I’ve seen many problems with SharePoint installations that have been caused due to a lack of understanding regarding its foundation.  Security and user management is a big part of this platform, and writing the article, I was hoping to share an important aspect of the platform with the community.  We are working on several other similar articles for 2011.

Bamboo recently teased the upcoming release of beta versions of Cloud Parts to Bamboo Labs.  What are Cloud Parts?  How do Cloud Parts differ from standard SharePoint Web Parts?

Cloud Parts are our new suite of Web services that will run on Microsoft’s Azure platform.  These products will offer a range of functionalities similar to those of our exsiting Web Parts today, from simple calendar services to more complex applications such as BI dashboards and project management.  The major differences are that (a) there is no installation and footprint on your SharePoint server, thus allowing you to run these services anywhere, and also reduce the deployment complexity and cost, (b) these are subscription services where you only pay a usage fee, thus minimizing your upfront investment cost.  Since the Cloud Parts run on Azure, you have all the benefits of the scalability, stability and elasticity of a cloud-based infrasturcture, while at the same time minimizing your IT costs.

Our vision is to provide well integrated Web Parts and applications, tied together with business process tools and a data integration platform for SharePoint.  We want our products to work with on-premises installations, within a hosted off-premises environment.  We especially want to allow our customers to be able to use our products in a hybrid mode where a mix of on-premises and Cloud Parts can both exist, allowing our customers to migrate easily as the need arises.  An example would be where a customer who uses our PM Central application behind a firewall could also select to use a Chart Dashboard Cloud Part to display project data.  Each project site can subscribe, install, and display business data without having to bother IT.

Read the entire 2010 Year in Review series: