2020 Goals + Recent and Upcoming Happenings

2020 is here and we are screaming through a new decade at light speed. In this post, I share my goals for 2020 (gulp!) and why they matter to me. I also share some upcoming events and recent efforts that may be of interest (and are free!)

Aircraft carrier launch

The new decade is in full swing at this point, and it is certainly moving along without showing any signs of slowing down soon. Like many others, January began for me a little like a jet being thrown off an aircraft carrier. I’m adapting to the uptick in activity and the pace at which things are moving, but whoa – whiplash!

Planning for a New Year

A good friend of mine and Microsoft PFE extraordinaire, Brian Jackett, has done something over the last handful of years that I both admire and have tried to emulate with limited degrees of success. Brian is an extremely thoughtful guy who regularly tries to lay out his goals and track his progress against those goals in various ways. One of the things he has done in the past is start off a new calendar year with some form of assessment of the previous year’s goals. He then proceeds to lay out what he’s going to be working on in the year ahead and why he’s chosen those goals. Brian has typically done this in blog post format. I haven’t seen one from him yet this year (hope he does – I’m always interested in where he’s focused), but he did write up a post going into the year 2019.

I’ve attempted to follow suit in the past, because it forces me to focus on the year ahead and set some goals.

At Best, Limited Success

It probably comes as no surprise for me to say that like so many others, I’ve set a bunch of goals in the past and then fallen dramatically short of achieving them. I attribute this outcome to many things: shifting priorities, lack of time (or more appropriately, lack of prioritization), and any number of other factors. But if I look back at previous years and try to summarize my results/outcome in one statement: In general, I think I’d set the bar too high.

In response to that, you may be thinking …

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Norman Vincent Peale

Peale was very big on positive thinking in case that previous quote doesn’t make it readily apparent. While I agree with him in an optimistic and energetic way, I’ll be honest: I’m getting to the age and point in life where my energy is starting to flag a bit. I also have many more people, efforts, and things vying for my attention and energy than I did earlier in my life/career.

I try to remain optimistic day-to-day (with varying degrees of success), but to guarantee that I truly remain focused and make progress on goals I set nowadays, I have to be realistic and pragmatic in the specific goals I set for myself. In general, I need to think more in terms of small steps rather than massive undertakings.

(Pragmatic) Goals for 2020

So, with some trepidation, I make my public declaration (here, in this blog) of 2020 goals. These are things I truly believe I can achieve, I can objectively and tangibly measure progress towards, which I can stick to, and on which I can stay motivated (very important!) These aren’t the only things I expect I’ll do, but they deserve to be called out as particular areas of focus.

In order of importance:

  1. Do at least one thing to delight my wife. Surprised to see a non-SharePoint goal listed first (or even listed)? I feel that I am a caring individual who thinks regularly of others, but a romantic I am not. Nor am I particularly good at surprising people (particularly those I’m close to) with something wonderful and delightful “out of the blue” – particularly something that comes from the heart. To be more cognizant of this deficiency (or “opportunity for growth,” if you prefer) is the most important thing for me to focus on this year. The measure of achievement will be (at least) one thing, one situation, one undertaking, one whatever – where I surprise my wife and she feels special, loved, and truly touched. That probably is an easy undertaking for many of you, but believe me when I say it’s something that will take a lot of thinking and planning on my end.
  2. Grow and strengthen my relationship with my children. My son and daughter, Brendan and Sabrina, turn 13 in March … meaning we’ll officially have teenagers in the house. Many times, it feels like they have been teens for a while now (especially Sabrina), but that’s not the reality. As a parent, I’ve been encountering a growing number of challenges (in general) with my kids. I’m less certain how to respond and react to them in many ways. I try to be a loving and engaged father, but that’s harder for me at times and in certain situations. My parents divorced when I was in third grade, and my middle school years (which is where my kids are in age now) were something of a mess with parents, step-parents, and other authority figures in my life. I didn’t have a lot of consistency or reliability in terms of role models and relationships. So, I’ve found myself looking to my wife more and more for guidance in situations that have been popping-up with the kids … and I’d like to be a better and confident father while relying a little less for outside help. I’m not saying that I want to totally go it alone, but I would say that I do want to develop a better compass and sense of “internal guidance.” Of all of the goals I’ve selected for myself this year, this is probably the toughest one to measure objectively … so my plan is to share it with my kids and then check in with them at various points over the year to see what they think and where they feel I am.
  3. Learn the SharePoint Framework (SPFx) enough to be truly competent with it. For those of you who might be reading this and aren’t familiar with SPFx, the easiest way to describe it is this way: it’s the only truly viable path forward for developers seeking to stay relevant with SharePoint development. I consider myself a SharePoint developer, but I come from the ranks of the “old guard” who began development with compiled code and SharePoint’s server-side object model. SPFx is Microsoft’s cloud-ready development model and is grounded firmly in JavaScript, along with frameworks, libraries, and other enabling client-side technologies like TypeScript, React, npm, gulp, yeoman, webpack … the list goes on. For classical devs like me, this is traditionally foreign territory; compiled code “it ain’t.” Until now, I’ve known enough SPFx to be dangerous, but I’m on a mission to learn it inside out. There have been many things motivating me and pushing me forward with that goal for quite some time now, but 2020 is when I’m going to internalize SPFx and become proficient with it. Measurement of that goal should be easy in that I’ll be doing project work based on SPFx development, creating client-side web parts, extensions, etc.
  4. Complete a redesign and relaunch www.bitstreamfoundry.com. This is something that’s been needed for quite some time – longer than I’d care to admit, actually. All that’s out there right now is a contact form with a mention of a new site “coming soon.” Well, that new site will arrive in 2020 – with a little luck and prioritization, sooner rather than later. I’ve picked-up some tools to make WordPress (which this blog and my Bitstream Foundry sites use as a web platform) editing truly WYSIWYG in approach, and I’ve got some ideas on how to put things together. The biggest challenge is (as I tell people), “I’m a plumber, not a painter” – meaning I do web development, but I focus on putting the underlying sites together, not on how they look.
There are many days when I work with CSS that I feel this way. I’m sure many other development “plumbers” like myself can relate.

Sure, I have some ability to style sites … but I’m not particularly creative in that regard and certainly no ace with CSS. My daughter Sabrina is extremely creative and talented; maybe I can enlist her help in beautifying the redesign … In any regard a re-launched Bitstream Foundry site will be the measure of success for this goal.

  1. Before the end of 2020, contribute one project to the public domain. There was a time (years ago, at this point) when I wrote software and tools for fun and shared those with the world at large – see my Tools section in the right-hand column. I still write tools, scripts, and develop other (I think) useful “things” … but I’ve not done a great job about sharing them broadly. This year, I want to return to my roots (a little) and get at least one project into the public domain. The measure of success for this one is pretty objective: did I release a tool or project … or not?
  2. Post regularly on this blog. And we come down to the final “Jeez, I’ve said that before.” For purposes of measurement, I’m going to shoot for once per month on this … but I’ll allow myself to “slide” to twice every three months if I get slammed. Much like projects and other development, I regularly come up with (and across) things I think would help others. Many of these would make at least decent blog posts, but they don’t always make it here. Wish me luck (and give me a swift kick in the butt) if you see me falling behind.

I could easily go on and on, but I want to stop at no more than a half-dozen goals. Remember: these are goals that I think are attainable, that I can stay focused on, and on which I can measure progress. They’re also important to me for the various reasons cited. They aren’t the only things I’ll be doing, but they will be points of focus.

Recent Developments and Plans

There are a few things I wanted to share so far for this year … and no, I don’t consider these as counting towards my stated goals in any way. These are just more-or-less informational items in case you or someone you know is interested.

Free report – Your Office 365 Journey: Securing Every Stage

A short time ago, I was among a handful of industry folks and other Microsoft MVPs (like Ragnar Heil) who were approached to participate in an effort to share guidance and strategies regarding Office 365 migration, experiences I’ve had with it, lessons I’ve learned along the way, etc. The results of that effort have been compiled into a report that is free to download from the folks at Censornet, so check it out!

Upcoming Digital Workplace webinar with Akumina

On Tuesday, February 12th, I’ll be teaming up with Akumina‘s president David Maffei to deliver a webinar titled “Modern SharePoint + Akumina’s EXP = A True Digital Workplace Experience.” Over the last several years, I’ve done a lot of work building and implementing digital workplaces using the Akumina platform both on-premises and in SharePoint Online. I’ve also done a lot work with SharePoint Online and on-premises without an accelerator or platform like Akumina in the mix. The purpose of this webinar is to explain what SharePoint, in its modern form, is capable of … and what a platform like Akumina can do to enhance “vanilla” SharePoint and enable a true digital workplace experience. It’s a free webinar, so sign up if it sounds interesting!

Chicago Suburbs M365 2020

Are you familiar with SharePoint Saturday events? They’ve been around for quite a few years now. They are gatherings of people who work with Microsoft SharePoint, regularly speak/educate on it, sell products and services oriented around it … and other folks who are simply SharePoint enthusiasts in some way. The events, which are normally held on Saturdays, are a source of education and information for the SharePoint platform, and they’re (almost) always free. Speakers and other presenters donate their time to deliver sessions, and food and prizes are obtained with the help of sponsor dollars.

In recent years, SharePoint Saturday events have been diversifying and becoming more inclusive than just SharePoint, and this change has been driven by SharePoint Online and the larger Office 365 / Microsoft 365 cloud suite and associated offerings. SharePoint is integrated into so many of the O365 workloads that the lines are really blurry around where SharePoint “stops” and another workload “begins.” As a result, many SharePoint Saturdays have adapted and become “Cloud Saturdays,” “Office 365 Saturdays,” etc., to reflect their broader nature and inclusion on non-SharePoint-specific topics.

I like to volunteer and donate my time and energy at as many of these events as I can get to (and that will accept me), and the next one on my list – my first for 2020 – is the next Chicago Suburbs M365 event on February 29th. If you are in or around the ‘burbs of Chicago, consider coming to the event, meeting others in our space, and learning something along the way. I’ll be presenting a session titled “Getting the Best Performance Out of Your SharePoint Online Site,” and I hope to see some of you there!

References and Resources

  1. Microsoft TechCommunity: How to become a Premier Field Engineer (PFE)
  2. Blog: The Frog Pond of Technology
  3. Blog Post: Looking Ahead To 2019
  4. Wikipedia: Norman Vincent Peale
  5. Microsoft Docs: Overview of the SharePoint Framework
  6. Site: TypeScript
  7. Site: React
  8. Site: npm
  9. Site: gulp
  10. Site: yeoman
  11. Site: webpack
  12. Site: Bitstream Foundry
  13. Site: WordPress
  14. W3C: Cascading Style Sheets
  15. Censornet Report: Your Office 365 Journey: Securing Every Stage
  16. Blog: Ragnar Heil
  17. Company: Censornet
  18. Company: Akumina
  19. Webinar Registration: Modern SharePoint + Akumina EXP = A True Digital Workplace Experience
  20. LinkedIn: David Maffei
  21. Site: SPSEvents.org
  22. Event: Chicago Suburbs M365 2020

Author: Sean McDonough

I am a consultant for Bitstream Foundry LLC, a SharePoint solutions, services, and consulting company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. My professional development background goes back to the COM and pre-COM days - as well as SharePoint (since 2004) - and I've spent a tremendous amount of time both in the plumbing (as an IT Pro) and APIs (as a developer) associated with SharePoint and SharePoint Online. In addition, Microsoft awarded me an MVP (most valuable professional) in 2016 for the Office Servers and Services category.

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